I first joined my branch committee when my daughter was 9 months old, with a huge amount of encouragement from my friend Lou, who was branch secretary at the time and a couple of years younger than me. I was worried I wouldn’t have the time to do anything useful, and if she hadn’t been there showing me trades unionists weren’t all older men I’m not sure I would have done it. As soon as I got involved, our branch chair Dave also started (nicely) pushing me to do things I would not have ever volunteered for and I found myself standing for regional women’s officer and speaking to thousands of people about why tne pensions attack was gendered in the dispute of 2011
My daughter is 6 now and I’ve been encouraged every step of the way to becoming more involved, and found I can make a difference. After becoming regional women’s officer I suddenly found myself thrown into the role of branch secretary and co-organising a national campaign after Dave was sacked alongside three other activists. The genuine love we were shown by a united trades union movement stays with me and still gets me through tough times.
Like the two reps who started me on my journey, I believe our union needs to be accessible to everyone and that equality is what we stand for and must be at the heart of what we do. As West Mids women’s officer, I have twice brought motions to congress to strengthen our equality structures. The first time, we got the backing of congress in challenging the decision to run all of the equalities conferences at the same time. Noone should have to decide whether it matters more that they are female, black, lgbt or disabled – in fact, the more of these things that affect a member, the more they are underrepresented and the more we need them in our equality structures! The second time, I argued that we need soecific equality officers for each strand regionally, and again got the backing of congress. We’ve since spotted that regional equality officers have disappeared from model standing orders, so we’re coming back with a rule change this Summer.
Looking around me, I don’t see any other mums of young children involved in national activism or sitting on the NEC. I know plenty of members who are, but a combination of management attack on meetings, overloading with care and housework, and a lack of “people like them” being visible in the union stops them getting involved, and that has to change.
Please vote for me for FE women’s rep. I will be able to do even more to strengthen our union by strengthening our equality structures. I will always check union decisions to see how they affect people’s ability to get involved, I will engage with mums like me to see how we can build our ranks, and I will keep up the reminder that our union is about equality.