Green Party ‘trade unionist’ PPC “doesn’t need to join a union”

simon cross

For all the points of disagreement between myself and the Green Party candidate for Rochford & Southend East (and there are many), I do not believe that our views on trade unionism is substantially one of them.

Those who are friends with Simon Cross on Facebook — which is where he seems to do the bulk of his “campaigning” these days (mumble mumble armchair activist mumble -Ed) — will know that he frequently attacks the Labour Party as not supporting the unions, rants usually containing his slogan “Who cares? Greens care!”.

Readers may be surprised to learn, then, that Mr Cross is not a member of a trade union. They may be more surprised that he sees neither problem nor inherent contradiction in that position.

This little saga all started with the local government strike in July of last year. Simon posted on Facebook that Labour did not back the unions and that his party were the natural political party of trade unionists.

Which was a bit rich, given that the Labour group leader in Southend, Ian Gilbert, became the first Deputy Leader in Southend history to address a strike rally, and Labour councillors were actively trying not to cross picket lines — a position which Tory Cllr James Courtenay later attacked Labour’s Anne Jones over, blaming the closure of a, err, private school on her not being at the Civic Centre (which, also, was untrue).

Of course, in the ensuing discussion, the question of which union he was a member of came up. The answer was astounding then, and I find it pretty damn astounding now:

I do not belong to a union as I work for a company which looks after me quite well.

As Ian Gilbert put it in a subsequent comment:

I’m astonished. I cannot think of any argument that misses the point of Trade Unionism so completely as ‘I don’t need to join a union because I’m alright.’

Now, in the interests of being fair to Simon, I put this question to him again the other day, to see if his position had changed. People do change their minds, even me, and that is not always (Or even often -Ed) a bad thing. This was his response:

I think you will find that you are boring everyone by continually asking this question Matthew. I support the homeless as do many people who are not homeless. I support the residents of the Kursaal Estate but it is not a requirement that I live on the estate! Your constant question regarding my membership of a union is a typical attempt at a smokescreen!

I’m going to take that as a no.

His analogy here is, I would suggest, spurious. He is entirely right that he doesn’t need to live on the Kursaal estate in order to support residents. But an estate is not the same as a union. Unions are founded on the ideas of collective bargaining and mutual support, that not every union member is going to need union support all at the same time.

I am a member of a trade union (Unite, for the curious). I have not yet needed to call upon the services and support of my union, and don’t anticipate a situation in the near future when I will. But others do and will, and through the union my membership fees and my support are there at their back. All of Simon’s supportive Facebook posts are of precisely no value to the trade union movement if he stands apart from them.

Apart from anything, it makes him look like a hypocrite.

If some of Simon’s trade unionist party colleagues want to explain this to him, then I wish them better luck than I have had. Perhaps they’ll be successful.  But I’m not, as a trade unionist myself, going to be taking lectures on the subject from someone who ‘doesn’t see the point’ in being a member of a union, whilst being happy to use them as a political campaigning tool.


  1. Yes, people should be members of a union, but has he ever actually said he is a ‘trade unionist’, as your title (arguably misleadingly) suggests? He seems only to have posted stuff in support of unions and argued that the Greens support unions and workers’ rights – the former of which is surely a good thing, and the latter of which is true. Would you rather he didn’t speak up in support of other people’s strike action?


    1. The trade unionist comment was in scare quotes; I was distilling down the essence of what he said into something that would fit in the title. He has repeatedly posted that he and the Greens are the true supporters of the trades union, whilst lambasting people who *are* union members.

      I’m not criticising his support of unions or collective action, merely pointing out the contradiction that he isn’t a union member because he personally doesn’t need union support. It misses the point that being a member of a union is as much about you supporting workers as it is the union supporting you.

      It’s not a personal attack, merely a rebuke to his pointed comments about myself, my comrades and my party.


  2. I’m a member of a union but I don’t see your point. You can advocate and support any group, their actions or policies, but not necessarily have to be a paid up member. You may as well ask Labour voters to keep their votes to themselves if they are not a paid up party member.


    1. Not the same thing at all.

      Simon’s reason for not joining a union is, and I quote, “I do not belong to a union as I work for a company which looks after me quite well.” Given that trade unionism is about standing together for the strength of all, this attitude is antithetic to the very philosophy that Simon is claiming to support.

      More than that, he is lecturing committed trade unionists who are union members, and telling them many times that they do not stand up for the unions and their members. It’s a nonsense, and a nonsense with which after months I had grown tired.

      I don’t think it’s inappropriate to pose the question, and to point out the contradiction. I’m not attacking Simon, simply holding up a light of scrutiny to him. As, actually, I do with local politicians — this isn’t a personal thing against anyone.


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