One of our executive committee members, Dennis, gave a short talk at the RMT (The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) disabled members’ conference last Friday. 

The union's disabled members’ conference moves to different towns every year and they like to connect with local disabled people's organisations. There were around 25 people there. 

Dennis describes herself as “a bit of an RMT fangirl” and has attended some local RMT pickets. She was excited to be asked to give the talk especially when realising she knew one of the members from pickets. Dennis proudly showed that she was wearing her RMT t-shirt from the "keep the guards on the train" campaign at the start and it got a big cheer from everyone. 

The talk was all about GMCDP, what we do and our ambitions: to campaign with and represent disabled people in Greater Manchester.  Dennis kept the talk short to allow plenty of time for discussion.

RMT people were curious about whether we do any employment related projects, maybe for young people. We aren't doing any employment related work at the moment but Breakthrough UK, another Manchester-based group, does. 

Sunflower lanyards

One of the members asked what Dennis thought about sunflower lanyards: whether they are being abused; whether they are useful; and whether we need something else similar instead. 

Dennis facilitated people to talk to each other about it because the Coalition does not have a position on this. People felt they've been especially helpful for people with less obvious impairments, but that they are sometimes being misused. 

Dennis mentioned that following discussions she's seen around the disabled people's movement over the years suggest that in the end a lot of people feel we shouldn't have to identify ourselves to get the access we need and the potential for negative consequences is a consideration. Which is why we've never collectively backed any kind of identification badge, or similar. 

Collaboration?

An RMT member asked whether we could collaborate more with RMT on campaigns, as unions are where the disabled people's movement was born – UPIAS (Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation) was a union.

Dennis thought that was a brilliant question and explained briefly that it's true that disabled people's movement organisations dip in and out of working with unions - as our needs and hopes are not always shared. 

The audience discussed whether it's different with RMT disabled members and everyone felt that our aims are much more aligned. Some of the members there are responsible for ensuring accessibility, for example. 

At the end one of the facilitators who works at Edinburgh station offered Dennis an RMT face mask, which she was delighted with. 

[image description: photograph of Dennis, a white person with dark purple-tipped hair wearing a hoodie and glasses, and an RMT face covering. The mask is black with dark grey anchors and in the middle a green and gold RMT logo. Text around the logo says "Glasgow Shipping Branch" in yellow on red]

photograph of Dennis, a white person with dark purple-tipped hair wearing a hoodie and glasses, and an RMT face covering. The mask is black with dark grey anchors and in the middle a green and gold RMT logo. Text around the logo says "Glasgow Shipping Branch" in yellow on red

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