Whom, exactly, is Joe de Bruyn representing?

Possibly because it can’t be spun as a story about TEH EVIL UNION BOSSES or something (or at least not the right kind of story, but more of that later), there’s not much debate around the traps on the ALP conference’s endorsement of a fairly limited form of same sex civil unions along the lines of the Tasmanian legislation.

Andrew Norton has a post examining opposition from SDA head honcho Joe de Bruyn (who Gough Whitlam has described as “a Dutchman who doesn’t like dykes”) in light of some newly available survey data from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2005.

Mr de Bruyn’s shop assistant members were 53% in favour, 32% against…

That’s one union boss we can do without in federal politics. All he’s pushing here is his own conservative view of the world, shared not by his membership but by the ex DLP-ers who seemingly put more effort into whipping up a storm about lesbians and IVF or whatever than securing better pay and conditions for people working in retail. Oh, and determining who the next secretary of the ACTU will be.

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Posted in Lesbian and Gay, media, politics, Relationships, religion
25 comments on “Whom, exactly, is Joe de Bruyn representing?
  1. BearCave says:

    From The Age article:

    “It robs marriage of its unique and privileged status and it puts it on the same level as a radically different type of union,” Mr de Bruyn said.

    Yes, and Mr de Bruyn is in a unique and privileged position to be “insensitive” towards relationships unable to fit a certain definition.

    While they suffer the burden of interpreting the Dictionary for the word “relationship”, I learn the whole truth about my boyfriend’s diabetes condition in approximately twelve hours from now.

    Now, that’s what I define as radical change!

    …From Justin

  2. Frank Calabreser says:

    I can’t find it on the media watch site, but his name will always remind me of the episode of same where he was criticised about his name and picture appearing on nearly EVERY page of the SDA Newsletter – the voiceovers mentioning his name repeatly was classic.

    Hope you have better luck finding it Kim ?

  3. Why hasn’t anybody been able to knock de Bruyn off?

    Does he actually do good work for the union members, or is the general impression that he spends most of his time trying to drag the ALP’s social policies back into the 1950s correct?

  4. melaleuca says:

    Yep. Why hasn’t this classic example of unrepresentative swill been knocked off?

  5. grace pettigrew says:

    Agree Melaleuca.

    The joke is that De Bryun, a Roman Catholic anti-womens rights unionist, apparently represents the views of a mostly female shoppie constituency.

    I dont think so!

  6. Paul Norton says:

    Yep. Why hasn’t this classic example of unrepresentative swill been knocked off?

    This have be a function of the following factors: (a) the intrinsic difficulty of knocking off an entrenched leadership in any organisation which has the advantages of incumbency and is none too scrupulous about how it uses those advantages; (b) the bosses like him and are happy to connive to keep him in place; (c) a large part of the workforce which he misrepresents are casualised, temporary and have medium- to long-term plans to cease being shop assistants, and are therefore difficult to organise into a long-term base for a reform group in the union; (d) shoppies who don’t like the union leadership will register their objection by not joining.

  7. Paul Norton says:

    What this situation raises is the desirability of Labor either reforming the basis of union representation within party forums so that actual rank and file unionist views are accurately proportionally represented, or (if this is too difficult) reorganising itself as a social democratic party based on individual membership.

  8. Darlene says:

    I think Robert’s right. I think many of us have been members of the SDA at one point and weren’t impressed.

    The whole evil union boss schtick is boring me witless, but I’m just an ordinary working person who thinks that unions have problems but that I wouldn’t want to be without them in today’s cimate.

  9. Paul Norton says:

    Joe De Bruyn is also the patriarch of an aspiring Labor dynasty. His son Michael and nephew Clinton have been prominent Labor hard right activists in student politics in recent years. However Michael may have some ground to make up after losing the Labor Right the position of National General Secretary of the National Union of Students for the first time in history. The story is told here. The fate inflicted on one of Junior De Bruyn’s Griffith University allies by his erstwhile factional mates can be viewed here.

  10. tigtog says:

    “It robs marriage of its unique and privileged status and it puts it on the same level as a radically different type of union,â€? Mr de Bruyn said.

    This sort of rhetorical boilerplate is why I favour taking the word “marriage” out of legislation entirely. Let “marriage” be a word for the religious blessing of registered unions (with its unique and privileged religious status), and let the various legislations define what unions of consenting adults qualify as being eligible for official registrations for partner benefits/inheritance/coparenting purposes.

    The way that the British handle marriages as a combination of registry office ceremony and separate religious blessing ceremonies is a good start, but the system could be improved to highlight the distinctions between legal recognition by the State and religious blessing by the Faith even further.

  11. derrida derider says:

    In France religious couples have to have two marriage ceremonies – one in the registry and one in the church. Each does not recognise the other – it’s part of laicité.

  12. amused says:

    Marriage should be entirely secularised. The State should determine the types of unions it will treat as permanent civil unions, for the purposes of tax, inheritance and the like, and the Churches are at liberty to make up their own rules, for those who believe in them. It is absurd that we are even debating this topic.

    The single most important reason that Joe de Bruyn will never be involuntarily unemployed and that his successor will probably be his son, or another member of his family, is that the members of the SDA are largely casuals, and there is little long term employment that might provide a base for challenging what is in fact, a highly idiosyncratic and authoritarian leadership grouping, which is absolutely ‘out there’ on any scale of contemporary and rational social views.

    However, the importance of union organisation of Shop Assistants should not be underestimated by anyone. The alternative to his conservative, and ’employer friendly’ style, is no organisation at all. Think Wal-Mart. While SDA members have certainly had a number of conditions traded off that would have been electoral suicide for a union representative in most other industries, the fact is that shop assistants in this country are immeasurably better off for union organisation underpinning that labour market, even if the people who organise and represent them are quite unrepresentative.

    In my view this is a small price to pay for ensuring that the domestic non traded services sector, has some standards to speak of, and has not been reduced yet in this country to the level of that sector in the US. Union organisation has ensured that some the benefits and standards able to be secured in more strategic sectors of the economy, have been at least in part spread to less strategic parts of the labour market of which retail is a very large part. Whatever the idiosyncratic nature of De Bruyn, Wal Mart style employment would be far worse for shop assistants and their families than his largely irrelevant views on marriage and the family.

  13. David Rubie says:

    I too find it hard to believe he’s still the head of the SDA. He was the head of the SDA when I was a member (that was in high school when woolies was a closed shop – mid 1980’s). One thing the union never managed to fix: for some bizarre reason, after my (checkout or bag packing) shift my hands stunk of celery and ice cream 🙂

    The unions did come around quite regularly and scare the local woolies manager into treating people better which was nice.

  14. ansteybranchopolous says:

    De Bruyn’s ally here in Victoria is my local member, a ful on Catholic who wants us all to live by Papal edict – Christine Campbell – she is the reason abortion is still technically illegal in Victoria

  15. Paul Norton says:

    Christine Campbell p.k.a. Christine Hardy, overt NCC activist at La Trobe University in the early 1970s and sister of Anthony Hardy, overt NCC activist at La Trobe in the late 1970s and subsequently a Shoppies official.

  16. Luke says:

    Whatever your views on de Bruyn’s social conservatism, it must be admitted on any reading of the facts that his membership are far better off for the union presence and his leadership.

    Allegations like “bosses like him and are happy to connive to keep him in place” are simply outrageous.

    Perhaps people would prefer the LHMU, who nationally are proud of representing the lowest paid and most frequently exploited workers in the nation….??? Not much of a union.

    De Bruyn retains his post because he improves his workers wages and conditions, and protects some of the most vulnerable sectors of the employment market from exploitation. Pretty simple.

  17. Anna Winter says:

    Perhaps people would prefer the LHMU, who nationally are proud of representing the lowest paid and most frequently exploited workers in the nation….???

    Heh!

    Yes, they do need a new marketing approach 😉

  18. Marcel's Ghost says:

    Perhaps people would prefer the LHMU, who nationally are proud of representing the lowest paid and most frequently exploited workers in the nation….??? Not much of a union.

    And, as a Union, the lhmu have a pretty horrific habbit of indulging in street theatre and making their members sing when on picket lines. If you’re going to do street theatre, imho, you should be made to do it in mime form, or at least sotto volce, to save the rest of us from your embarassment.

    The SDA may not be the most militant union about (and I do agree that they do a decent job in a difficult area), but at least they don’t pretend that they are…

    De Bruyn retains his post because he improves his workers wages and conditions, and protects some of the most vulnerable sectors of the employment market from exploitation. Pretty simple.

    Well, no. That’s going a bit far. De Bruyn retains his position because of the benefits of incumbancy, as discussed above.

  19. BearCave says:

    Thanks to others for informing me about just who Mr. De Bryun is. It’s very interesting that I’m likely to be in broad support of the work he does for the benefit of shop assistants.

    However, I’m not going to be at all shy of questioning his definition of my gay relationship as a “radically different type of union”.

    The news I had confirmed yesterday was about my boyfriend’s advanced diabetes condition. The news is very bad.

    We’ve both been rehearsing the theme “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” because of the precise focus we’ll both need to make sure his life is prolonged.

    I never previously considered my relationship to become something I’d use to make a political point, but I must at least say that it would certainly help if our political leaders could in future be “more sensitive” to the health needs of gay relationships, starting with making the debate about gay issues “more focused” and “less shrill”.

    …From Justin

  20. FDB says:

    If you’re going to do street theatre, imho, you should be made to do it in mime form, or at least sotto volce, to save the rest of us from your embarassment.

    When did FUCKING MIME ever save anyone from embarrassment?

    YOU ARE THE FUCKING EMBARRASSMENT BUDDY!!!

    KILL ALL MIMES!!!

  21. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Another note on the SDA: it’s not entirely true that their membership is made up overwhelmingly of young casual retail shop assistants. It would be if every 16-y/o at Just Jeans or KFC signed up, but they don’t.
    The SDA also cover many warehouses, distributors and wholesalers, and their workforces of overwhelmingly blue-collar, male, permanently-employed storemen/packers. The ranks of the shop stewards, delegates and organisers—from amongst whom the first likely challenge to de Bruyn would come—are drawn from this part of the workforce.
    And what Marcel said about incumbency: I’ve never heard of a contested election of SDA officials.

  22. Antonio says:

    Paul Norton,

    Contrary to popular belief, Clinton de Bruyn is not related to Joe de Bruyn. One of the more bizarre Griffith SRC stories…

  23. Cultural Catholic says:

    A standard interview question when applying for a job at the SDA is ones views about abortion. Any EEO lawyers have any thoughts?

  24. Paul Norton says:

    Not an EEO lawyer myself, but if one’s answer to a question like that came to bear on the final decision about whether one should be appointed, there would be a strong prima facie case that a breach of section 7(j) of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act had been committed if the job with with the SDA’s Queensland branch.

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