My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner
The Ship Painters and Dockers Union held a wide variety of workingmen: some gallant men, some fine, heroic, compassionate men; politically-minded men, militant and radical men, and generally --- regardless of their possession or lack of literacy, education, ability as speakers or writers or organisers --- faithful and loyal to the Union, to its objects and aims, to its very existence as a unifying force for good, for improvement, for fostering the advancement of the individual members and of the organisation as an essential entity in society as they knew it. Certainly, this is not to assert that every individual member was an ultra-pure unionist, although, other than the case of Joseph Creighton, (cited below), there was no record in the Union's minutes of any serious backsliding by members. There were, however, those who were less radical or less militant on some issues as they arose. And there were those who stooped to various tricks to get a job ahead of others.
Among the membership, there were those who held to the viewpoint of the Industrial Workers of the World, or to the Political Labor League (fore-runner of the ALP) or of the various socialist organisations which abounded in that period. There were supporters of the Temperance League and those who later became members of the Communist Party when it was formed or of the Left Opposition of the Communist Party when the CPA programme and policies became unacceptable to genuinely politically-minded people.
The membership held many who came to the Union simply as workers and then found that there was more to life than eking out a living: that there was a need for action and activity aimed at constant improvement, betterment, advancement in the standard of work and the standard of living for their families, as well as a need for defence of past achievements. And generally, they gave support to a militant stance on issues as they arose. The experiences and the opinions expressed by the individual members considered here, and the support given to them by the rank and file, help to give a rounded picture of the Union's political and industrial position from time to time.
BOB MAHONY was one who came to the Union as a convinced Labor man, having participated in the formation of the Labor Electoral League in 1891. (see separate chapter on Mahony.) But there were others who became his devoted supporters or, occasionally, his critics, as he led the Union towards greater recognition and the members towards greater improvements. These men included the following: