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Feminism and Representations of Union Identity in Australian Union Banners of the 1980s and Early 1990s Author(s): Kathie

Muir Reviewed work(s): Source: Labour History, No. 79 (Nov., 2000), pp. 92-112 Published by: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27516731 . Accessed: 12/04/2012 07:35
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of Feminism and Representations Union Identityin AustralianUnion Bannersof the 1980s and early 1990s
Muir Kathie
The revived production of one well known working-class cultural icon- trade union banners - inAustralia in the 1980s came about for several historical reasons. This article examines this resurgence, in theprocess identifying a number of keyfeatures. First, the banners produced differ substantially from traditional historical union banners in theirmedia, their form and the image of unions and thememberships they depict. Second, a significant number of the new banners were produced by artists whose designs were informed by feminist critiques of the representation ofwomen and other marginalised workers within unions and by feminist desires for the reformulation of themeanings of unionism. In thisway this collection of new banners illuminates the changing and contested cultural practices ofAustralian unionism in the 1980s and 1990s.

Cultural artefacts and cultural projects produced by artists in collaboration with trade unions and theirmembers have received relatively little critical attention from writers of labour history. Historical exceptions include the work of well known individual cultural producers such as writers Katharine Susannah Pritchard, Jean Devanney, Frank Hardy, and visual artists such as Noel Counihan and the work of other groups such as theWaterside Workers Film Unit and New Theatre.1 Ignored at the time by the mainstream art world, this cultural work of the 1980s and early 1990s trade union movement has been of little subsequent interest to labour historians.2 This thematic section of Labour History is therefore both overdue and
very welcome.

The critical
disappointing much that expressions for

lacunae around
two reasons. within, 'in the The

cultural work within


first is that from, "hearts such more and cultural formal minds"

the labour movement


expressions records. activities' These can reveal cultural

is

is obscured belong

or absent arena of

which

are

frequently
However, and and, banners

'regarded as being less important that the technical aspects of unionism'.3


struggles were has The over one noted, second meaning unions way 'contributed reason is that are a significant attempted in important consideration of component political struggle to define to the themselves public ways of and insights to the sense cultural discourses are of being a trade can

as Burn

unionist7.4 useful and

into processes insights by which subjectivities within the labour movement.5 contested These

offer products are constructed valuable

particularly

in relation to the challenges to traditional white masculinist unionism mounted by the demands of activist women and non-English speaking background workers the 1980s and 1990s.6 during
This article examines one particular group of cultural artefacts, Australian trade

union banners produced during the 1980s and early 1990s. It specifically focusses on banners produced and how these by feminist artists and asks whether
of unionism representations It asks what these images.7 challenge representations 92 or subvert suggest traditional about the heroic complex masculinist and changing

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners inAustralia


and in some

193

identities of trade unions


women artists, in particular,

in the 1980s and 1990s. It also considers how


cases women trade union officers, brought

of the imagery and symbolism of trade their 'feminist critique of the masculinity to 'reformulate itsmeaning7 through developing unionism' to the task of attempting new iconography reflecting (the desire for) changing cultures of unionism.8 These It seems likely that images will mean different things to different audiences. and of the nature of the knowledge of the context of each banner's production, influence how specific banners particular union and branch whose banner it is,might are read. Nonetheless, it is argued that these banners offer insights into the diverse in the 1980s and trade unionism and contested nature and culture of Australian 1990s. In addressing
pragmatic and

these questions
context,

the article also considers


of the 'aesthetics

the application,
by these

in both a
artists.9

symbolic

of affirmation'

Does such symbolism


in representing their

suggest the artists were uncritical of the records of these unions


women, migrant and indigenous as members and workers in

general? Or does
banners, and other

it suggest
arts projects,

that they accepted


was to serve

an argument
promotional

that the purpose


devices

of

or recruitment

to market
and banner

unions

Other possible within


structures, and influence

to a public inundated with hostile media images of unions?10 responses include the suggestion that within their banners, unions
provided a symbolic space to particular marginalised groups

artists

the membership.
cultures or and it might

This recognition might

act to answer

criticism of union
positions unionism of power capable

from such groups that excluded practices as a for a progressive work symbolic goal

of not only accommodating diversity but also using it as a strength.11 The final some of suggestion, which arises in relation to textile banners in particular, is that these feminist artists employed (traditionally feminine and domestic) techniques of to unsettle the hegemonic masculine needlework symbolism of unionism and to
create a different point of identification for women workers.12

in Arts Projects: Union Involvement Funded Australian Contexts the Political and Institutional
in the 1980s have been The challenges facing the Australian trade union movement in any detail here.13 However, they well documented and need not be considered included such factors as: the decline of the manufacturing industry, the heartland of these unions; of blue collar unionism and the consequent decline inmembership the vastly increased numbers of women participating in paid work, particularly in
were sector hard service and casual jobs, which part-time had few most devoted unions resources; traditionally to organise the and and break for which down of

traditional work-based
continued educated the trade throughout middle-class union

class
the 1980s white-collar

identification
as workers many

which
who of did these

had begun
included not automatically

in the 1970s and


numbers identify workers did with join of

the workforce

increasing

movement.

However,

white-collar

(or professional associations) and many of these affiliated to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and state peak councils during this period which changed the balance of interests within these peak councils and presented alternate union identities. Other challenges included the increasingly complex media and environment which raised problems for unions both in trying to communications unions

LabourHistory

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November 2000

reach an increasingly diverse membership, many of whom spoke English as a second language, and in combating sophisticated media and public relations campaigns run by corporations and right-wing think-tanks.14 Australian unions met these challenges with a number of strategies which changed over the course of the decade. The Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union (AMWU) provides a useful example. From themiddle years of the 1970s, itdeveloped
a large national in-house Their research, role was education to educate and publicity and team facilitate of professional membership 'labour technocrats'.15 members

action on economic and industrial policy and also to develop a strong union public profile in contributing to debates around public policy and social change. At this time some of their education officers, such asMax Ogden, also facilitated workplace
based cultural activities such as concerts, poetry readings and factory arts festivals.16

independence from theAustralian Up until the early 1980s, the AMWU maintained Labor Party (ALP). However, by 1982, theAMWU had become one of the key players in the development and pursuit of the Accord between the ACTU and the ALP.17 The Accord established very close links between the Hawke government and the
trade union movement, despite the reservations of some unions that real wages

would
union increased

fall and that theAccord would


members.18 funding One for consequence trade union

lead to passivity
of this close and specific

and disenchantment
with government

amongst
was

relationship

centres

programs.

Trade unions had first received government funding for a range of initiatives to benefit themembership during the term of theWhitlam government. In 1982, during term in office, the Australia Council introduced the Fraser Coalition government's its Art and Working Life policy and incentive program which was specifically to arts and established to assist the access and participation of working Australians cultural activities through the trade union movement.19 That the Australia Council as the appropriate agency to facilitate should recognise the trade union movement
the delivery of arts and culture to working Australians had been made more

convincing by theACTU's earlier adoption of itsArts and Creative Recreation Policy in 1980. The policy stated that
declares that there is a continuing Congress become more involved in the arts and cultural The history the cultural of the needs trade to union movement and life of the nation be need shows for the trade unions to

life of the Australian significant in the past. in

people. on impact current

This

impact circumstances.20

its development extended and

developed

Within
Australians.

this policy, access and participation


This was compatible with key

in the arts were


objectives of

seen to be a right of all


Council Act.

the Australia

The ACTU policy also emphasised the importance of the availability of artworks that reflected the experiences of working life and 'that depicts the trade unions' contribution toAustralian life'. It also had sections covering employment in the arts
and media industries, media ownership, of new the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

(ABC), and argued


programs.21 The

for the provision

of workplace
trade union

based

cultural

facilities
contemporary

and

production

banners

signifying

union identities fitted within this policy agenda. The production of banners also fitted within the first of the four objectives of the Australia Council's Art andWorking Life Policy which was To encourage art practice

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

195

and policy which is informed by the concerns and issues affecting workers' own lives and which acknowledges working class cultural tradition and themulticultural nature of that tradition'.22 This policy objective indicated that issues of diversity within union culture and membership were important components within projects funded under the program. The South Australian United Trades and Labor Council's (UTLC) 'Arts Policy' made the emphasis on diversity even more clearly. Point eight reads: 'Stress the diversity of groups that comprise the workforce and the union
movement women and workers, initiate workers and encourage arts activities that focus in from non-Anglophone backgrounds, workers particular in regional on

areas and unemployed workers'. The final point emphasises the need for images of affirmation: 'Seek to develop new ways of promoting positive images of workers and unionism throughout the whole range of arts activities' [emphasis mine].23 One of the strategies to assist the participation of trade unions in such projects was the in several state peak councils and partial funding of the salary of arts officers placed theACTU itself. This strategy implicitly acknowledged the need for a bridge between the poorly organised and highly individualistic arts community,24 and overworked and pragmatic union officials who had neither the time nor the language towrite arts funding grant applications which would meet the highly specific requirements of
agencies.

This necessarily
production of

brief overview
trade

of some of the institutional


union banners raises some key

context
points

for the

contemporary

pertinent

to the subsequent discussion of banner production. Firstly, the 1980s to early 1990s was a time of significant changes to the composition of the workforce and the industrial landscape which posed new challenges to the recruitment and organising
of members. Secondly, the trade union movement itself was changing as blue collar

unions lost hundreds of thousands of members and white collar unions grew in the heterogeneity of Australian unions, size and influence. This period highlighted the underlying political, industrial and cultural differences between them despite their pragmatic participation in the Accord, which many recognised was unlikely to serve all members equally well. Thirdly, and importantly, these changes to the
union movement did not occur in a vacuum but were part of a much broader set of

changes
of other

to the Australian
social movements

and international
such as

landscape. The increasing prominence


movement, land rights and

the women's

indigenous
activists

rights movements,
increased

migrant workers
on trade unions

lobby, and gay and lesbian rights


to address issues of difference

placed

pressure

within
eyes

their actual and potential membership.


of many union members and activists,

Itwas no longer satisfactory,


for unions to persist with

in the

priorities,

styles of industrial action, cultures and structures of representation


indirectly as ethnic indigenous marginalised key sections of the membership.25

that directly or such

The 1980s saw the appointment


liaison officers, women's officers workers liaison

of a number of specialist officer positions


officers, disability to peak councils services and within officers, some

officers, youth unions. These

positions were
unions and

largely funded through federal and state government


usually successes made some contribution, often through

grants although
a levy on their

councils

affiliation
core

fees. Grant funded positions


Their included

held less power or authority


raising the profile of specific

than elected or
sections of the

officers.26

membership;
members and

gaining grant funding


their concerns; developing

for projects which


committees

provided
to work on

a voice
special

for such
projects

LabourHistory

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November 2000

to government on behalf of union and to develop policy and make submissions and developing and promoting union policies advocating the rights of members; such groups and strategies (such as targeted positions on decision-making bodies).27 It is also useful to recognise that by 1988, the Liberal-National coalition
government's 'Waste Watch' committee had mounted an extended and vehement

press campaign criticising government grants to unions.28 They claimed such grants constituted political funding and were awaste of taxpayers' money. Itbecame clear
that most government government and funding unions several to unions and peak would disappear councils allowed under some a future of their coalition programs

and grant funded positions


one of the reasons

towind down
in such

in anticipation
programs,

of the inevitable. This was


and projects during

for a reduction

services

reduced key reason was that the decline in union membership union budgets, despite the anticipated benefits of amalgamation which had promised the 1990s. Another
increased and more diverse specialist services. These factors led many unions and

peak councils

to cut back their services and staff in line with

reduced budgets.29

The Revival inTrade Union BannerProduction


Australia has a proud historical tradition of trade union banner production that in shaping national identity in the late reflects the important role of unionism
nineteenth on the century. development It also of demonstrates the of the and culture unionism continuance the normative the and influence organisation have been of the British union movement unions.30 of Australian masculine.31

Traditional feminist marks

representations note commentators unions as masculine

of customs, unionist

Contemporary and culture that practices as male.32 The cultural

signifiers of trade unionism inAustralia have been heavily shaped by three traditions: the nineteenth century British labour tradition, the 1890s Australian bush unionism
and the social-realist iconography of the 1930s.33

Banner Bright, John Gorman's


in 1973, century justice clearly made and demonstrates use of female how

comprehensive
the unions as and

study of British banners published


bannermakers representations as Empire.34 of the nineteenth such Reeves as of values Stephen common and

liberty,

or virtues

figures symbolic and such ideologies

found parallel symbolism


as workers from most

inAustralian
Australian

banners and noted


banners despite

the absence of women


their presence

historic

as allegorical and men equally figures. They found few examples of women on a union banner. The Eastern Goldfields Branch of Amalgamated represented Tailors and Tailoresses Society and the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union were significant exceptions.35 The 1890s Australian bush unionism as expressed in
the poems, stories and journalism of Henry it was Lawson, Bernard O'Dowd and William

Lane might
bushman

have differed
and rural worker

from the British tradition


but equally a

in their choice of heroes - the


masculine tradition. The

strong

later influences of socialist and communist


the worker workers was and male the whole alone, about have and posed world.36 than

ideals of the 1920s to 1940s also presumed


worker as the mighty liberator of all

the blue-collar

In Victoria Of these

more

200 banners In recent

were years,

historical

only banners

15 survive.37 been restored

produced some projects

between of the most as

1856

and

1950. of the in

ornate organised

in separate

such

that

conjunction with

the Hyde

Park Barracks Museum

in Sydney

for their inaugural

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

97

exhibition 'the badges of your labour were the banners of your pride' in 1984. The banner room at the old Trades Hall in Sydney still houses about 40 of these restored
historic banners.

The publication of British historian John Gorman's book triggered some interest in the fate and location of historic Australian union banners amongst unionists in the areas of labour history in museums and themselves and others working at the University universities. Andrew Reeves of Melbourne (whilst working of Archives, and later at the National Museum of Australia and at the Museum Victoria) combed the country trying to locate old union banners and tells of rescuing silk banners from old halls.38 mouldy and tattered remains of formerly magnificent His search unearthed some magnificent banners in good condition and Reeves has played a significant contribution in preserving this valuable historical record of labour history, with their images of vanished (masculine) trades, skills and worksites. Four main factors influenced the revival of interest in trade union banner production. They included the development of the exhibition of Australian historical banners at Hyde Park Barracks; the publication of Stephen and Reeves' book Badges of Labour, Banners of Pride in 1984; the subsequent lecture tour by John Gorman in 1985; and the availability of funds through theArt and Working
Australia commenced Council and some state new commissioning departments. banners reflecting arts A number

Life program of the


had already circumstances

of unions

the contemporary

and concerns of their membership. In 1982, Geoff Hogg commenced work on the Victorian Trades Hall Council banner and established an arts workshop based in the old Trades Hall building, which stayed in production and employed various
artists for over a decade.39 Other early examples of the revival of interest in trade

banners included Rick Amor's 1980 banner for the Victorian branch of Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union and Redback Graffix' 1981 banner for the South Coast Miner's Federation. In 1984, the Sydney branch of Actors Equity
commissioned a new banner. It was a double-sided textile banner appliqued and

union

sewn by Nola Taylor to a design by graphic artist, Michael Fitzjames. This was the first of a series of new banners to be produced using traditional feminine needlework
techniques.

Industrial DomesticNeedlework Strength Through


There had been a revival of interest amongst feminist artists in traditional women's needlework skills and their potential for application within contemporary feminist in the 1970s.40 In political contexts since the growth of the women's movement
Australia, artists who were members of the women's art movement in at least three

states participated in exhibitions which reclaimed women's from the dustbin of 'amateurism' towhich the fine art world
and explored their subversive potential.41 to assert classes, They utilised the

domestic craft skills had consigned them


seductive and

soothing, to form

comforting qualities of these media,


domesticated women to express The femininities, social of different alternative convergence

together with
demands

their connotations
cultural

of traditional
with and

feminist of this

occupations, identities.42 of interest

for equality, ages and

connections backgrounds,

revival

in trade

union

banner

production

in community contexts and together with the increased activity of artists working the new availability of government funding for such projects supported a veritable

LabourHistory

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November 2000

explosion of new trade union banner production. The United Trades and Labor Council in South Australia gained a series of grants to fund artists' fees for the production of new trade union banners tomark the UTLC's centenary in 1984.43At the UTLC's 1987 banner exhibition 'Modern Trade Union Banners' 21 new banners ones were represented through were exhibited and four more partially-completed into the visual iconography of This burst of productive energy photographs.
unionism created a very competitive climate where unions vied for more spectacular a

and distinctive
particular states

imagery. This competitiveness


and across interstate branches

worked
of the

between
union.

unions within
Unions with

same

in, cultural activities (such as the AMWU, history of support for, or participation the Seamen's Union, and various building unions) were some of the first to become involved. However, others which had different historical perspectives on cultural
products and on the role and value of contemporary imagery of unionism also

participated. The diversity of forms and identities of unionism was reflected in the diverse styles, images and text included in themany banners which were produced across all states of Australia during the 1980s and early 1990s. The greatest stylistic diversity of banners occurred in South Australia (26 banners during the 1980s and an additional six, at least, during the 1990s with more than 16 artists involved in their design and production). In other states such as New South Wales (particularly inNewcastle), Victoria and Western Australia where one or two
artists many produced of the new the majority banners. This of the banners, sometimes there resulted was in an coherence iconographie there were artists who in style across similarity a

being established
and membership few examples or two banners.

between
coverage.

unions
In these in a different

despite
three style

significant
states, however, by produced

differences

in their politics
also made at least only one

of banners

The most interesting variations in banner design and production techniques over this period related to the different ways union and membership identity were expressed. Some of the other factors which influenced the style of banner developed included whether or not the union had sought and obtained grant funding for the project or had raised their own funds; the size of their budget; the degree towhich in the design and making of the banner; they wanted to involve the membership the artist selected; the political affiliation of the union and its particular industrial
priorities and concerns; the constitution of the committee or group overseeing the

banner's
wanted

design;
to use

the nature of the membership;


For example, unions

and the purposes


which had raised

for which
their own

they

the banner.

budget

might have preferred their union insignia to be reproduced as the main design component for the banner. Such a commission would therefore have been unlikely
to receive contribution as it did not grant funding from an artist and could represent well be an for original opportunity a executed signwriter. by creative

and of Putting'aGood Faceon it'? Idealistic Romantic Representations Unionism


Whilst many of the banner artists of the 1980s respected
banners were also and held sentimental aware of the attachments power relations to these and very

the tradition of trade union


fading within artefacts, this they

glorious absences

symbolic

tradition. Therefore, whilst many included reference to the banner tradition, they sought to reinterpret and transform it through the content, form and style of their

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

99

banner designs. As Burn noted, instead of the stereotyped heroic male worker 'artists tend to represent equality of the sexes, even where this may be premature in the industry represented'.44 Not only did artists represent gender equality, they often
also chose, in consultation with the union design committee or executive, to represent

cultural diversity and privilege indigenous workers. In general, this choice ignored the reality that most unions still had a poor record of addressing the needs of these sectors of theirmembership and little, if any, representation from these groups within bodies and positions of power.45 their decision-making
This intentions choice and raises readership. some On interesting the one issues hand, the about choice strategies, representational an affirmative, or to adopt

positive,
faults of the silences

repertoire of images could argue the idealism of the artist, blind


the union within concerned; class cultures' on another and it suggests a conscious the absence decision inmainstream particularly

to the
culture

to 'address

of positive
inside dependent

Such strategies also fitted the affirmative representations advocated in both the ACTU and UTLC arts policies. Certainly, as many approach
and outside upon unions the unions argued, recognising the revitalisation and harnessing of the union the skills movement and resources was of

of workers.46

all sectors of the membership and better representing this diverse collection of interests and identities.47 Within the representational politics of the union banners
the prominent inclusion of women performing as skilled trades work also acted as a

demand that blue collar unions and theirmembers


women There in non-traditional was trades equals and

recognise
as comrades.48

the rightful presence of

unions

to these also a promotional decisions which for many aspect design reason a banner. saw the key for commissioning union Some officials as an a the banner to promote of both their own union opportunity positive image to the and unionism movement and the union itself. Unions used generally public as their banners to media in marches at and protest conferences, rallies, backdrops was

celebratory
conferences,

events
at trade

(such as dinners
fairs, and at skills

and fundraising
expos. The design

events)
of a new

at union
banner

and ALP
presented

the opportunity
concerns, its

to the union of developing


its membership and

a contemporary
its achievements.

image of its identity, its


Not only members,

strengths,

but also potential members, the undecided general public and union opponents would see this image. Itwas a critical opportunity for the union to reposition itself symbolically and to develop a positive image for the television cameras. A few unions and artists failed to grasp this opportunity and there were several banners produced during this period that failed to succeed asmedia objects as their design was too detailed to be read from a distance or by television cameras. A few other banners were crudely designed or painted which led to criticisms from funding
bodies and and poor other art.49 arts In some commentators instances: that these banners were political propaganda

about projects little [arose] from artists with expectations conflicting of trade unions and their traditions, and from trade unionists ... in art and with ideas about little experience holding fairly traditional artistic issues.50 vastly experience

However,

These kinds of conflicts led to dissatisfaction on the part of some participating artists. for other artists the experience was deeply satisfying, extending their

100

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November 2000

for specific audiences and of the complex nature of meanings understanding exposing the artists to experiences, people and environments which were new to
them.51

Many of the textile banners of the 1980s and early 1990s were, and still are, loved by union officials, delegates, members and by the public. This can be seen by
the regular attention such banners attract from strangers who want to know about

the organisation, why it. This has provided


officials. Such on positions in contemporary education The a diverse

and how it got such a beautiful object, and if can they touch a promotional opportunity highly valued by some union
can of present and range issues banners opportunities even the basic therefore can to directly nature and present union explain role of unions for

conversations

as well prominent

The society. as promotion. position

opportunities

of women,

non-Anglophone

and

indigenous

workers

within the imagery of these banners presents the unions as inclusive and respectful of cultural diversity. As noted above, this reflects the reality of the membership of
many unions but rarely its decision-making structures, industrial or political

priorities. This raises the question of the politics of (seemingly)


such images for recruitment and promotional purposes. However,

cynically exploiting
for many unions

and artists the question was rather a matter of trying to foster change through changing both the symbols as well as the realities of power.52 This strategy goes hand in hand with the slow and painful process of changing the institutional culture and
its techniques allocation, concerned and had of power the practices 'progressive' such of as the rules, industrial policies resource the structures, decision-making In other instances the unions negotiation.53 on issues of gender, affairs race, indigenous

and international

solidarity and had established

affirmative measures
These unions their banner

within
were

their
proud

more to represent these groups organisations appropriately. of their achievements and wanted them represented within

as evidence

of their commitment to equality and social justice issues. For those artists who had come from a background of 1960s and 1970s political
activism these in the anti-war, achievements and women's, policy environment commitments and and land rights the fact movements, had itwas some that unions

institutional
movement 1970s arts and

and financial power - that attracted them toworking with


in the

the labour

1980s

practice.54

The Australian first place. art and craft scene of the contemporary was not a conducive a to pursue environment in which political a in contexts artists offered (a rare wage community Working

industrial benefit
other people's lives and

for visual and craft artists),55 the stimulation


and concerns and, as Burn not notes, found 'points an historical seen were to gain worked framework worker, of elsewhere'.56

of learning about
to a It also political offered

of access

understanding the opportunity to many artworkers Some groups, academics commissions. For was artists of artists union these others

to be who or

as a skilled also

supportive an award for artists on various

was which very something important an the attempts to either establish within across other art work existing a wide paid industrial range work and unions.57

artists

alternated organisers a

union and

related with

projects work with their own

of community as art teachers, private

or arts

occasional

with

a rare

experience

background to work with,

in feminism and be

and accepted

the women's by, the mythical

art movement, 'hard men'

it of

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Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

101

Wiseman

artists such as Pam Harris and Gwenda Socialist-feminist their experience of gaining an intimate understanding of thework and themembership of the left-wing Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) processes its traditions of support for the underdog, support forworker and in commemorating in developing an 'authentic' Australian culture, for industrial militancy participation the labour movement. valued

and the green bans.58 It seems likely that the rewards of this working relationship had to do with both the romantic appeal of the radicalism and notoriety of the BLF, and the personal bonds formed with those particular officials and members who were genuinely and deeply supportive of their artists. In addition, there were complicated questions to do with being a feminist artist depicting the male culture of the building industry and that these artists' subjectivities in relation to these was never addressed within these (and other Art and Working Life) questions it is also clear that projects. Whilst this is a point worthy of greater consideration, some women artists gained particular benefits and satisfaction from their
engagement For and artists with with 'macho' stereotypically a of commitment history such as Harris, Ann rights, unions. to left activism, Newmarch and student-worker Megan Evans, alliances working

Aboriginal

with unions was a logical step from their previous


also true of many of the male artists who came from

unpaid
similar

activist work. This was


backgrounds although

their banners
and be less

tended
innovative

to draw more
in style and

directly upon
form. However,

the historical
for some

banner
feminist

tradition
artists the

collaboration did pose some interesting and complicated tensions around issues of gender and feminist politics that they addressed within the form of their work. These artists found that the use of the textile medium to represent the identity of a masculine union provided them with the opportunity of subverting traditionally
the 'macho' stereotypes of blue-collar manual work. Daphne Stitt, who made two

highly ornate textile banners for blue-collar male dominated South Australian unions (the Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU) and the AMWU), has commented
on the pleasure she gained from confounding the stereotypes of 'macho' blue-collar

workers

by providing them with a vibrant representation of their identity produced using traditionally feminine needlework practices.59 These techniques were also highly practical for banners that needed to be rolled or folded for ease of transportation and that might get wet from rain and even mud
at worksite demonstrations. Textile banners could even be washed or drycleaned

when the need arose and if necessary of the banner. The quilting of multiple
banner that was often more resilient

repairs could be incorporated within the form layers of fabric resulted in a strong and flexible
than the traditional banner painted in oils or

even modern
incorporated to

acrylic
within a

paint.
textile

The diversity
banner provided

of craft techniques
scope for the

that could
representation

be
of

traditional industrial skills. Stitt utilised a range of dyeing and stitching techniques
represent traditional construction skills such as terrazzo work, bricklaying, paving,

fencing and plastering within the form of the BWIU banner. Such textural renditions of meaning were less possible within the traditional form of the painted banners. A
number of textile banners were also made using 'piecing' techniques which resonate

with

the basic trade union philosophy

of strength

in unity.60

LabourHistory

Number 79

November 2000

Colour andCelebrationinTextileBanners
The traditional historical banners featured very formal designs and generally utilised
a sombre palette. They communicated the seriousness of the business of unionism

and commanded
banner makers

respect for their authority


have shaken up these

as public

institutions. Contemporary
traditions through more

representational

informal designs and through use of amuch fuller palette as well as using different media. Many utilise the play of colour and texture to celebrate the union's
membership, an organisation identity and concerned goals with and social to make justice the union as well as appear industrial more accessible as issues.

Footwear Julie Montgarref s banner for the national office of the Amalgamated and Textile Workers Union (AFTWU) offers a good example of the application of colour and sense of celebration. The banner utilises screen printing, appliqu? and machine embroidery, and features images of (primarily female) members at work undertaking awide range of tasks associated with the industry. Montgarref s design for the AFTWU reveals the diversity and feminised nature of the (often invisible)
workforce and associates the union with contemporary popular discourses of

multiculturalism. The vibrancy of the colours and textures and the flowing design the banner contribute to the mood of celebration.61 The affirmative and within idealised representations of unionism suggested by the banner derive from the co the intimacy of the portraits of the operation and diversity of the membership,
workers, several of whom engage the viewer's gaze, rather than any collective

are given additional complexity political action. The portraits of the members use of hand-colouring of layers of semi and the superimposition through the transparent fabric and net suggesting complex identities. The appeal of Montgarref s banner lies not only in the detail of the design but also in the vibrancy of the colours and the appeal of its tactility. The grid pattern on the reverse has the same portraits of workers leaning out, over and through the grid, breaking down the divisions within the form of both the traditional device of the grid and themetaphoric notion of the grid as social divisions. Again the feminist strategies of respect for difference and co-operation for change are utilised in a representational approach to signifying
unionism Montgarret of the same that evokes also made portraits, and rhetoric the strategies of social unionism. (movement) a smaller, some version of this banner, less ornate including to carry on demonstrations. The union's Victorian branch

frequently takes this smaller banner on industrial rallies, picket-lines


and anti-racism events.62

and to Fairwear

PiperAlphaCondolenceBanner
Julie Montgarref the banner from s Banner Condolence Piper Alpha and tradition its contemporary represents a re-interpretations. departure significant It is one of the

most

eloquent examples of textile techniques being adapted to carry amessage of solidarity. Itwas initiated through the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) in 1988-89 whilst Montgarret was artist in residence at the VTHC Arts Workshop. It is
a promotional unionism of expression more generally. individual Instead, union itwas nor of identity contemporary to express created international

neither Australian

solidarity and empathy with the impact on a particular community of a major industrial accident. The banner was sent as a gift to the City of Aberdeen from the

Muir workers

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

103

of the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster which of Australia in commemoration occurred on 7 July 1988, with the loss of 170 lives. The main panels of the banner are made from a fine grade, transparent, polyester screen-printing mesh on which the artist painted images of the ocean and mid-summer night sky onto both layers which when wildness
disaster,

overlaid added a moir?, watery effect.63 The darkness of tones indicate the of the sea and that the disaster occurred at night. Over 170 small dyed-red each carrying the name of one of those who died during and after the squares,
are placed over the sky/ocean image. The red squares are anchored between

the transparent front and back layers of mesh by way of a grid of machine-stitched lines which pass through the middle of each square horizontally and vertically. The stitched grid isboth a small cross and amarker of their sea graves. A map of Scotland, in bright blue, fills most of the front panel. It locates the rig embroidered and acknowledges that most of the workers were Scottish. The rig, geographically itself, is stitched in very small scale in relation to the frame to suggest the fragility of the structure so distant from land and the distance of over 300 feet from the lowest deck to the sea (many of the workers had to jump this distance when the rig exploded). In each corner of the banner Montgarret has placed seabirds including gulls, puffins and guillemots not only for their insistent presence around oil rigs (in both Australia and the North Sea) and their common appearance around the Scottish coast but also in their own right as victims. Sea birds died by the thousand in the resulting oil slick that spread as far as Norway. On the reverse panel, Montgarret included a faint rainbow in reference to the bravery of all the workers - including
the crews of the rescue boats who were at great risk in even approaching the rig.

The origin of the banner resulted through a combination of the then VTHC arts officer Daphne Stitf s connection with Scotland and her interest in the British tradition
of condolence banners, together with Montgarret's own involvement in the

establishment of the Victorian branch of theAIDS memorial quilt project. They were both aware of the significance of textiles in relation to grief and healing. Montgarret notes the suitability of textile as a medium of condolence for its 'familiarity, its
connotations of protection, comfort and security as resonant materials [and] also

the processes of making which supported and encouraged the process of grieving and celebration of lives'.64 Stitt arranged the transport of the banner to Aberdeen at through the Seamen's Union of Australia. It hangs in the Hall of Remembrance the Aberdeen City Art Gallery and occasionally visitors place wreaths of flowers
beside it.65

LabourHistory Number 79

November 2000

Women inTrade The South Australian UnionsNetworkBanner

Plate 1: 'Women inTrade Unions' banner designed by Kay Lawrence and ElaineGardner Photo courtesy of theUnited Trades and Labor Council of South Australia The banner depicted in Plate Iwas designed by Kay Lawrence and made by Elaine Gardner with the participation of members of the South Australian Women inTrade Unions Network.66 The network was an informal group of women unionists which
existed the to give support and culture to women strange who or were alienating. new to trade Many union activism union and officials found and customs women

members of formal committees such as theWomen's Standing Committee supported the activities of the network and were also involved in the design and production of
the banner.

The banner's design draws upon the traditional symbolism of women's suffrage struggles through its choice of colours: purple, green, yellow and white67. Whilst the design has similarities to the traditional union banner design with a central image and decorative border it also subverts the heroic and formal aspects of the traditional design. Whereas in the traditional banner itwould be usual to see proud male figures marching in a line in support of their demands or a sole heroic male figure representative of allmale workers, the image chosen as the central panel for this banner connects to a very different method of organising. The photographic in an Adelaide image, reproduced as a cyanotype (or blueprint), depicts women march with a banner calling for improved childcare facilities. The nature May Day of the issue selected is in stark contrast with those industrial and ideological issues in the foreground on union banners. Childcare is an issue which traditionally placed particularly highlights the dual role of women as paid and unpaid workers and there has been a long battle by women unionists to get it recognised as an industrial
issue. The women are walking in a casual line, two women on the centre left are

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

1105

in conversation, another, on the right, pushes her baby in a pram. The organising suggests the informal processes of women's arrangement of women rather than the formal and hierarchical union structures of through networking committees and elected officials. Instead of an ornate and formal gold border, as image appears to be 'stuck on' many traditional banners employ, the photographic to the banner background by means of photographic corners. This device links the deep
image to another domestic artefact, the family album, and to women's role as the

keeper of family and community histories. The central image is surrounded by two rows of intertwined purple ribbons on which words are embroidered. The words also differ from the traditional banner content in that they are in seven different languages and express the things that include women do together as part of their organising for change. The words
expressions of emotion such as 'laughing', 'caring7 and 'dancing7.68 The banner also

features handmade
on one woman's lapel

details
and

such as the hand-stitched


edging around another's

embroidery
jacket. These

around a rosette
also increase

details

the link towomen's domestic needlework and to intimacy instead of formality. The banner reverse is a simple deep purple satin with the title 'women in trade unions' The whole banner is hand quilted, appliqu?d in cursive lettering inwhite and yellow.
a task undertaken collectively by members of the network under Gardner's co

ordination, and which links the banner to the invisible histories of women in both the industrial and domestic spheres. The construction process also put into practice
the network's hope for a more participative unionism. The luscious sheen of the

the joyful and purple satin, the intimacy of the women calling for childcare, and soft colours and style invite the viewer to join with these women for pleasure as and touch and works to much as protection. The image invites participation and make more accessible the often threatening and overwhelming demystify
masculine symbolism and traditions of unionism. It also positions unions as part of

a broad social coalition, just another set of people working for change. In this way it anticipates the strategy of social (or social movement) unionism which has become and a contested a key strategy in the United States and Canadian labour movements
one within debates on the future of Australian unionism.69

inTrade Unions Network banner utilises feminist cultural strategies of subversion, and desire in its design and construction, together with employment of traditional feminine craft techniques. The incorporation of domestic crafts within The Women
an industrial context also calls to attention some of the anomalies in the situation of

women

with regard to their double load of paid and unpaid domestic work. Feminism as an underlying principle for women's organising ismade explicit in the women's symbol on the top left hand corner of the banner's heading and again
through Many council symbols Australian women's and on the badges union banners lapels of some marchers. made for union as an explicit symbol and peak linkage rarely instead (especially the women's incorporate unionists women's observe banners

committees) artists banners

to feminism. appears

Canadian

and

symbol that the women's being

on Canadian

with

activism

represented

through bread and roses. Bread and roses was the symbol adopted by the Lawrence textile workers in their strike against inhumane hours and the use of child labour in 1912, when they said they were on strike 'not just for bread but for roses too'.70 This inNorth America. symbolism iswidely known and used with considerable affection

LabourHistory However, Australia

Number 79

November 2000

lacks the historical parallel of such amajor women's industrial labour and its subsequent martyrs, nor has it struggle recognised by organised developed any commensurate symbols of shared interest.71 Some Australian unions have adopted the use of the rose in relation towomen's organising but this has its antecedents in the rose of the British Labour party rather than the North American roses. Some examples of the rose as a feminist union symbol include theWestern

Australian and South Australian TLC women's badges, the Victorian NTEU women's committee banner designed and made by Anne Learmonth, and the South Australian AMWU women's committee T-shirt and caps. The UTLC in South Australia has recently adopted a version of the bread and roses logo in promotional material for activities of interest towomen unionists. Assistant Secretary Michelle Hogan says that theWomen's Standing Committee has been impressed by the symbol's capacity to express the complexity of women's experiences within the union movement: that of difference; belonging and their contributions to the labour movement.72

Branch Australia Northern and TheTransport Workers'Union Banner, South Territory

Plate 2:Transport Workers Union of Australia (SA/NT)'banner designed by JoannaBarrkman Photo courtesy ofKarlhuber photography The Transport Workers Union (TWU) banner designed and made by artist Joanna artist Christina Yambeing Barrkman with the assistance of indigenous (from Arts), is one of very few Australian banners to attempt to explicitly Merrepen associate the union with the struggle for land rights.73 The TWU banner not only land which the TWU members traverse seeks to acknowledge that it isAboriginal constantly in their work, but also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders members.74 The banner incorporates the techniques of silk painting and appliqu? and is exceptionally beautiful with vibrant reds and ochre tones referring to both western and indigenous conceptualisations of the landscape.

Muir

Australian Union Banners Feminism and Representations of Union Identity in

107

a traditional design format of an oval medallion with surrounding and border. However, both the palette and medium are distinctly different. images The central image is of a road train with three tanks which immediately suggests It utilises
outback Australia as in most other states only two can be hauled. On either side of

indicating the historic methods of transport in that hostile environment and they also refer to the work of Afghan and Aboriginal men in transporting goods into remote areas. The road train is depicted in front of awell known Northern
Devils Marbles.

the road train are two camels

Territory
Across

landmark and significant Aboriginal


the centre and lower section of the

cultural site, the


banner a snake

the work of the TWU takes place and the 'represent(s) the land upon which relationship that we have to this land. The serpent has universal significance in
Aboriginal cultures and takes various forms and meanings'.75 The border of the

banner reflects two different styles of Aboriginal art found in the territory, the dot painting of the central desert region and the cross hatching from the top end. When
carried in events as such the as silk the Darwin shimmers is spectacular May Day parade, in the sunshine eyewitnesses and the colours say the banner glow. These

qualities
banner

are very alluring and create a significant


as art object and in the circumstances of

degree

of interest both
The TWU banner

in the
marks

its existence.

the nature of thework as being particularised by its location, the exceptional distances
members travel and dependence of people in remote areas on their work in providing

It commits the union symbolically to the transport system. of Aboriginal ownership of the land and their special cultural acknowledgement land rights over any specific relationship to that land. In this way it privileges
industrial issues.

an effective

This banner raises the general question of whether it is appropriate for unions to employ signifiers of Aboriginality when their own practices generally, in relation to investigating and servicing the specific needs of Aboriginal members, leave much
to be desired.76 As in the case of migrant workers and other under-represented

groups,
difference a more

the matter
for central

can be viewed
purposes within the

both as an exploitation
and/or union's as a

of visible
their on

signifiers
issues our sleeve'

of
into

promotional position

to move strategy concerns. The 'heart

approach utilises such imagery to indicate a progressive empathy for, and solidarity with, marginalised workers in the hope that these workers will be more likely to join the union. It could also, more kindly, be seen as a deliberate strategy by union leadership to promote the interests of marginalised groups within the union, and as a political issue requiring members' support, by raising their profile to the very symbolic heart of union identity. Whether or not such unions are willing to adopt strategies of structural support to better ensure the representation of their issues
(such resources certainly in/to as targeted to service instances central their positions their where on specific unions positions key decision-making issues industrial been have happy refused bodies) remains to and the necessary There of women steps which to are questionable.

have but

fail

improve to consider

symbolic industrial the power

representation relations within

or have the

promote/use images to take the necessary so in tokenistic done ways

images.77

108 LabourHistory

Number 79

November 2000

Conclusion
Feminist artists and feminist art practices had a significant influence on the revival of the tradition of trade union banner making in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s. Feminist interest in reviving traditional women's domestic needlework early skills and adapting them to the themes of contemporary social and political change
became a strand within Australian strong a commitment in this article have retained its represented to reservations production. to the principles it in an affirmative about matter that the banner The artists discussed its role have and not of unionism, way. They

and have possibilities, to make reference attempted represent appropriate in found challenges depiction women's to do the to form

experiences so. However, and

in the subject it is argued used techniques forms and

to of unions capacity effectively nor would of the banners, it be to these banner issues may Feminist in feminist the be

reference

traditional

by structures

feminist of

makers. are reflected of

unionism in the

of women

in non-traditional

trades,

inclusion

iconography
and peak These within promotion decision-making

inbanner design, and in the production


women's reflect Firstly, and committees. debates the support around for which two separate guarantee creating an key

of individual banners for union


of feminist activism and place of women the in

council banners unions.

strategies structures women increased

for women a prominent visibility

of policies

practices

structures.78

Secondly,

within

the cultural
as

and symbolic
within the

realms of unionism
traditional to not only practices 'see how to

which
and women

challenges
of unions. are

their
It

categorisation has been "other"

'other'

concerns

sites where identify an Such challenged'.79 approach, for women a different to with kind of unionism. opportunity identify in some this promising as of unions instances, Unfortunately, representation for the of concerns of women, space sympathetic addressing non-English speaking and has been workers to move failure background indigenous betrayed by unions' (but also) practices an create of representation can be

that it is important argued to the ... masculine worker

as positioned such gendered can it is argued,

beyond window

dressing
in other

to a systematic
instances

overhaul

of their policies,
that occurred group grievances and the

priorities

and

However, practices. or the union's women's of representation in which the

the discussion or the banner

within around

the union,

committees, women of women forms

reference other

enabled concerns

members unionists of union

to raise were

the politics the ways about the continuing

represented

dominance and 1990s,

of masculine women inmany

culture.

unions

caucusing, presenting within and identification women to the have drawn

alternate with attention

developed identities of unionism culture. presence,

Throughout a range of strategies and have diversity

of the 1980s period of self-organising, their survival celebrating been one and way their in which challenge to a trickle,

union to their

Banners their

traditional the

practices production

of unionism. of new union banners has slowed from a rush

Whilst

the collection
significant. the ways unionism.80 processes hoped that

of banners

produced

in the 1980s and early 1990s is historically


configurations of unionism to have contest and, in particular, images o? the traditional been outdated

record the They changing in which feminism has Some banners from

of union

already and However, amalgamation dwindling membership. this generation are not discarded of banners or left to rot like

attempted that period

by it is to be those of

the

Muir

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners

109
E N D N 0 T E S

1890s and that instead that they will be valued as an important record of a period of substantial and contested change in both arts practice and unionism.

Endnotes
1. See for example J.Hughes Film Work (video) Melbourne, 1982; K. Harper, The Useful Theatre: the in Sydney and Melbourne New Theatre Movement 1935-1983', Meanjin, vol. 1,1984, pp. 56-71; A. Reeves, A Tapestry of Australia: the Sydney Wharfies Mural, Waterside Workers Federation, Sydney Port, Sydney, 1992. Visual arts historian Sandy Kirby and (the late) artist, art theorist and unionist Ian Burn are two notable exceptions who have written about the history of labour cultural projects, the cultural and the context provided by that history. S. Kirby and I. Burn, history of the labour movement 'Historical Sketch' in I. Burn (ed.), Working Art: a Survey of Art in theAustralian Labour Movement in the 1980's, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1985; S. Kirby, Artists and Unions: A Critical Tradition, Australia Council, Redfern, 1992. in B. Pocock in Unions,' and Meaning K. Muir, 'Difference or Deficiency: Gender, Representation (ed.), Strife: Sex and Politics in Labour Unions, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1997, p. 173. in I. Burn, Dialogue: Writings inArt History, Allen and I. Burn, 'Artists in the Labour Movement,' Unwin, North Sydney, 1991, p. 142. in T. Irving S. Garton, 'What have we Done? Labour History, Social History, Cultural History', (ed.), Challenges to Labour History, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 1994, p. 56. M. Lake, The Constitution of Political Subjectivity and theWriting of Labour History' in Irving, and Actions in Left-Wing Movements,' 'Gendered Meanings ibid., pp 75-97. Also J.Damousi, pp. 150-168 in same volume. For a discussion of the situation of non-English speaking background workers see, for example, S. Bertone and G. Griffin, Immigrant Workers and Trade Unions, AGPS, Canberra, 1992. Lake, The Constitution', pp. 140-151; G. Hawkins, p. 77; Burn, 'Artists in the Labour Movement', Mardi Gras: Constructing Community Arts Practice, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1993, From Nimbin to p. 96. Lake, The Constitution', p. 85. Also I. Burn 'Foreword', in Kirby, Artists and Unions, pp. 3-4. Mardi Gras, pp. 133-155. Hawkins, From Nimbin to Hawkins Life program was sold to trade unions (see argues that this is how the Art and Working p. 97). Examples of the capacity of unions to develop structures which utilise diversity as strength in in a number of recent relation to organising and coalition building strategies have been discussed et al. (eds), Organizing to United States labour publications. See, for example, K. Bronfenbrenner Win: New Research on Union Strategies, ILR Press, Ithaca, 1998; G. Mantsios, A New LaborMovement for theNew Century, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1998; M. Ngai, 'Who is an American Worker? Asian Immigrants, Race, and the National Boundaries of Class', in S. Fraser and J. Freeman (eds), Audacious Democracy: Labor, Intellectuals, and the Social Reconstruction of America, Mariner, Boston 1997, pp.172-185; and J.Mort (ed.), Not Your Father's Union Movement: Inside the AFL-CIO, Verso, London and New York, 1998. as potentially For a discussion of women's domestic needlework subversive see R. Parker, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Press, London, 1983. For a Making of the Feminine, Women's see S. Kirby, Sight Lines: discussion of Australian feminist artists' re-discovery of needlework, Women's Art and Feminist Perspectives inAustralia, Craftsman House, East Roseville, 1992, pp. 9-25. For example, P. Berry, Can Unions Survive?, BWIU, Canberra 1989; ACTU, Australia Reconstructed, ACTU, Melbourne, 1987; Evatt Foundation, LabourMovement Strategies for 21st Century, Evatt Foundation, Sydney, 1991; M. Crosby and M. Easson (eds), What Should Unions Do? Pluto Press, Sydney, 1992. A. Carey, The Ideological Management and K. Buckley (eds), Industry^ in T.Wheelwright Media inAustralia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1987, pp. 156-179. Communications and the S. Scalmer and T. Irving, The Rise of theModern Labour Technocrat: Intellectual Labour and the Transformation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union, 1973-85', Labour History, no. 77,1999, pp. 64-82. Artists perhaps could be seen to be a version of a specialist officer or 'technocrat'. See biographical information about Max Ogden as a member of the ACTU's Arts and Creative in D. Mills, Art and Working Life, ACTU/Community Recreation Committee Arts Board, Sydney, 1983, p. 19. The other members of the committee at this time were the ACTU's Arts officer, J. McLean, P. Bloch, L. Carmichael, P. Clancy, M. Crosby, D. Cushion and A. Morgan. For further discussion of this change in attitude and the AMWU's key role in developing the Accord see, for example, F. Stillwell, The Accord ... and Beyond: the Political Economy of the Labor Government, Pluto Press, Sydney 1986; P. Ewer et ah, Politics and theAccord, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1991. Unions who had significant reservations about the Accord included the Australian Teachers Federation and the New South Wales Nurses Association which voted against it at the ACTU's

2.

3. 4. 5. 6.

7.

8. 9. 10. 11.

12.

13.

14. 15.

16.

17.

18.

110

LabourHistory

Number 79

November 2000

19.

20. 21. 22. 23.

Jennie George, Allen and Unwin, Special unions conference in February 1983. See B. Norington, Sydney, 1998, pp. 130-2. Mills, Art and Working Life. At this time about 40 per cent of the Australian workforce were trade union members which made the case that unions were themost logical vehicle to increase the access of workers to the arts amore convincing argument than itwould be today. For a discussion of the political and institutional context inside the Australia Council at the time this policy was Mardi Gras, pp. 91-115. The Art and Working Life introduced, see Hawkins, From Nimbin to program was one of three incentive programs established by Council at that time. The other two were theMulticultural Arts Program and the Youth Arts Program. ACTU, The Arts and Creative Recreation Policy, ACTU, Melbourne, adopted 1981 and revised in 1985, p.l. Ibid. Australia Council's Art and Working Life policy quoted inMills, Art and Working Life, p. 16. UTLC Arts Policy, adopted in 1984 and revised in 1987, Adelaide. Hawkins notes that there were significant tensions Ijetween notions of difference and disadvantage' within projects themselves and the various papers published promoting the program to different audiences. See Hawkins, From Nimbin to Mardi Gras, p. 115. R. Markey, 'Marginal Workers in the Big Picture: Unionization of Visual Artists', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 38, no. 1,1996, pp. 22-41. For a discussion of the challenges of organising strategies for diverse memberships see, for example, B. Ellem, 'Organising Strategies for the 1990s Targeting Particular Groups: Women, Migrants Youth', in Crosby and Easson, What Should Unions Do?, pp. 347-361, and J. Shaw, M. 'ADecline in Union Membership: Walton and C. Walton, in the Some Ideas for Trade Unions 1990s', Evatt Foundation, LabourMovement Strategies, pp. 93-104. Bertone and Griffin, Immigrant Workers, p. 99. Examples of some of the strategies developed through grant funded projects and the work of such committees include the 1988 establishment and support of the National Unions Coalition with (NUCAM) and the funding for Aboriginal officers based at several peak Aboriginal Movement and councils; and the 1996 decision by the ACTU to establish targeted positions forWomen and Torres Strait Islander members on the ACTU Council. Examples of projects include Aboriginal the UTLC and Working Women's Centre 1989 arts project with childcare workers, Not Minders Not Mothers Not Martyrs. This project produced a touring exhibition to promote understanding of the skills of childcare workers, the nature of their work and their need for higher wages and better conditions. Examples of reports produced which drew attention to policy issues and made recommendations for change include L. Gatica, Ethnic Minorities and Employment Issues: a Trade Union Perspective, Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia, Perth, 1988; ACTU, Migrants and Unions, Trade Union Information Kit 9, ACTU, Melbourne, 1985; M. Nightingale, Facing the Challenge: Women in Victorian Unions, VTHC, Melbourne, 1991. For some insight into the nature of theWaste Watch attacks and the trade union response, see Art 1989. Work, (video) UTLC, Adelaide, For example, the South Australian United Trades and Labour Council (UTLC) had a regular staff of over 20 during the latter years of the 1980s with several additional short term project staff. In 2000 its staff includes two full time elected officials and three administrative workers with occasional support from short term project staff. These changes reflect the drop in trade union the loss of grant funding and the reduction in affiliation by some unions that no membership, longer regard support to state peak councils as a priority. Such a reduction in staff has significantly changed the broader social, cultural and political roles played by the UTLC and its capacity to initiate or support projects. A. Stephens and A. Reeves, Badges of Labour, Badges of Pride: Aspects ofWorking-Class Celebration, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, p. 2. Lake, The Constitution', p. 85; Burn, 'Artists in the Labour Movement', p. 4. See, for example, C. Cockburn, Brothers: Male Dominance and Technological Change, Pluto Press, In theWay ofWomen: Men's Resistance to Sex Equality inOrganizations, London, 1983; C. Cockburn, Macmillan, London, 1991; D.S. Cobble, Women and Unions: Forging a Partnership, ILR Press, Ithaca, 1993; Nightingale, Facing the Challenge; C. Shute, 'Unequal Partners: Women. Power and Trade Union Movement', in N. Grieve and A. Burns, Australian Women; Contemporary Feminist Thought, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994; and various chapters in Pocock (ed.), Strife: Sex and Politics in Labour Unions. Kirby and Burn, 'Historical Sketch'. J.Gorman, Banner Bright, Allen Lane, London, 1973. A. Stephens and A. Reeves, Badges of Labour, pp. 3-4; A. Reeves, Another Day, Another Dollar: 1988, p. 83. Working Lives inAustralian History, McCulloch Publishing, Melbourne, J.Damousi, Women Come Rally: Socialism, Communism and Gender inAustralia 1890-1955, Oxford 'Gendered Meanings', 1994; Damousi University Press, Melbourne, pp. 150-168. An example of the worker as liberator can be seen in the New South Wales Liquor Trades Employees Union Banner reproduced on the cover of Stephens and Reeves', Badges of Labour. Stephens and Reeves, Badges of Labour, 'Introduction', no page number. Ibid.

24. 25.

26. 27.

28. 29.

30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36.

37. 38.

Muir
39. 40.

Feminism and Representations of Union Identity inAustralian Union Banners


A. Mancini, 'Union Art - Past, Present and Future', in Artwork: Recent Art of the Victorian Trades Hall 1989. Council Arts Workshop, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, to express anti-slavery needlework has been used by activists in earlier generations Women's in in Britain and calls for peace and disarmament in the United States, suffrage messages messages Australia. See Parker, The Subversive Stitch; L. T?ckner, The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign, Chatto and Windus, London, 1987; J. Isaacs, The Gentle Arts: 200 Years of Australian Women's Domestic and Decorative Arts, Lansdowne Press, Sydney, 1987. of feminist arts practices including the There is an extensive literature on the development of domestic needlework (see especially Parker, The Subversive Stitch) and the employment influence of French feminist theory on feminist artists. For example, see G. Pollock, Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and theHistories of Art, Routledge, London, 1988; L. Nochlin, Women, Art and Power and Other Essays, Thames and Hudson, London, 1989. R. Parker and G. Pollock (eds), Framing Feminism: Art and theWomen's Movement 1970-1985, Pandora, London, 1987. see C. Moore (ed.), Dissonance: Feminism and For an Australian perspective on these developments, theArts, 1970-90, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1994. and the 'IToyley For example, The Lovely Motherhood Show7 and 'Quantum Leaps' in Adelaide show' inNew South Wales. K. Muir, The Banner Tradition', inModern Trade Union Banners, Catalogue, UTLC, Adelaide, 1987, no page number. The UTLC secured grants from both the Crafts Board of the Australia Council funds and the South Australian Jubilee 150 Board initially tomake 15 new banners. Additional were obtained from the Australia Council's International Year of Peace fund for the design and from unions, the UTLC production of five separate peace banners. Together with contributions was able to assist in the production of over 26 new banners, some of which were actually pairs that could be hung separately or used as double sided banners on marches. Burn, 'Foreword', in Kirby, Artists and Unions. See Bertone and Griffin, Immigrant Workers; Nightingale, Facing the Challenge; B. Pocock, Women Count: Women in South Australian Trade Unions, UTLC and Centre for Labour Studies, Adelaide, 1992; B. Pocock, Raising our Voices: Activism amongst Women andMen in South Australian Unions, Centre for Labour Studies, Adelaide, 1994; S. Mezinec, The Slow Road to Fairer Unionism: Changes in Gender Representation in South Australian Unions 1991-1998, Centre for Labour Research, paper no. 1999. 10, Adelaide, Burn, 'Foreword', in Kirby, Artists and Unions, p. 4. P. Berry, Can Unions Survive?; Bertone and Griffin, Immigrant Workers; Pocock, Women Count and White, Sisters and Solidarity, Thompson Raising Our Voices; Cobble, Women and Unions; J. Educational Publishing, Toronto, 1993. in such roles can be found in B. Hansen's banners for the Newcastle Examples of women Building Trades group of unions, the Printing and Kindred Industries (New South Wales) union banner and the Builders Labourers Federation (Tasmania); M. Evans' Operative Painters and Decorators Union (Victoria) banner, J.Croft's Australian Meat Industries Employees Union (Western Australian) banner. In contrast, several of the banners by male artists for similar unions do not include women. Industrial Union (Victoria) and the See, for example, those of G. Hogg for the Building Workers Society of Carpenters and Joiners (Victoria); A. Hill's Australian Timber Workers Amalgamated Union (South Australia) banner); and B. McKay's banner for the Seamen's Union of Australia (Western Australia). Instead, the design of these banners reinforces themale dominated nature of the industries and the heroic male worker tradition. I wish to emphasise here that banner designs were negotiated between the artist and the union and these comments should not be seen to imply that the responsibility for these choices by with the artist alone. See, for example, C. Merewether, Contemporary Visual Arts in theArt and Working Life Program, report, Visual Arts Board, Australia Council, Sydney, 1987. unpublished Burn, Dialogue: Writings inArt History, p. 143. Muir, The Banner Tradition'. See Burn, 'Foreword', in Kirby, Artists and Unions, p. 4. The slowness of this process and the important role of symbols and culture in transforming organisations would seem to be recognised in point 8 of the UTLC Arts Policy discussed above. Discussion of the practicalities of achieving such change can be found inWhite, Sisters and Wishart, Organising Our Solidarity; Crosby and Easson, What Should Unions Do?; B. Pocock and J. Future, Centre for Labour Research, research paper no 9, Adelaide, 1999; and ACTU, Unions? 1999. Work, ACTU, Melbourne, V. Binns, 'Introduction', in V. Binns (ed.), Community and theArts: History, Theory, Practice, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1991, p. 12. Markey, 'Marginal Workers'. Burn, 'Artists in the Labour Movement', p. 145. Markey, 'Marginal Workers'; Burn, 'Artists in the Labour Movement'; Wiseman quoted in R. Healy, Process and Practice - Evaluation of Artist in the Community Job Creation Scheme, Victorian Ministry for the Arts, Melbourne 1984, p. 121. Healy, ibid. It should be noted thatWiseman, who had been amember of theWomen's Art in Adelaide, made a banner for the Victorian Branch of the BLF in 1983, and that as a Movement result of that successful collaboration designed and executed a huge public art project with the BLF

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in 1985. Itwas seven storey mural From theHod to the Favco on the side of the Rialto building whilst itwas under construction. The mural represented the work of the BLF members. This mural was one of the examples subsequently criticised by theWaste Watch committee. D. Stitt, personal communication to author, 1987. For example, the Seamen's Union Peace Banner (South Australia) and the Australian Nursing Federation's (South Australia) banner. The West Australian TLC Women's Banner, although not 'pieced', is made in such a way that several distinct sections, that can also hang separately, come together as a whole for marches. The New South Wales Teachers' Federation banner is a patchwork of smaller knitted and sewn images. This is in stark contrast to the design of traditional historical banners which was very formal and the seriousness of generally utilised amore sombre palette. The traditional banners communicated the business of unionism and commanded respect for their authority as institutions. Many contemporary banner makers have shaken up this image of unionism Other banners to utilise colour and texture in this way include: M. McMahon and N. Taylor's banner for the AMWU; D. Stitt's banners for the BWIU and AMWU (both in South Australia); K. Muir's banners for the Food Preserver's Union and the Australian Nursing Federation (both in South Australia); D. Humphrys' banners for the Northern Territory Public Sector Union and Communication Workers Union, and E. Gallegos' banner for the Electrical Trades Union (Tasmania). I am very grateful to Julie Montgarret for providing me, at short notice, a copy of her original artist statement and the detailed information on which this section draws. to author, 2000. J. Montgarret, personal communication V. Rigney, Banners of theWorld: the Contemporary Art of Banner Making, exhibition catalogue, 1992, no page number. Glasgow Museums, Glasgow, Lawrence was an Adelaide-based feminist artist whose primary practice was as a tapestry weaver. She had coordinated a number of high profile and local community tapestry projects and commissions (including the Parliament House Embroidery project 1983-88) as well as other textile lecturer at the South Australian School of Art. Gardner was a projects. She was also an occasional textile projects in 1984. She had worked on quilter who had first commenced work on community both tapestry and quilting projects. Both of these artists have subsequently continued their in community projects together with maintaining involvement their individual practice. Banners, both painted and needlework, were a feature of the women's suffrage struggles in Britain (see T?ckner, The Spectacle of Women). particularly are not the words most commonly associated with the formal rhetoric and structures of These unionism. They offer another example of Lake's point about the turn to promoting the idea of in hard times 'substituting the values of 'friendly' unions as a source of support for women friendship for power and care for control' (Lake, The Constitution', p. 85). See Endnote 11. W. Cahn, Lawrence 1912: the Bread and Roses Strike, Pilgrim Press, New York, 1977. See C. Conde, M. Hynes and C. McLeod, 'Bread and Roses Across the Pacific', Hecate, forthcoming 2000. November, M. Hogan, personal communication to author, 2000. The Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (Northern Territory) banner produced in the mid 1980s was another which attempted to acknowledge Aboriginal union both in its membership in its border of T?wi design. imagery and The TWU in the Northern Territory also covers workers in a number of 'eco-tourism' ventures and shares coverage of national parks with the LHMWU as well as covering workers in the conventional transport industries. artist's statement in possession J. Barrkman, Transport Workers Union Banner', unpublished of the author, Darwin, 1996. In the years immediately preceding the banner's production, one of the Northern Territory's TWU's full time officials was Aboriginal. The TWU has played a supportive role in peak council in support of both Aboriginal workers and wider ATSI solidarity campaigns campaigns such as land rights in both South Australia and the Territory. The union has also to pursue the attempted issue of special leave for cultural purpose without success. It has not implemented, however, some of the other suggested strategies to address the issues facing indigenous workers, such as dedicated positions on the union governing body, a separate union committee on indigenous issues or a sub-branch of indigenous members. This information comes from conversations between the author and TWU (South Australia) secretary B. Heffernan and Industrial Officer S. Key during the time that funding for the banner was being sought from the Australia Council. K. Muir, 'Difference or Deficiency' in Pocock (ed.), Strife: Sex and Politics in Labour Unions, pp. 188-9. For discussion of these strategies see, for example, International Labour 'Women's Organisation, in Trade Unions', Labour Education, no. 90,1993; also White, Sisters and Participation Solidarity. Muir, 'Difference or Deficiency', p. 180. It is also a valuable historical body of work that was, in part, produced due to a particular institutional convergence, the ACTU's adoption of its 'Arts and Creative Recreation Policy' in 1980 and the Australia Council's adoption of its 'Art and Working Life Program' in 1982.