It’s Heart Unions week this week: a campaign the TUC run to celebrate trade unions and to encourage recruitment and organisation, to build our movement. It’s been going a few years, and while this year’s engagement isn’t the massive series of events we saw last year, the premise is so positive and uplifting – Unions should be celebrated every week of the year!

Last week I went along to the UCU Midlands Anti-Casualisation Roadshow, full of passionate and inspiring activists who are fighting every day to improve education. In a session led by 2 current members of the Anticas Committee, we focused on success stories in FE and HE – as part of this we discussed why we joined UCU, and our different backgrounds and routes in. Common themes emerged, of fighting for social justice, strength in solidarity, and just wanting to do something. After the event, when we kept talking, the stories that kept coming up were about the support other UCU members gave us in our own jobs and lives.

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It really matters that we remember to celebrate the positives, not only in the “big wins” we achieve, but also the smaller moments of solidarity that help us to build our broader campaign.

I also wrote about Heart Unions week two years ago, during my campaign for re-election to the NEC. I re-read that piece today, where I began by reflecting on the huge impact joining UCU has had on my life and on my self-respect. My “union story” is a positive one. Through getting involved in UCU, I have been able to join and lead local and national struggles, aimed at building our collective strength. through collective organising and mutual support, not only have I been part of making a difference, joining the union gave me something of myself back.
This is what I wrote two years ago:

    “The opportunities that membership gives us to be involved brought me new ways to believe in not just myself, but also in this community of peers – union siblings! UCU isn’t a magic wand, but it is a community of people willing to fight and work together to make a difference to the (naively unexpected) lived reality I found myself in along with countless others. We will be even stronger the more we recruit, and the more effectively we campaign and build.”

Seeing that in my facebook memories today made me smile. In the midst of multiple campaigns, fighting crucial battles against precarity, unjust pay differentials and dramatically terrible governance, it’s so helpful to remember why we joined — and to take advantage of the joy and support we get from fighting together with our UCU comrades.

I think this video — and countless others from recent strikes — is a perfect illustration. Taking moments to be silly together doesn’t mean we’re not serious about our union work. It means we know how to use joy to keep ourselves together and to keep going.

We need trade unions more than ever – and we will need them to be at their strongest as we continue forward into uncertainty around Brexit, mired in dangerous austerity-driven, Hostile Environment creating, socially catastrophic policies from the current government. We are part of a huge fight for a decent society in the face of a huge onslaught – it’s tough going! But it’s also joyful and affirming to be part of our diverse, creative community focused on making things better.

#HeartUnions, this week and every week.