UPDATE: Caroline Leneghan, the RMT branch officer who has blogged about her experience of domestic violence at the hands of RMT assistant general secretary and Socialist Party member Steve Hedley, recently posted the following:
Steve Hedley is threatening legal action against me for my statement and anyone that reposted it (he won’t). He did his best to bully and intimidate me into silence and to take away my voice. But I found strength and self-belief and see his tactics for what they are; a continuation of bullying and abuse and I’m not scared anymore. I hope that others will stand with me against this bully, and thanks again for everyone’s support. x
As one of many women trade unionists who reblogged Leneghan’s post, I guess this means he’s threatening legal action against me too then.
So I’ll respond in the only appropriate way to such a threat, and reblog, repost and retweet the original post everywhere, and urge everyone, particularly women trade unionists, to do the same. Here is the URL: http://carolineleneghan.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/3/
A courageous post. Having been on the receiving end of the kind of abuse you get for daring to speak out about the appalling way the trade union movement sometimes treats those of us who have the temerity to be trade unionists while female/disabled/from minority groups, I foresee that she’ll get the absolute shit kicked out of her from the glorious Left for daring to speak out. Solidarity sister, you’re going to need it.
Congratulations to the Socialist Unity website which first drew the attention of the trade union movement to Leneghan’s story. It is very important that we on the Left and in the Trade Union movement begin to address why our unions, parties and organisations are sometimes so terrible at critically examining our movements’ internal failings when it comes to taking gender, disability or race equality seriously. And taking seriously those within the movement who try to raise issues that they are being discriminated against, bullied, harrassed or marginalised on the basis of their gender, disability or race.
But I note with dismay that the abuse of Leneghan has already started in the time-honoured fashion in which women in trade unions who raise such matters are generally discredited, with anonymous commenters maligning her in the comments below the Socialist Unity post. Huge credit to the Socialist Unity moderators for deleting the worst of the abuse against her.
Any woman who speaks out about harassment, abuse or bullying within the trade union movement gets subjected to all manner of truly bizarre shit from the keyboard warriors of the Left. I first experienced it myself when Tom Pride published my account of the PCS trade union setting the police on me because their SP/SWP faction disaproved of the way that disabled people in Cardiff were campaigning peacefully against the Welfare Reforms, where the commenters post such authorativive statements as “the woman has filled herself up with paranoid nonsense about the police and a lot of stuff about her rights then posts calls to ‘direct action’ on facebook” and advised that what I need to do “is find some purpose in life; contribute something genuine. Like we all need to do.” This is very mild compared to the stuff I get now that I’ve publicly named PCS for setting the police on me: I am unable to manage the comments on my own blog-posts because although they are overwhelmingly supportive, I have not yet acquired the rhinoseros-hide skin needed to shrug off the abusive posts that women bloggers get. It is shameful that this behaviour is rife on the Left and within the trade union movement.
The writer and Unison activist Cath Elliott has written extensively about the abuse that women bloggers get from the massed ranks of the keyboard warriors simply for the crime of blogging while female. Women who blog about gender equality issues or their own experience of gender violence, bullying and harrassment are subjected to particularly nasty abuse in comment threads. An aside: Cath, who moved the “no platform to rape apologists” motion at the Unison Women’s Conference in Feburary which caused such a kerfuffle for the SWP, has written a blogpost on that and the wider SWP rape-trial issue that is well worth the read.
A very interesting aside for connoisseurs of sectariana is that now we know why the Socialist Party’s been keeping so quiet about what’s been happening in the SWP. Looks like they’ve got some rather appalling gender-abuse skeletons in their closet too.
Please read Leneghan’s post and share it widely: Domestic Violence and International Women’s day RMT.