For a few days in the first week of September, the rainbow flag flew above a large construction site in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Red Flag spoke to the CFMEU member whose idea it was to hoist the flag, an international symbol of pride and solidarity, on his job.
“I won’t forget the moment when I saw the flag raised above the edge of the building and I realised what was going on. I thought it was important, I was quietly delighted to see it attached to the hook of the crane”, he says. He didn’t assume that everyone on site would agree. “The responses were varied. Some were outwardly positive and with the courage to say that, some mildly indifferent, but in a way that’s supportive because they’re saying they don’t mind if the flag is up there. Some were negative, and there were some smart alec comments.
“Those who were supportive were pretty adamant about that support and, had they been given the forum, would have put up the argument for flying the flag in an industry that may be perceived as dragging its feet on some issues.”
Talking about why the fight for marriage equality is something that construction workers have a stake in, he says: “The issue needs to be addressed – as construction workers, we’ve lived under a different body of legislation and we’ve faced different penalties and in a way been mildly vilified for our blue collar values. I don’t think anybody should be subject to criticism or live under a different set of laws or be persecuted because of their beliefs – whether they’re cultural, or based on religious views or sexual orientation”.
The CFMEU has publicly endorsed the “yes” campaign, and this is something he’s proud of. “Unions have collectively taken on, historically, some of the most important struggles – whether that’s the right of women to vote, or draconian laws regarding freedom of speech and movement. I think to look the other way would indicate that we’re pretty blind and lack compassion. No matter what form injustice takes, we can’t sit idly by while it happens.”