Today hasn’t been a good day for those who share the values that make our union great: Fairness, decency, protection of rights, fighting racism and getting the best deal for working people.
It’s fair to say these aren’t values shared by America’s next President Donald Trump (that’s a sentence that’s going to take a long time to get used to).
I woke up this morning – like many people on either side of the Atlantic – with a sense of dread. Sometimes it can feel like the causes we care about aren’t winning out. General elections and Brexit – alongside the rise of Trump – make it feel like the world is trying to tell us something.
But if there was anything that would rouse your spirits, show you that there’s so much to fight for in this world, and stand as a testament to the passion and dedication of UNISON members, today in Durham would do it.
Thousands of teaching assistants, set for a huge pay cut from their (Labour) council are fighting like lions against the plans. They’ve voted overwhelmingly for strike action and this week they have carried it through in impressive fashion.
Over 80 picket lines. More than 100 schools closed or partially closed. Hundreds of TAs lobbying their council today. And this lunchtime, an incredible rally at the Durham Miners Hall.
These women – who have been through so much and face such injustice – sang and cheered and chanted with such force, and strength and resolve that you could hear them hundreds of yards away.
No-one in that hall today could doubt that what we fight for matters. No one in that hall today could doubt that there are still great struggles to be had and battles to be won.
And no-one today would doubt that the Durham TAs – and UNISON – will fight with everything they have to get what they deserve.
We face huge challenges on so many fronts. At times they can seem insurmountable. But today let’s remember what we stand for. And why we must keep fighting all of those challenges that still lie ahead of us.