The WOW factor: Wollongong’s unemployed and the dispossession of class and history
It was a powerful moment when, at the opening of a conference addressing memory and crisis, the keynote speaker (Julianne Schultz, author of Steel City Blues) was overcome with emotion when remembering parts of this cities turbulent past. It is important that we remember and acknowledge the pain and suffering that was created during the 1980s, and how for some, that pain and suffering continues to this day. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this paper to those who die, suffer and never recover, from the trauma of unemployment. In Wollongong during the 1980s unemployment skyrocketed as capitalist crisis brought about mass sackings and a huge rise in youth joblessness. As part of a significant fight-back by the labour movement in Wollongong against unemployment and its effects, unemployed people in the Illawarra formed the Wollongong Out of Workers’ Union commonly known as WOW. This paper will focus on the fightback by Wollongong workers and the unemployed against mass sackings, joblessness, poverty and austerity in the early 1980s. As well it will look at the activities of WOW and the historical processes of dispossession that the Union struggled against.