When we look through the pages of Bahamian history, it’s hard to ignore the contributions of the trade union movement. From the Burma Road Riots, to Majority Rule, Independence, National Insurance etc. unions made a contribution to the development of this nation. The unions were not simply seeking to secure things such as better working conditions, they had an even more noble cause, the crafting of a better Bahamas. Many ordinary Bahamians stood in solidarity with men like Randolph Fawkes and Clifford Darling, and put their shoulders to the wheel and pushed this nation forward so that this generation would have a brighter day. The leaders had the support, trust and confidence of the membership, and members of the wider community. Their commitment toward national development transcended the trade union movement and made its leaders, national heroes.
Today’s trade union leaders no longer enjoy that level of support and strength, many say the fire has gone out and unions are now struggling to remain relevant. In some segments once legendary trade unions are fighting for their very existence. Those that are seemingly healthy are embroiled in court battles and internal disputes, they are shadows of their former selves, seemingly unable to mount a creditable defence without the support of government. Yet while we celebrate our once glorious history, we must also look to ourselves to see where we went wrong. This problem requires introspection and honesty and the leadership must be willing to humble itself and look within. Yet the level of humility that is necessary, is absent with many dismissing the crisis that stands before us but, many are overwhelmed and too prideful to ask for help. Others are also too small and lack the necessary resources to maintain the organisation so the membership suffers. If unions are to survive in the Bahamas, they must retool and reinvent themselves. Members must become more involved as the unions are not the sole responsibility of the leadership, everyone must use their skills and talents to advance the organization. Those that lead must allow others to be involved, listen to all members, and make everyone feel included, because people could easily become frustrated and leave. There must also be transparency, adherence to proper procedures and a willingness to serve, if we do not, unions in The Bahamas will continue to decline until, they are no more.
Lillian Wier-Coakley Library
Many times historic information cannot be found online, I encourage you to visit your local public library. I researched this topic at the Lillian Wier-Coakley Public Library on Baillou Hill Road at the foot of C. R. Walker Senior High School. I also wish to thank the staff, namely Shonley L. Cartwright, Flora Fernander and Genesta Stuart for their assistance.