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Australia

Unions recruit Danny Glover as lethal weapon in work rules campaign

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has now recruited him in its campaign to get Australian workplace laws changed and will address its national congress in Brisbane next week.

He will address the ACTU congress in Brisbane next week before returning to New York to start shooting a new film with actor Bill Murray. The 72-year-old is now appearing on movie screens in the film Sorry to Bother You which he says touches on union organising and exploitation of telemarketing workers.

Actor and activist Danny Glover joins supporters of Bernie Sanders delegate Nina Turner.

Actor and activist Danny Glover joins supporters of Bernie Sanders delegate Nina Turner.

Photo: AP

Glover, also well known for his role in The Color Purple, has been politically active since taking part in the Black Student Union and a five-month student-led strike in 1968 at San Francisco State University where he studied economics. The strike, known as the longest student walkout in US history, included a coalition of African-American, Asian-American, Latino and progressive white students who fought for a school ethnic studies. The unit promoted studies of America's communities of colour.

He was 14 when he went to his first protest rally which was against the death penalty.

His mother is from America's deep south and she and his father were active in the union movement when they were working as postal workers.

Danny Glover with Lethal Weapon co-star Mel Gibson

Danny Glover with Lethal Weapon co-star Mel Gibson

Photo: Supplied

"My first encounter with organised labour came through my parents. They were young and felt strong passion in their union as postal employers. They were able to embrace the struggles that surrounded them and their own maturity was grounded in that moment in history," he said.

Glover's mother was born in 1920 and had come from a very rural poor segregated racist American south and later found herself as a modern woman in a modern city in San Francisco. Glover says his mother made the big decisions in the family and was a feminist before that term was widely used.

"What a journey," Glover says. "She was the regional director of the president of the national council of negro women. Because of that she became part of a national discourse around issues."

Glover, who worked in community development before getting into acting, says the greatest victories for US unions came with the New Deal under president Franklin Roosevelt. They included embedding the legal right to organised labour becoming embedded in law.

The term identity politics was not used a decade ago and Glover says there is confusion about what the term means. He says the civil rights movement was not only a fight for the rights of African American people. Martin Luther King was also fighting for poor people and against exploitation of all people who are disadvantaged and marginalised.

"He was talking about Asians, he was talking about Blacks, he was talking about Hispanics, about poor whites. He was talking about everybody," Glover says.

"The civil rights movement was not a fight just for black people. It has too often been associated clearly with just African Americans."

Glover agrees with the argument that if you raise the boat for the most disadvantaged people, "you raise the boat for everybody".

Glover believes President Donald Trump is unlikely to fulfil expectations in helping workers in the rust belt states of the US. As yet, there are not signs of infrastructure maintenance and rebuilding that is needed to fulfil that promise.

"How do we create the socially responsible jobs, the public spending to create jobs to build schools and to build infrastructure?," he says.

Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.

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