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Usdaw presidential election: The campaign they tried to hide
With the votes now counted, we can confirm that Socialist Party member Robbie Segal got a very respectable 10,000 members' votes for the position of president of Usdaw. That was half of the votes cast for the winning candidate in the fourth biggest union in the country!
Robbie was also reelected onto the executive council (EC) with nearly 500 more votes than the next person and despite a dramatic increase in the number of members standing for election in the south.
With a turnout of 9% and a muted campaign overall to say the least, it is hardly surprising that the incumbent president, the New Labourite Jeff Broome, got re-elected. He had the entire union machinery backing him. It is disgraceful that the election was hardly mentioned to the majority of members. No debates were allowed and the only available official election material for Robbie was the ballot paper itself.
10,000 leaflets were distributed by Socialist Party members and others on the left in Usdaw, getting an overwhelmingly supportive response.
Robbie stood for president following her 40% vote in the general secretary election in 2008. She has been standing on a platform of opposing any job losses in the retail sector and was the only person on the EC to raise the demand for nationalisation of Woolworths.
While she was issuing press releases and contacting workers about the need to demand the companies open their books and show us where the money has gone, the Usdaw leaders were falling over themselves to take part in debates and interviews, arguing that nothing could be done.
Robbie's demands have been focusing on the urgent need for Usdaw to give retail workers a strategy to fight the barrage of job losses and attacks on terms and conditions. Retail is one of the main industries in the firing line, bearing a large part of the brunt of the economic crisis.
Robbie pledged to launch a campaign to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour from age 16 to retirement, which got an enthusiastic response from members struggling to make ends meet.
Robbie says: "What shopworkers need isn't collaboration with New Labour and the bosses but a strong democratic fighting leadership. I will continue the struggle and now with a stronger left network of activists behind me, we are heading for our most successful ADM [conference] for a long time. The voice of the members won't fall on deaf ears for much longer."
- Votes: Jeff Broome: 19,962
- Robbie Segal: 10,559
In The Socialist 18 February 2009:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis