Why does the CFMEU support Marriage Equality?

Published: 20 Sep 2017

Why is the CFMEU doing this?

As a union we believe that all Australians should have the right to marry the person they love. We also know that this postal survey has already caused unnecessary pain for people affected and their families. The government behind this are the same government who brought in the ABCC, attacked our EBAs with their ridiculous building code, and literally said that they want to cut our wages. The CFMEU is built on people finding strength and power in coming together. We have a proud history of supporting those inour community who are suffering, or who are being mistreated.

A letter from a member

The following anonymous letter was recieved by the CFMEU after a meeting where Marriage Equality was discussed.

To the CFMEU XXX Branch organisers, I am writing in reference to a toolbox meeting held at the XXX worksite at XXX, XXX, at XXam I apologise as I cannot recall the names of the officials who spoke. I am writing to thank you for organising and taking time to speak on the Marriage Equality Issue. To stand up against opposition and put in the effort and show leadership on this issue was one of the best things I have seen in my time in the industry.

The members who spoke and provided examples from their own lives have done more for this cause then they may ever know. It is a lot of about educating people and by doing what you have done has helped a huge amount. I myself would identify as gay and have worked in this industry for many years. At times, our industry can be harsh, I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing this part of my life at work and for reasons seen by the behaviour of a few members in this meeting I won't be sharing that anytime soon. To say things like 'I don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes, I Shouldn't have to hear about this at work' is a complete cop-out.

The whole idea of this movement is about people being able to be who they are and not have to hide a massive part of who they are that they can't change. It is absolutely devastating for someone like me to hear I should only be able to be my true self 'In the privacy of my own home'. Some members of our industry really need to think before they speak. Fortunately for me I have a very supportive and accepting support network of family and friends to turn to. I would really feel sorry for anyone, particularly younger members who were in this meeting and are trying to come to terms with their sexuality. Some of the comments made by certain members at this meeting were so damaging to my ears.

We already work in an industry where males aged 15-24 are twice as likely to commit suicide then in any other industry, and are 6 times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace incident. Couple this with the statistic that Gay males are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than other males and an estimated 31-63% of gay males have attempted suicide at some point. We are supposed to be an industry supporting diversity regardless of if it be by race, religion or sexuality.

Members need to understand that the world is changing and its likely we do have gay members working with us. I think people need to come to terms with this reality and get over their pre-conceived prejudices. The comment was made by one member in particular that this is political and we shouldn't be getting involved. The notion that unions shouldn't get involved in political issues is a complete joke. There is immense people power in unions as organisations and the ability unions have to represent us members at labor party conferences. This has ensured we have polices like protecting Medicare, Penalty rates etc.

Also it was suggested we shouldn't be getting involved in this as it doesn't involve our wages and conditions. I don't want to be a part of a union that is only focused on putting money in our back pockets and then turning our back on other social issues. Unions have done great things in supporting causes such as the White Ribbon Foundation and the Royal Children’s Hospital appeal. Neither of these have to do with our wages and conditions but I am proud that we support them and I have never heard anyone question our support for these causes which also have nothing to do with our wages and conditions. Also when a member has a sick wife or child the hat is always passed around to support each other and this, I believe one of the greatest sides of what our union does.

The very vocal member who expressed such an opposition to this matter that he then took it upon himself to try and shut it down should be reminded that when he had a tough period in his life, the hat was passed around for him. Most people donating to help him out weren't directly impacted either but that were happy to help out because helping someone out even though it doesn't directly impact on you is something we all do without question. This cause may not affect everyone on site by neither do a lot of others we support but we throw our support behind them because it is the right and honourable thing to do as union members. I really want to thank you again for doing what you did on Friday. I hope you were not discouraged by the negativity and vile hatred of a few. I believe the majority of site had a positive and supportive reaction to the meeting.

I hope you continue to show support for the issue and explain why this is so important to our country. By standing up and vowing support as leaders in this industry you have done wonders for the mental health and well being of individuals.

Thank you.