SDA : Australia’s Worst Union?

Ah…

The ‘Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association’ (SDA), aka “the Shoppies”.

One of the handful of unions who can legitimately challenge the AWU for the title of ‘Australia’s Worst Union’.

The SDA, which claims to have 230,000 members, is notable for: unwittingly employing fascist symbology in its promo vids; being the largest trade union affiliated to the ALP; doing nothing for its members and; saving The Silver Bodgie’s arse back in the ’80s.

Over 20 years later, the Oxford-educated pisspot is returning the favour, agreeing to preside over the launch of a new hagiography (Tomato wars recalled as union marks century, Ian Munro, The Age, November 30, 2009).

Mind you, Hawke has supported other bizarros in the past, not least The Murderous Burmese Regime Formerly Known As SLORC:

…SLORC was genuinely committed to improving the economic well being of the people and was responsible for many “good things”, Hawke told a national parliamentary inquiry.

“We have been uniformly impressed by the competence and knowledge and commitment of these ministers and their associates to the economic development of Myanmar as a basis for national and political advancement of the people of their country”, Hawke said.

~ ‘Australia raises prospect of ASEAN snub for Burma’, Mark Bendeich (Reuters), February 24, 1995.

As for the SDA, it — along with three other ‘Groupers’ unions’ (the Federated Clerks’ Union, the Ironworkers’ Union and the Carpenters’ and Joiners’ Union) — was re-admitted to the ALP in 1984:

Crikey readers would be aware that [the SDA’s] predecessor disaffiliated from the ALP in the wake of the 1955 DLP split. For the next 30 years, it functioned as the industrial base of conservative Catholicism until finally re-admitted to the party to shore-up Bob Hawke’s base in 1984. However, its legacy remains for the most part undimmed.

~ Shop assistants sidelined as Vic ALP turns corner, Andrew Crook, Crikey, February 2, 2009.

And the right-wing-Catholic-light-in-the-shop-on-the-top-of-the-hill continues to burn brightly now. The Groupers’ legacy is also being kept alive on the other side of the Parliament by The Mad Monk.

(NB. ‘Grouper’ is a term that evolved in the 1940s, being used to describe members and supporters of the reactionary ‘Industrial Groups’ established within the labour movement in order to oppose the influence of the Communist Party.)

See also : Communists, Conservatives and Continuity: The Democratic Labor Party and its Legacy, Michael Lyons (ASSLH, 2007) | Return to a secret country, John Pilger, New Statesman, November 27, 2009.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2017 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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30 Responses to SDA : Australia’s Worst Union?

  1. The British equivalent of SDA, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW, sometimes confused with ASDA, the British branch of Walmart) is also crap: USDAW-Tesco sick pay deal [Mark Sandell, July 17, 2004].

    [Usdaw and Tesco break new ground to forge a new agreement
    Tesco’s new policy that punishes the sick]

  2. dj says:

    Useless doesn’t begin to describe it. Hardly surprising that they never get mentioned by the Liberals as an example of protection-racket unionism.

  3. @ndy says:

    Yeah… but on the bright side, the SDA provides not only millions in funding to the ALP, it also serves as a sinecure for the remnants of the DLP, as well as providing a vehicle for aspiring right-wing Catholics to enter Parliament.

    Senator Mark Bishop: a former State Secretary of the SDA in Western Australia and was also the WA state secretary of the National Union of Workers (NUW). For a while he was also in charge of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union and the Hairdressers’ and Wigmakers Union. A unionist with many wigs it seems.

    Tony Burke: Labor’s federal shadow immigration spokesman hails from the SDA.

    Anthony Byrne: Federal member for Holt and former SA Branch organiser for the SDA.

    Christine Campbell: former Victorian Family Services minister who was a branch organiser with the Shop Distributors (SDA).

    Senator Jacinta Collins: a former SDA Industrial Officer in Victoria.

    Ed Dermer: North Metropolitan representative in the WA Legislative Council who was a full-time union organiser with the SDA before joining parliament.

    Kate Doust: South Metropolitan Region representative in the WA Legislative Council who was a junior vice-president of the Trades and Labor Council before winning a seat in parliament. Her husband, Bill Johnston is the State Secretary of the WA ALP. Both hail from the conservative Catholic union the SDA where Kate was an organiser and Bill rose to be State Secretary.

    Senator John Hogg: former QLD State Secretary of the SDA which are a close relative of the old NCC.

    Linda Kirk: a right winger backed into a winnable position on the South Australian senate ticket by the Bolkus Left. Formerly connected with the SDA by way of marriage and membership.

    Tom Koutsantonis: South Australian MP who was with the SDA as an organiser in the mid 1990s before winning a seat in 1997.

    Ian Maxfield: Labor member in the Victorian seat of Narracan is formerly from the SDA.

    James Merlino: from SDA advisor (national office) to MLA for Monbulk.

    Jack Snelling: Elected to the SA Parliament in 1997, this baby-faced pillar of the Right gained notoriety as the least likely to turn up to Parliament in his first term. He became a father of two children during this time. Was a staffer in the SDA before becoming a staffer to Martyn Evans.

    Laurie Brereton: the fixer from the NSW Right was an official with both the ETU and the SDA in NSW which made his enterprise bargaining legislation in 1993 so much for confrontational for the union movement.

    Brian Harridine: former Tasmanian Independent Senator and long-time President of SDA Tassie Branch.

  4. @ndy says:

    Peter’s ace!

    …But it does not end there. In looking at the various jobs on boards, agencies, departments and ministerial offices, one sees the influence of this particular union. There has been recent publicity about the rising superstar in the SDA, the new state secretary, Peter Malinauskas. As members would have read in the newspaper, at the ripe old age of about 27, he has just been appointed as a new board member of WorkCover with up to $50,000 a year in terms of board and committee positions associated with that.

    What is not known is that the Malinauskas family has done well out of the Labor Government, and not just Peter Malinauskas. Rob Malinauskas (Peter’s much younger brother) is in his early 20s, and, I understand, was just a third year cadet journalist at The Advertiser and, can I say, he is a nice young man and a promising journalist. He is a younger brother of the head of the SDA, and he has just been appointed to a position in Deputy Premier Foley’s office with a salary of almost $90,000 a year, having jumped as a 21 or 22 year old from a salary in the low $40,000s as a third year cadet journalist. As I said, it is a huge jump which comes [as] a result of being the younger brother of the head of the SDA. He pops into the Deputy Premier’s office and jumps in salary from just over $40,000 to $90,000.

    The Hon. Carmel Zollo: You just can’t help yourself. You are stirring all sorts of things.

    The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: That is not correct.

    The Hon. Carmel Zollo: Why do you do it? He applied for a job.

    The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: And got it. It does not end there; there is more. Elizabeth Malinauskas, sister to Peter and Rob, is also employed in Attorney-General Atkinson’s office as a liaison officer. We have three members of the Malinauskas family all happily employed and ensconced in various positions within the government. As I said earlier, this is basically becoming a job network for the SDA within the Rann Government.

    In his office, Minister Foley has Daniel Romeo, who is tied up with the SDA. His wife, Sonia Menechella, is the assistant state secretary of the SDA, and Michael Brown, of course, the State Secretary of the Labor Party, was previously in (I think) both Mr Atkinson’s and Mr Foley’s offices at various stages, or, possibly, Mr Holloway’s. An adviser to Paul Holloway, Anna Bradley, was a former organiser for the SDA, so he has done his bit. Another adviser to Michael Atkinson is Elizabeth Hollidge, who used to be the girlfriend of Peter Malinauskas. When she was his girlfriend, she got the job in Minister Atkinson’s office. Eamon Burke, adviser to Michael Wright (and not a bad cricketer), is a former organiser for the SDA. Michael Atkinson’s wife is an employee of the SDA…

    Rob Lucas, Address in Reply: Rann Government Arrogance – SDA, Wednesday, 24 September 2008.

  5. Jamie-R says:

    Okay thanks for the update. I need to know more.

  6. Jamie-R says:

    What is fascist symbology? Correct me if I’m wrong but for the extreme left I’ve come to view this as anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview. Is that too much?

    The reason I came to this is that I looked back at the history of someone who actively fought the ‘fash’ in the West in the early days of the Cold War, Lee Harvey Oswald. And then started putting together the mind set of folks who find this sub-culture attractive even against the left wing politicians of the Western world, I found that although there are sites that claim the Bolshevik movement Oswald hearted in Russia was nationalist by nature, it lacked credibility due to the obvious imperialism non-Russian nations experienced during said Cold War. Obviously a nationalist movement wouldn’t seek to impose it on foreign cultures and nations – it logically strips it of that.

  7. @ndy says:

    Re fascist symbology: that’s a (semi-comical) ref to the actor w the twigs. Italian Fascism — the OG fascism — adopted (and adapted) the fasces as its symbol. The fasces is a bunch of twigs w an axe stuck on. It was originally used in Ancient Rome as a symbol of imperial power and authority, being carried about by various functionaries of Empire.

  8. Jamie-R says:

    Ah. Well strength through unity can be twisted so many ways.

    I did turn to Eddie Izzard though:

  9. @ndy says:

    What is fascist symbology? Correct me if I’m wrong but for the extreme left I’ve come to view this as anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview. Is that too much?

    Dunno. I’m honestly unsure what you mean. It seems there are two options:

    1. The extreme left is (by definition) “anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview”.
    2. Fascist symbology is “anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview.”

    Re Oswald: I don’t know of anyone who regards him as being, primarily, an ‘anti-fascist’. From what I can recall, he was a young American who felt alienated by US society and culture, and who at one point adopted some version of Communism, even travelling to Russia in order to experience at first-hand its wonderful culture. Leaving disillusioned, he seems to have then embarked upon a mad-cap scheme to bring down the US government by shooting President Kennedy, becoming embroiled with a range of rather insalubrious characters along the way, one of whom, eventually, in turn, shot him dead. A strange and fascinating person, but not really an ‘anti-fascist’: I think his motivations were rather different, and quite complicated, both on a political and psychological level.

    The nature and evolution of Bolshevism is another story; so too its mythology, those whom it attracted upon this basis, and its historical reality, which was rather more mundane. As an aside, Bolshevik imperialism stems from its earliest incarnations under Lenin (and the events following the Bolshevik coup/counter-revolution of 1917, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and moar), rather than as a symptom of the Cold War.

  10. Jamie-R says:

    I never suggested fascist symbology is a ‘communitarian foundational worldview’, from what I read it can’t be, since it supports a nationalism? Which would divide and conquer it across the world?

    Leaving disillusioned

    From what I read, this took on a more complicated subversive action rather than a quitting – in the mold of America’s failure to follow Patton or MacArthur’s lead meaning more Soviet-supporting boldness in the face of Western leadership. For such players, the failure of the USA to use its strategic and nuclear dominance in the brief years after WWII was a sign of weakness, and such folks were prepared to test them in the future in ways the Americans were unprepared to test them when the advantage was had.

  11. Jamie-R says:

    Okay just remembering the twigs thing from Rome. Okay so twigs can’t go national, it’s all about imperial power and authority. I guess. But that doesn’t absolve it of the proponents of today and who they aim for. Even if it is semi-comical stuff.

  12. Jamie-R says:

    Okay, I’ve stopped drinking now, got work tomorrow. But I finished my Christmas message this afternoon, Merry Crassmas is it? I should have done it sober, I always think I’ll be funnier after some beers but I don’t know if it’s actually true. Scientists should study this shit.

    the nature and evolution of Bolshevism is another story

    The site was called Public Eye I believe, where they actually considered Stalin a sort-of fascist because he was some sort of nationalist, but unlike Hitler’s racial creed and then his desire to exterminate races to make living space for his, Stalin’s conquering of non-Russian peoples and internationalising his ideology from Moscow did not take on the same tone. But to me it seemed much more international than the thousand year reich.

  13. Lumpen says:

    Oh god, the SDA are shit. I was in it for about 4 years when I was a youngin’ working in a supermarket. The only tangible benefit I got was a ‘Presidential Card’ offering me discounts on things I could never afford to begin with.

    Some peeps in the ALP once told me the SDA was set up financially as a private company, so in the event of a takeover all the assets could be privatised. It sounded apocryphal to me, but probably says a lot about what the Left of the ALP think about the SDA.

  14. @ndy says:

    I never suggested fascist symbology is a ‘communitarian foundational worldview’, from what I read it can’t be, since it supports a nationalism? Which would divide and conquer it across the world?

    Er… OK. In that case: The extreme left is (by definition) “anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview”. Which is arguable, but interesting.

    Also:

    1. The US did not fail to use its elevation to global superpower following WWII to re-cast the world in its interests; quite the opposite.

    2. Public Eye eh? I’ve looked at one site of that name, but it doesn’t appear to contain much in the way of analysis of Uncle Joe’s politics. On the other hand, Stalin has been described as a ‘red fascist’, and the political system instituted by the Bolsheviks as ‘red fascism’. This argument was put quite forcefully by the German council communist Otto Rühle, for example, in his essay ‘The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism’ (1939), although the real break with Bolshevism on the part of many Marxist revolutionaries who had initially supported the Bolsheviks began only a few years after its initial triumph. In any case, yeah: on an ideological level, there were differences between Stalinism and Nazism, and ‘tone’ was one element. And to some extent, while both were totalitarian doctrines, the Russian regime was more ‘international’ (in that it sought to bring under Moscow’s domination communist parties throughout the world), whereas the Nazis generally concentrated on Europe, and considered it to be the proper domain for its conquests.

  15. Jamie-R says:

    Er… OK. In that case: The extreme left is (by definition) “anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview”. Which is arguable, but interesting.

    Well, my point is that the nation-state system that strongly emerged in Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is, what I perceived, to be a fascist development among internationalists. It is a system many wish would give way to global government. Which to someone like me would be the result of the dissolving of borders and nations. We’d get a ruler, a man, of the world, eventually.

  16. Jamie-R says:

    Oh god, the SDA are shit.

    I have been asked by the union organiser to apply to become a delegate at the next ballot. They want me on the team, I apparently went down a treat at the function with all my knowledge. I suppose the left side of me can thank @ndy a bit for that. I consume knowledge, and sometimes just want to fight about it.

    I dunno, I have been thinking about whether a classical liberal can be a union delegate, but I also know that trade unionism has a strong history in this nation, and I’d like to think of myself as a keen lover of our historical culture since my ancestors arrived here. I argued with a yank once that we had free settlers like they did and our penal colonies were set in NSW and Tasmania and there’s a lot more to Australia than just those two bloody places. Then he asked where my ancestors arrived in Australia. NSW and Tasmania.

  17. @ndy says:

    Well, my point is that the nation-state system that strongly emerged in Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is, what I perceived, to be a fascist development among internationalists. It is a system many wish would give way to global government. Which to someone like me would be the result of the dissolving of borders and nations. We’d get a ruler, a man, of the world, eventually.

    OK. So: the emergence of the modern nation-state, which can be treated as occurring in the late 17th century, and for which the Treaty of Westphalia was a key event… is (was) a ‘fascist’ development, at least insofar as the desire of the extreme sports left for a “borderless communitarian foundational worldview” is concerned…?

    Maybe. But:

    ‘Fascism’ is more generally understood as being a political phenomenon of the twentieth century;
    The left — including what might be termed the ‘extreme left’ — is not necessarily opposed, in principle, to ‘the state’ as an organising principle and;
    There is a distinction between ‘one world government’ and ‘global governance’.

    In other words: some, including those who might be termed as being on the extreme left, do believe that the modern state system must be abolished. But I think that, especially within Marxist thought in particular, processes of historical evolution are understood in slightly different terms. So for example: Marx denounced capitalism; he also viewed history in terms of its progression from one mode of production to another. In this framework, the transition from feudal social relations to capitalist ones — a transition which took place during roughly the same period as the emergence of the modern state — he understood as being ‘progressive’ — and therefore even praiseworthy — if only in the sense that it was ‘one step’ closer to the realisation of communism.

    Of course, the understanding of the relationship between ‘capitalism’ and ‘the state’ can assume quite complicated forms, but within orthodox Marxism — a species most would identify as occupying a certain position within The Extreme Left Family (a retarded uncle, perhaps) — ‘the state’ assumes an almost (but not quite) ‘neutral’ perspective, capable of being employed both ‘for’ and ‘against’ ‘the workers’.

    Anyway, I think another way of conceptualising, from a radical ‘left’ perspective, the question of the state and systems of governance is to understand that the political imperative motivating this inquiry is not so much ‘Are you for or against borders?’ but ‘How can human communities be formed and maintain their existence while embodying underlying values such as the freedom and equality of its members?’. In this respect, to the extent that the modern nation-state — understood as being a ‘form’, or simply one way, among many, of regulating human relations — constitutes a barrier to the realisation of these values, it must be opposed.

  18. Jamie-R says:

    Of course, the understanding of the relationship between ‘capitalism’ and ‘the state’ can assume quite complicated forms

    Yeah for some, from the hypocrisies, that’s where the dreamers come in and go straight for anarcho-capitalism, but in theory I’ve always been a minarchist, a fan of the nightwatchman state. The Brits have always had this culture strain since the Magna Carta. I think it’s unique in nations with a significant culture of theirs. But Lao Tzu makes some Western libertarians jiggly with excitement.

  19. Jamie-R says:

    understood as being a ‘form’, or simply one way, among many, of regulating human relations — constitutes a barrier to the realisation of these values, it must be opposed.

    Fair enough. As reality is today in this world, there’s plenty to oppose, and it’s also why I can consider becoming a fully fledged union member even as I am in theory a down the line Minarchist. I don’t see anything inherently honourable, obviously, about the major parties in Australia today, what I do see is a chance to side with those who work and worry about how they’re gonna look after their growing families. Basically it’s all bills and shit for every one. That last sentence probably sounds funny to people older than me but hey I just hit 30.

  20. @ndy says:

    As reality is today in this world, there’s plenty to oppose, and it’s also why I can consider becoming a fully fledged union member even as I am in theory a down the line Minarchist.

    In fairness to the Shoppies, they’re a pretty minimal union — with an enormous membership.

  21. Jamie-R says:

    Cool. BRB. Joining union.

    I will probably wind up doing this, I am teh Christian which means where is my care for my fellow people, and I can totally see myself going into negotiations with the management and getting bigger wage rises than anywhere else. I’ll target executive families reveal the men as pedophiles if they try to destroy me and all that! I’ll be a god among union men! Awesome.

  22. It’s pretty hard to split the AWU and SDA for that title. Both have their lack of positives and their negatives. The SDA is more socially conservative and does not represent its members’ view (nor even ask them) on issues like equal marriage rights. Whereas the AWU is just a grubby bunch of underhanded, horrible ALP hacks. Tough choice.

  23. Jamie-R says:

    “What is fascist symbology? Correct me if I’m wrong but for the extreme left I’ve come to view this as anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview. Is that too much?”

    Two years on, have to correct this confusing and stupid record.

    “What is fascist symbology? Correct me if I’m wrong but for the extreme left I’ve come to view the extreme left as anyone promoting a borderless communitarian foundational worldview.”

    I think my mind was on the hop skip & jump back then and just missing the hop and skip.

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  25. Dom says:

    Hi all, just thought you might like to know that as a paying member of 13 years with the SDA union I was elected by majority vote as union delegate for my work place last month (June 2013). Unfortunately Michael Donovan had other designs, his heavies came out and met with me at the workplace a few weeks later and informed me that I was not going to be endorsed as a union delegate. I asked what the problem is, I was informed that I was anti SDA and anti Michael Donovan. This arose from some comments made back in August 2010 when Donovan’s re-election campaign was on. I left some comments on a website saying I was contacted by one of his campaign goons asking if I, a HSR for my site would be prepared to endorse Donovan for re-election. I refused stating my support was for the other guy and made it known I believed Donovan was in his position for too long. Anti SDA? No! Anti Donovan? Yes. Still I have to take this as a badge of honor never in my history of employment have I ever heard of an elected rep not being endorsed because of a blow to Donovan’s ego.

  26. Loz Alba says:

    Wow… re Donovan 100% correct! Sociopath to boot. Has completely decimated that union of good people there for the right reasons. He is totally paranoid, and even the hint of a slight, sends him into a silent assassin rage… he does not do his own dirty work, loads the gun and hands it to one of his vacuous, lily-livered sycophants to fire. As for the upholding of Catholic far right wing principles, well, he is gay, true! Known for many years by people in the know and admitted by him on numerous occasions. So you may think that his nasty, bitter, petty vengeance and quite insane grudges are based on strong philosophical grounds however I believe they have more to do with sexual frustration and a person so tightly wound up in the lie they live. How do I know this? Yes I worked there and was one of his victims, one of the dozens of his victims.

  27. Loz Alba says:

    ALSO: Speaker Anna Burke, in all her bio has tried to wipe her time from the SDA off her history, was also an SDA employee as an organiser. Her brother Antony is a research officer there and has been so for nearly 25 yrs. Her sister Sophie, now Fitzmaurice, was an organiser there. Her other sister Nina is an NUW organiser. And not forgetting that limp rag of a senator, now shockingly a minister Jacinta Collins, is a close family friend, she was also an official at the SDA.

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  29. stspello says:

    The SDA is a fece.

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