The Builders Labourers Federation “Never Powerless”: Lessons for the 21st Century

BLF demonstration during ALP campaign to deregister the BLF, Melbourne, October 1987 by Ruth Maddison
BLF demonstration during ALP campaign to deregister the BLF, Melbourne, October 1987 by Ruth Maddison

The BLF History Committee has put together a booklet which celebrates the life and contribution of Norm Gallagher. A controversial figure in the labour movement, interest in Gallagher’s contributions to the working lives of builders’ labourers has increased in recent years. This booklet, The Builders Labourers Federation “Never Powerless”: Lessons for the 21st Century, has contributions from retired BLF officials, Norm Wallace and Paddy Donnelly; CFMEU organiser, Dave Kerin, and poetry by George Despard. The Builders’ Labourers is introduced by Brian Boyd.

The stories reflect the various BLF campaigns in Victoria including ‘no ticket, no start’, workers’ compensation, the many health and safety issues in the industry, site allowances, green bans and more. They also talk of the culture of the unionists, the drinking haunts, and the humour — evidenced in the ‘footpath serenading’ of Gallagher by a couple of his organisers. In Wallace’s piece we are told of a sign over Gallagher’s door: ‘In any dispute between the worker and the employer, the worker is always right’.

Malcolm McDonald of the BLF History Committee  has provided us with an electronic copy of The Builders’ Labourers. It can be downloaded here: Gallagher Pamphlet.

2 thoughts on “The Builders Labourers Federation “Never Powerless”: Lessons for the 21st Century

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  1. I remember the struggles we had in the 70s and 80s , husbands out of work and on picket lines, it was hard to make ends meet but we did it. I am very proud to say I was the wife of a Builders Labourer. Dare to struggle, Dare to win……Margaret Kane.

  2. The Deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation, the Victorian Story. I made this film in 1992 and it features interviews with BLF unionists including John Cummins, telling the story of the ALP’s attacks on workers in the construction industry from 1986 to 1991

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