I’m a trade unionist working at a cafe in Melbourne. It can be hard to be a union activist in a small workplace, but with a bit of effort and initiative, my colleagues and I have managed to shut down our workplace for Invasion Day. We hope this small action can give some ideas to other activists who are thinking about how to activate their union in solidarity with Aboriginal people.
A couple of weeks ago during a post-shift chat with a coworker and fellow union member, the subject of Invasion Day came up. We both felt strongly that the cafe should be closed for Invasion Day, because we should all be at the rally instead of working – it’s no day for business as usual. I raised the possibility of circulating a petition around the workplace. We decided to put it to the rest of the union.
A couple of days later, I had drafted a petition, and the rest of the union members were enthusiastically on board. We quickly got to work collecting signatures. After about a week we had collected signatures from almost all the other workers: nobody who we had asked to sign had refused.
This wasn’t surprising to any of us. We knew that the people we worked with opposed “Australia Day”. But unless someone acts, there’s nothing to turn sentiment into action. Most of us would still be at work on Sunday. So our union activism provided the leadership and organisation to turn passive support into disruptive action.
When we presented the petition to management, it was clear that support for the cause was overwhelming. Our boss acceded to the pressure. The cafe will be closed on Invasion Day and we will all be at the rally. Posters advertising Invasion Day now cover the outside walls of the cafe. Anyone who comes to get a coffee on Sunday morning will see a sign that is now on the counter explaining to customers that we will be closed due to request of the union and all the workers. A copy of the petition itself will be displayed on the locked door, complete with everyone’s signature. We hope they’ll read it and decide to attend the rally too.