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We’re Union, by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a prolific writer and poet based in Melbourne. Victorian Trades Hall Council commissioned this work during the devastating bushfires of 2019/20 - Maxine had donated her talents to the cause with the fee being donated to bushfire relief. Here she reads her poem "We're Union" in Trades Hall's venue Solidarity Hall.

No more dark winter nights of blue-cap-in-hand,
forlorn on the doorstep, saying: “We’re sorry ma’am.”

No ward-sisters let go after forty-five years:
arthritic, no severance, super somehow disappeared.

No: “Come in to work now, or you won’t have a job,”
when your temperature’s climbing, but you have to click on.

No more unharnessed work falls; long-haul sleeps at the wheel.
We’re Union. We’re fighting for fair, and for all.



We’ll stand for the workers who keep us all safe:
checking vitals, filing charts at nursing stations,

or clocking on for cleaning shifts month after week.
We’re for adequate sick pay, and PPE.

We’re for the ambos, who stand between us and the dark;
 for just work conditions, whoever you are.

 

We’re muddy boots at the door, bang on 6.38:
hi-vis dumped in the hall: we’re for reasonable days.

For scrubs-in-machine, and mine-grit showered off,
calling out to them all: “I’m home now, you lot!”

We’re for eager little footsteps padding fast, down the hall:
for the day being done, and home harm-free for all.

We’re safety-harness, pulled taut: we’re hard-hat, and we’re warden.
We’re for capped school classes: enough masks, gowns, fair warning.

 

We fought for eight hours labour, recreation, and rest—
for paid overtime, and we’ll strike where we must:
placard-in-hand, or all-tools-down,
until fair pay is met and the work site’s safe ground.

We’ve – as all – had our failings, but we learn and we grow,
as we sing, banners high, marching shoulder to shoulder.

 

We’re the job still there after babe number three.
We’re for women, in a workforce that’s racism-free.

For all abilities, genders, backgrounds, creeds too.
We will stand for the many, and not for the few.


We’re for the 1946 Pilbara stockmen strike:
holding strong, until August of ’49.

We’re ’73, out at Broadmeadows Ford:
marching rank and file, with the workers-exploited.

We’re the workplace resistance, united in voice:
we’re for each and every, for labourers-all.

We’re Eureka-bravado; Sunshine-Harvester rage.
We stand for dignity, no matter your trade.


Join us, workers-united, fighting-for-lives.
Be part of the Union, and we’ll stand for what’s right.

There is always a part for your voice, in our chorus:
waver or bellow, mellow or hoarse.

Cause we’re Union: conjunctio - a coming-together.
The sum of our parts is the might of our whole.

Maxine Beneba Clarke is a prolific writer and poet based in Melbourne. Victorian Trades Hall Council commissioned this work during the devastating bushfires of 2019/20 - Maxine had donated her talents to the cause with the fee being donated to bushfire relief. Here she reads her poem "We're Union" in Trades Hall's venue Solidarity Hall.

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