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Builders Labourers’ Federation

The Builders Labourers’ Federation was a trade union in Australia which represented construction workers. Although it had had an earlier history as a “yellow union” which worked closely with corrupt employers, it reached its zenith in the 1970s as a highly progressive union with Communist Party leadership. They’re well-known for the Green Bans their NSW and Victorian branches imposed in Sydney and Melbourne, saving parkland and numerous beautiful and historically significant old buildings from being redeveloped into concrete towers, as well as their advocacy for societally-oppressed groups (for example, at one university – perhaps Macquarie? – they downed tools and walked off the job when the university tried to evict a student from on-campus housing for being gay, forcing the university into a swift back-down). They can also be credited for the fact that Australian construction workers enjoy some of the safest conditions and highest pay rates in the world.

The progressivism and consciousness of workers’ power that the union held deeply rattled the ruling class, such that they became determined to destroy it. It was permanently deregistered by Bob Hawke’s Labor government over allegations of corruption. Construction workers are now represented by the much broader CFMEU, which has inherited some of the old BLF’s militancy, but is overall a shadow of what the BLF used to be. Nonetheless, the ruling class has more or less transferred all the hatred they used to feel for the BLF onto this new, amalgamated union.