Disabled People Need Their Own Trade Union

written by Ali Wilkin (Harmony Party UK interim media officer)

A crutch lies on astroturf in the foreground while people with crutches play sport in the distance with a sunny blue sky above.
Because WE CAN. (Photograph: Anas Aldyab)

This is a brief introduction to why I am seeking form a trade union for disabled people, and the first essay as I advocate for why WE CAN unionise, and must.

This is part of a series. Part 2 may be found here, and Part 3 may be found here.

It was the day after the December 2019 election, and like the many disabled people who had fought to put forward the most radical manifesto for disabled people that British politics has ever seen, the reality of 5 more years of Conservative oppression and austerity was biting hard.

But what was also obvious was that the Labour Party would now begin to swing further to the right again, and every policy that would have lifted us out of poverty, and would have initiated a process that would have brought some measure of peace and justice, would be thrown out.

The hundreds of thousands of disabled people who have died under this regime cannot be brought back, but their deaths might finally have been recognised as the result of human rights injustices that the UN condemned in not one, but two, reports.

But the UN did not back up those reports by brining any serious political pressure on the government. The killing of our community would continue. No government in the world anywhere is criticising the human rights abuses that are killing us.

And then came the pandemic.

If the activism of disabled people in the last decade has taught us anything, it has taught us that we can organise politically, and powerfully. But the it should also have taught us one very important lesson: we can no longer rely on the consistent support from any political party – we must come together and exercise the political power we are capable of.

And it occurred to me that forming our own trade union – coming together, bringing together all of the skills we have learnt over the last decade – would not only mean forming an organisation that could win us back the rights that have been stripped from us, and the lives we could have led, but would free us from dependency on any one political party.

For 60 years the Labour Party have swung from centre right to left, and as we live in a time of far-right fascism, the ‘centre’ will swing ever further right. The reaction from the shadow cabinet to refugees crossing the channel in dinghies serves as a timely reminder about just how far right the Labour Party is capable of being.

Politically, WE CAN be independent. WE CAN organise politically. WE CAN win back every right that’s been stripped from us, every support that we are entitled to.

WE MUST be organised in order to protect our rights into the future. WE MUST fight for our disabled children’s rights and empower them to ensure that they will never have to fight to survive as we have to.