Maritime workers occupy a central place in global labour history. This new and compelling account from Australia, shows seafaring and waterside unions engaged in a shared history of activism for legally regulated wages and safe liveable conditions for all who go to sea. Maritime Men of the South Pacific provides a corrective to studies which overlook this region’s significance as a provider of the world’s maritime labour force and where unions have a rich history of reaching across their differences to forge connections in solidarity. From the ‘militant young Australian’ Harry Bridges whose progressive unionism transformed the San Francisco waterfront, to Australia’s successful implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, this is a story of vision and leadership on the international stage. Unionists who saw themselves as internationalists were also operating within a national and imperial framework where conflicting interests and differences of race and ideology had to be overcome. Union activists in India, China and Japan struggled against indentured labour and ‘coolie’ standards. They linked with their fellow-unionists in pursuing an ideal of international labour rights against the power of shipowners and anti-union governments. This is a complex story of endurance, cooperation and conflict and its empowering legacy.
‘While maintaining a focus on their Australian and New Zealand central actors, Kirkby et. al. offer a comprehensive examination of seafaring and dock labor conflicts across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Altogether, an impressive tribute to the marriage of scholarly resolve with underlying democratic political idealism.'
Leon Fink, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Chicago
'Considering maritime labour, internationalism and race in the twentieth century, this is an intellectually innovative study based on very extensive research. At a moment of urgent industrial and political struggle over the conditions of maritime labour, it should be widely read.'
Professor Sean Scalmer, University of Melbourne