Bread, roses and solidarity from across the sea

The new series of UnionDues opens with US labor radio and podcasting guru Chris Garlock paying us a visit.  That’s him interviewing me at the Cable Street mural in the picture. Chris is the originator and curator of the Labor Radio Podcast Network – a grouping of now over 200 union-friendly radio shows and podcasts.  He told me how basic principles of solidarity lead him to set up the network as an antidote to the isolated way in which many broadcast journalists work, something exacerbated hugely by the Covid pandemic.

As you can tell from the spelling, the roots of the network are firmly in the US, but it’s reach is now truly international and I’m proud that UnionDues was the first UK affiliate. If you want a union-eye view of the world anywhere from London to California, or from Whitehorse to Phoenix, you’ll find it via the network’s portal.

Chris himself is something of a one-person podcast production wave.  He talks us through the deeply impressive range of shows he scripts, hosts and produces – there’s the Labor Radio Podcast weekly and daily shows which sample around half-a-dozen different shows from the network’s stable,  plus the local Washington DC based Union City.  That’s the “bread”.  Then there’s the Labor Heritage Power Hour looking at music, literature and film, which is interview based.  Finally there is the Labor History Today project – like the tour of the Matchgirls’ stomping ground we undertook before sitting down to record the UnionDues episode.  (Click here to listen, and our own special episode on the Matchgirls is here).  That’s not to mention the annual DC Labor Film Festival, which completes the “roses” side of the equation.

Chris is right – the importance of bringing people together has never been greater and it’s good to acknowledge his own significant contribution to that. 

We also take the opportunity to review the state of US unions and labor generally, and Chris is upbeat at what he sees as a necessary increase in militancy from screen actors to red neckerchief-wearing teachers in West Virginia, and charts a line from Ronald Reagan’s mass- dismissal of air traffic controllers, to Joe Biden standing with a bullhorn on a Union of Auto-workers picket line.  “That image matters.”

Our discussion came at the end of a fascinating ramble through some important union sites in London’s East End.  I was helped enormously by Sam Johnson of the Matchgirls Memorial Trust (our podcast with Sam and her colleagues is here) and Quentin Outram and Mark Crail of the Society for the Study of Labour History. Thanks to all, and if you want to replicate the 3.8mile route, do get in touch for the details.

I’m also delighted to welcome back Professor of Work and Employment Melanie Simms, from Glasgow University.  Mel will be sharing her #thought4theweek each episode, this time on the interaction between the immediacy of social media, and the process of resolving industrial disputes.

Thanks for reading.  You can access the latest and all episodes of UnionDues here or from the podcast platform of your choice, and you can contact us by email at uniondues@makes-you-think.com .  Please subscribe, share and rate – but above all, enjoy.

You may also enjoy this episode on the Working River project, celebrating the lives of the people who live and work on the Thames.

We’ll be back in a couple of weeks, when our special guest will be the UK’s longest serving and most redoubtable industrial correspondent, Alan Jones.  Don’t miss it!

Ps – you can access all episodes of our sister show, and Independent Podcast Awards nominee, UnionDays here.

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