This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
Paper proposal for the
CCAWUSA and Independent Socialists Panel
Title: “White ladies [do not] push heavy skips”: Examining NUDW and CCAWUSA organising of occupational categories in the retail and distributive trade in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Sociology, Wits University
Using extensive archive and interview material, this paper seeks to expand investigation into a pivotal shift in union approach which I raise in my book on retail worker politics (Kenny 2018). There, I argue that from 1975, CCAWUSA specifically organised to bring all (black) commercial workers together, explicitly cross-cutting manual general workers (traditionally, distributive workers) and service workers. This strategy was in stark contrast to the National Union of Distributive Workers (NUDW), which organised white, Indian and coloured workers (the latter two categories via NUCAW). In this period where a white labour shortage created pressure on commercial employers to hire black women into service jobs (first Indian and coloured from the late 1960s and then African), NUDW worked to maintain the occupational ‘integrity’ of its members’ jobs in service work. As black workers moved into these front-line jobs, NUDW opposed job reservation (called for by branches of the National Party), but it organised around the ‘rate for the job’. When CCAWUSA began to mobilise in the sector, it specifically organised around a militant race-class identity of all workers, and brought so-called ‘general’ workers and service workers together. This paper seeks to examine in more detail the historical changes to the labour process in that transitional moment of the 1960s to the 1970s and the intra-union politics that counter-posed these strategies. It seeks to examine the history of intersection of the two unions and two memberships.