#HeartNUJ: Branch activity is the foundation of our union

This article originally appeared on the main NUJ site.

Donnacha DeLong, branch activist and NUJ rep

Why do I do this? I’ve been active in the NUJ since I was a student member more than 20 years ago. I’ve been a chapel officer, a branch officer, a member and chair of the national executive and other councils, vice-president and president of the union.

Heart Unions logo

I do this because I want to build the union. And not simply for the union’s own sake – building membership and strong chapels mean making a difference in people’s working lives.

Workers having a say in their own work lives can make a huge difference. Instead of being a cog in a big corporate machine, union members can become agents of change in the workplace.

In 2012, when I was still president, I came up with the idea of bringing the union’s new media membership in the capital city together with the non-functioning London independent broadcasting branch; and so the London independent broadcasting and new media branch (LIBNM for short) was born.

Building the branch has given me the opportunity to do what I really enjoy – working directly with members to encourage and support recruitment and organising. The branch has come to represent the future of the NUJ to me.

Not only do our members come from some of the expanding areas of the media – websites and small independent and foreign-owned broadcasters – but our membership is also incredibly diverse. We represent a wide range of ages, genders and ethnicities among our members.

As a branch, we try our best to reflect this diversity. The committee of seven has more women members than men (4:3) and has three BME members, one of whom is also a disabled member. Four of the committee members, including the chair and vice-chair, are younger than me.

When newcomers attend our meetings or get-togethers, this makes all the difference. LIBNM doesn’t fit the stereotypes about unions and is more welcoming. We try to cut down the bureaucracy that can be off-putting and maintain a casual, informal atmosphere that focuses on giving the members a voice.

We organise regular speaker events and socials to make things even less formal. These give our members a chance to talk to each other and learn from the experiences of their fellow workers in different companies. Members have made new friends and contacts there. Some have received useful advice on employment issues and encouragement to start organising in their workplaces. One member, at least, managed to get a new job from a conversation at one meeting.

The branch is still growing and developing. We have lots of plans for this coming year – more speakers, more events and more chapels.

There’s a lot to be done, only a few of the workplaces we represent are organised and even fewer are recognised by their employer. However, that means there’s lots of potential to grow and develop and to become, in a very real sense, the future of the NUJ.

Find out more about the TUC’s #heartunions, #heartNUJ week of action and join the NUJ today.

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