What is the Sydney Alliance?
This, according to their very expensive web site, is what they are.
“The Sydney Alliance is a citizens’ coalition whose vision is to provide the community with a voice to express common values and aspirations for a fair and just Sydney.
Sydney Alliance is a way people for people to have their say in what they want for Sydney now and in the long term and to act together with others that feel the same way.
Sydney Alliance brings together people from diverse community organisations, unions, universities and religious organisations who want a better city.
The Alliance is the largest and most diverse network of citizens in Sydney.
The Alliance is an independent organisation that does not take government funding and is a non-party political organisation.
The Alliance believes that a strong and connected community enables the people of Sydney to shape their own future, to grow and develop as leaders, to be full democratic citizens and to speak and act with others on their own behalf. We build grassroots power that respects the contribution and dignity of all people.”
Sounds OK, but is it?
Around two years ago at a New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies meeting, we were ‘introduced’ to the Sydney Alliance with great fanfare, with the promise of the group doing wonderful things for our fair City of Sydney. The chance to participate and to undertake leadership courses.
At the time I had a quick glance at the web site. I wasn’t interested, plus the cost to join was $500 for an individual. That was not including the $200 fee for a two day training course, or $1,000 for the 6 day one.
I heard nothing more about it until late last year/early this year, when I was asked if I would attend a meeting at Sydney Town Hall. I have no idea why, but I agreed to attend.
I was surprised to see so many people, at a guess a few thousand. Sydney Town Hall is huge and was filled to capacity. Various groups sitting at different tables, with the balconies packed. There was tiered seating on the stage for the leaders of the various groups. I would estimate at least one hundred. Each one of those, in turn spoke about their own group.
The event lasted for two very boring hours and left me wondering why they were ‘motivating’ people.
What was it about? Apparently it is all about people power. For what though? I am not sure. Even the NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione , to rousing cheers, pledged his support? I wonder if he knew what for?
I put the Sydney Alliance out of my mind until a month a so back when it was brought to my attention from elsewhere.
I decided then I would have another look at the web site, concerned with what I had read, it urged me to look further.
The whole thing is set up and run by the Unions. For what I cannot be sure, but I tend to think to raise money. For what?
The first mention of unions is in their ‘About Us’ section and continues from there. Their address gives us a huge hint of what is to come in regards to Unions
Address: Sydney Alliance, Suite 209 Level 2 Trades Hall, 4 Goulburn Street Sydney 2000
Next their Staff :
Amanda Tattersall is well recognised as a leading coalition builder and social change campaigner in Australia.
She is the founding Director of the Sydney Alliance, a massive coalition of unions, community organisations, schools and religious organisations that uses community organising to make Sydney a better place to live.
She has been the President of the National Union of Students (NSW Branch), founded Labor for Refugees, co-founded and former chair of Get Up – an internationally renowned union based Australian web-based campaign organisation with over 650 000 members.
She has previously worked as a union organiser and was an elected official (Deputy Assistant Secretary) with Unions NSW, the central labor council in Sydney NSW that represents over 600 000 workers.
She completed a PhD on coalition unionism at the University of Sydney featuring case studies of coalitions from Sydney, Chicago and Toronto. In undertaking this research, she spent two years living in the United States and Canada as a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School.
Her book ‘Power in Coalition’, is based on her research and wide experience as a union and community organiser. The militant unionist Jack Mundey has commented on it too.
“I approached Unions NSW with the idea of setting up a broad based coalition”
David Barrow was an activist. Past president of the National Union of Students.
Mary Waterford, Executive Officer of the Western Sydney Community Forum says why she has joined the Sydney Alliance
“I am a long-term union member. I was an active member of the YR@W campaign, along with many of you. It was during this campaign that I saw the potential of unions and community organisations working more strongly together.
YR@W (Your Rights at Work) was one of the most successful campaigns in political history; we can learn from that experience and build an Alliance, the Sydney Alliance that is able to deal with multiple issues and is built to endure. “
“By waging their campaign on behalf of ‘working families’ rather than ‘workers’ per se (Muir 2008), the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) in the YR@W (Your Rights at Work) campaign deliberately sought to transcend sectional class interests and instead project the YR@W campaign as defending a general interest, namely the effect of the Howard government’s Work Choices on Australian society.
The aim of this paper is to debate whether the YR@W (Your Rights at Work)
Campaign thus illustrates Polanyi’s concept of the ‘active society’ and counter movement (Burawoy 2003).”
This link to an interview given by Amanda Tattersall pretty much sums it up.
When I came back to Australia in April 2007 I approached Unions NSW for support. They were in the heat of the Your Rights at Work campaign, doing community outreach in a way they hadn’t been doing before. I asked them to resource the Sydney Alliance for the first six months, which they did. By November of that year we had 13 organisations pledge $130,000 to fund it and the year after 22 organisations pledged a million dollars. Unions NSW provided the seed funding but it got a life of its own relatively quickly.
Why did you think unions were so important to involve in the Sydney Alliance?
Unions were obvious partners given the size and track record of unions working on community issues. Unions have played a critical role in many social issues like healthcare, superannuation – both workplace and social issues. The union movement when it works well it campaigns for thousands of people, when it stands for the whole. I was very committed to bringing out that side of unionism and the Sydney Alliance became an opportunity to make that happen.
I leave you with the question what is the money for.?
$500 pa membership fee for an individual.
$10,000 pa for an organisation
$200 and $1000 for training courses.
$130,000 from 13 organisation which funded it with monies raised in 7 months.
22 organisations have pledged one million dollars for the second year.
Unions NSW provided the seed funding but it got a life of its own relatively quickly.
Why am I not surprised?
I also leave you to form your own opinion about the Sydney Alliance and ask why is the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies a member of this group?