NUJ - what's it for?
My union, the National Union of Journalists, does many good things. I've worked at two places where it has provided invaluable support to striking journalists. It campaigns vigorously against the low pay and poor conditions that afflict many in the industry.
However, it has a student union-like desire to get involved in 'big politics', the latest manifestation of which is the proposal that the NUJ should affiliate to CND.
Why on earth? What has this to do with journalism? The current issue of the union's magazine carries support from Tony Benn, John Pilger and Hilary Wainwright. Benn argues that we should affiliate because journalists die in wars; Pilger says journalists should stand up and be counted and Trident is a waste of money; Wainwright says missiles create conditions of institutionalised war that lead to the suppression of the truth. On the other side of the argument are Polly Toynbee, Nick Cohen and Peter Hitchens, who say that the union should be as non-political as possible, since members will hold different views on political issues (Nick Cohen, also argues that CND is an unworthy organisation that cosies up to Iran).
I agree with Toynbee, Cohen and Hitchens. The union should concentrate on issues that affect journalists, as journalists. Nuclear weapons is not one of them. I hope NUJ members vote against affiliation (but I'm not counting on it).
PS The NUJ should be congratulated on allowing internet voting on this issue - it shows that they are committed to reaching as many of their members as possible, rather than allowing things to be stitched up by a committed minority.