As human beings, we try to keep as many promises as we can throughout our lives, whether they be to friends, family or your particular branch of your trade union. In the case of the latter, our Branch Secretary Kim McLachlan had made a promise when she was elected, to get UNISON Housing and Care Branch (at that time known as Glasgow Housing) a new branch banner. After some time and some ideas being thrown around the banner was finally unveiled for the first time on Thursday the 10th of August at our Branch Committee.
The grand unveiling took place in Wheatley House where our branch is situated, and some key people were in attendance from Wheatley and UNISON Scotland, as well as the stewards of the branch and members too. The unveiling was started with a brief introduction from our Branch Secretary, Kim who gave background of the creation of the new banner. She commented that she had made the promise to get a new banner so the branch could stand out whenever they would appear at marches or any other sort of campaigning in the future. Kim had felt that this was the right time to do so, stating “At the time I had been elected, I was glad we didn’t make headway on the banner then, because we were Glasgow Housing Branch and that would’ve meant the banner would not have reflected our current status as Scotland Housing and Care Branch, and once we had changed the name and the branch status I felt it was time to get to work on the banner.” Kim further went on to say how the banner would be a great focal point for the branch prior to its first unveiling at pride on the following weekend, commenting “It will be great for when we do any sort of campaigning, like next weekend for example when the banner will get its first outing at Pride on Saturday, it will be good to see our banner amongst the many others and it will be a great focal point for the members to see that our branch is now a lot more recognised nationally and to be proud of their UNISON Branch”
Kim then introduced the guest speaker to the unveiling, John Gallacher who is the Scottish Organiser for UNISON and the Campaigns Organiser for Scotland. John began by saying how it was a pleasure for him to be at the unveiling, saying that he had worked with the Branch for several years saying “ You are a well organised branch , full of good people and you are a credit to UNISON, and this banner belongs to you and belongs to your members.” John continued his speech by mentioning a book he had brought with him called “The Banner Bright” which is an illustrated history of Trade Union banners, quipping that one day he would like to see this banner in that book if it were to produce a more up to date rendition. John went on to say how he was happy that our branch had commissioned a piece of art for the branch banner and gave mention to the artist who had painted the original piece for the Banner Pamela McKay, who was also in attendance. John then followed up with the grand unveiling “It is with great pleasure that I reveal for the first time to the general public, the new banner for Housing and Care Scotland.” This was met with a round of applause and cheering from the people in attendance as the banner was finally revealed.
John went on to give a brief rundown of the people seen on the banner for the crowd in the room. He started with John Wheatley, who was a prominent figure in Scottish Social Housing during his lifetime, John went on to give a brief history of his life “John Campaigned against the First World war and led strikes from several branches against this, he was also a councillor in the City Chambers across the road, he was an MP for Shettleston and a member of the Labour Party.” John also spoke about how John Wheatley created the Housing Act in Scotland, which for the first time provided affordable housing for working class people, 508,000 to be exact.
John then continued to speak about another prominent figure on the banner, Mary Barbour. Mary Barbour was also a Councillor and eventually became a Magistrate in Glasgow, who famously founded Mrs Barbour’s Army, John continued “ Mary Barbour took her group of women and led many rent strikes during World War One, while the men were away, the landlords of the time tried to raise the rent charges while the women were working and trying to provide the rent, Mary had led the strikes against this through the South Glasgow Women’s Housing Association and encouraged people to not pay their rent and buy in to that kind of profiteering.” As was the same case with John Wheatley, Mary Barbour was a big campaigner against war during her lifetime, also leading a campaign to have the war stopped by 1916 over discussions instead of violence. Mary Barbour had also in the May Day rally of 1917, gained an audience of 70,000 people to hear her speak. She was eventually made a Baillie, shortly before her death in 1958.
John finally went on to speak about the final person on the banner, Isidora Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, who was also known as La Pasionaria (The Passionflower). Isidora was a heroine of the republican side of the Spanish Civil War, starting off with humble beginnings of being a housemaid; she eventually became an avid reader of the works of Karl Marx which led her to become a lifelong member and prolific figure of the Communist Party. John said About Isidora “When her party won an election in Spain one of her promises was to free the political prisoners being held at that time, and when the results came in, before she had taken her seat and reconvened parliament, she went to the prison and demanded that the prisoners be released as she wrestled the keys from the Jail administrator and proceeded to free the prisoners, that’s the kind of person she was.” He also said about the statue of La Pasionaria “If you’re ever feeling like you aren’t getting the wins you want, or feel like you’re cause isn’t as good as it can be, take the time to go the statue of Isidora just to reflect on how far people can go when fighting for workers’ rights.”
John finished his speech by saying to the stewards “Remember that fighting for the rights of the working class is the most important thing you will ever do, because nobody else will. The rich and the well-off can sit and protect themselves but when it comes down to the working man on the street, nobody will give them a voice and that’s what you do every day.”
In conclusion I can safely say, I’m proud of our branch for making this banner. For us to show our passion for the cause we all hold so dearly in our hearts and display it so proudly in the face of Tory Britain and an ever increasing right wing government is nothing short of heroic. To keep showing that our branch will always fight for workers’ rights, always fight the alt-right, always fight for social equality and always fight for the voice of the workings, and that behind this banner we are stronger than we have ever been. To quote Isidora Dolores Gomez, and now our Branch Banner: “Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees.”