How can Unionisation Resist Gentrification?

10 June 2018


Venue: 56a Infoshop, 56a Crampton St, London SE17 3AH

Organiser: Architectural Workers & United Voices of the World

Architectural Workers is an independent network of people who work in and around the building industry, specialising in urban regeneration. We exist to expose and critique the conditions of our work, alongside the role it plays in gentrification, social cleansing and environmental discrimination. UVW is an autonomous members-led, campaigning trade union, mostly representing low waged migrant workers in the service industry, as well as workers in other sectors.

The Site: Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre and Hannibal House. Long labelled by architects and urbanists as a grim eyesore, it has also been a key meeting place for different members of the predominantly working class local community; particularly, the Latinx who have made the area home since the early 90s. Demolition is pending.

“There is no alternative.”

The tabula rasa approach to development is carried through to the workplace. Treated as disposable; with low-pay, often illegal working hours, and bullying as general givens, we - as workers in regeneration - work to gentrify ourselves and others out of our homes.

Could unionisation be a means to not only fight for workers’ rights; but to also determine how we practice, for ourselves? Could, we - as activists, workers, and residents - build active resistance to housing precarity, and make spaces for collective organisation, learning, and recreation? What tactics could be mobilised to resist and refuse unethical work? What historical examples could we learn from, and what contemporary labour struggles could we be inspired by?