Strikes eat money – for everything from hardship payments to members to printing of leaflets and fares to meetings and events. Luckily, strikes raise money too – as long as you ask for it. To raise money effectively, you need a bank account. Setting one up takes time, so do it well before you need it. This article explains why and how.
If you’ve not been on strike before it can be hard to see how you can raise money. The media presents strikers as greedy and selfish. Strikers themselves can be focussed on the details of their dispute with their own employer and struggle to imagine why anyone else would care.
In some cases a strike might connect with defence of some important public service. My own workplace is in the private sector, but we’ve still been overwhelmed with solidarity and support whenever we’ve taken action. The reasons are simple. Firstly, employers are all up to similar mischief, so the issues you face are likely to be ones others face or fear they will face. If you win, their own employers may be less aggressive, and other workers will feel more confident to fight. Secondly, not many people are striking at the moment, so anyone who does can expect a lot of attention within the labour movement. If other workers are not confident to fight back themselves, they may still wish they could, and want you to win.
How to go about raising money would be another article. This one focusses on why and how to set up a bank account.
Quite a few strikes in recent years have relied on online crowdfunding to raise money. This is a great way to get individual donations from far and wide. But it isn’t so good for getting donations or collections from other union branches or workplaces. They typically want an account to either bring cash to your picket line or send the money to an account so that it’s clear where the money has gone when their own accounts are audited. Crowdfunding sites also tend to take quite a slice of the money themselves.
In some cases you’ll be able to use an existing bank account e.g. a union branch. In other cases that won’t be possible or advisable. A key issue is control. Many strikers have asked for donations to be sent to their union’s region, but then it has been very difficult and slow (or even impossible!) for strikers themselves to access the money. In other cases having your strike fund mixed up with other funds can cause problems, or your branch treasurer might be unwilling to cope with the additional workload of administering the strike fund. This article assumes you need to set up a new account.
Setting up a bank account these days takes time, thanks to all the checks designed to prevent money laundering. The account you want isn’t a personal one, it’s a “clubs and societies” account. These accounts can have the name of an organisation rather than a person, and you can have multiple signatories on the account.
First work out which bank you want to use. You’ll usually want one that has a convenient branch for the main people who will be running it. A lot of groups used to use the Coop because of their labour movement roots and ethical reputation, but many are choosing other banks since the Coop closed the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s account.
Get the necessary forms from the bank you’ve chosen and read them carefully. Typically they will require a copy of your group’s “constitution” along with minutes of a meeting where it was decided to set up the account. Often they will have a specific motion they require you to pass. You need to check your bank’s specific requirements.
You may already have a suitable “organisation” you can use to own the bank account. We didn’t, so we set up a “club” for the purpose. Here’s an example constitution if you need to set up a club:
Name of Club – Constitution and Rules
The Name of Club (hereinafter referred to as “the group”) aims to:
a) Encourage trade union recruitment, organisation, solidarity and campaigning
b) Support and encourage participation in relevant progressive campaigns
c) Encourage cooperation between unions organising workers in the name of industry
d) Oppose discrimination and promote equality with an emphasis on workers in the name of industry and name of area.
a) Any person supporting the Aims of the group and accepting these Rules shall be eligible to apply to become a member of the group.
b) Applications for membership shall be determined by the officers’ committee.
c) There shall be an Annual membership meeting which will elect officers, cheque signatories and the auditor, and approve the accounts for the previous year.
d) Additional meetings will take place if:
i. Agreed by a membership meeting, or
ii. Called by the officers’ committee, or
iii. The secretary receives a request, signed by at least one-quarter of the members, which sets out the business to be discussed by the meeting. Such a meeting will be called within 14 days of receipt by the Secretary of the request.
e) The activities of the group shall be decided by membership meetings or by the officers’ committee.
f) All expenditure shall require two signatures, neither of which may be the payee.
g) Decisions will be taken by a simple majority vote, and may be at a meeting or otherwise.
a) The membership meeting shall elect annually, at its first meeting in the calendar year, a Chair, a Secretary, a Treasurer, an Auditor and other such officers as it deems necessary. Any vacancies in Officer positions may be filled by election by and from the membership as they arise.
b) The Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and other such officers as the members may decide at the time of their election shall form the officers’ committee.
c) The duties of the Chair shall be to chair meetings; to secure agreement of the members to the agenda for discussion at each meeting; to secure a full and frank discussion of all matters of contention and an expeditious conduct of uncontentious business.
d) The duties of the Secretary shall be to take minutes of the decisions of all meetings; to conduct any correspondence arising from the decisions of the membership meetings; to maintain the list of members; to report all correspondence and communications received; to seek to ensure that all those entitled to attend receive notice of meetings; to seek to ensure that all those entitled to vote on any decision have the opportunity to do so.
e) The duties of the Treasurer shall be to receive and bank all monies due to the group; to pay all liabilities incurred by the group; to reimburse the officers and members any expenses they properly incur in carrying out the approved duties assigned to them; to report on the group’s financial position; to prepare an annual income and expenditure account and balance sheet, which shall be presented to the first membership meeting in each calendar year. The Treasurer shall submit the annual income and expenditure account and balance sheet, together with all relevant paperwork (e.g. the cash book, bank statements and all receipts and copies of invoices), to the Auditor at least one month before the membership meeting at which the annual financial report will be presented.
f) The duties of the Auditor shall be to conduct annually an audit of the financial records maintained by the Treasurer and to certify whether the income and expenditure account and balance sheet prepared by the Treasurer are a true and correct record of the financial transactions and a true and correct statement of the financial position of the group. The Auditor must not be an officer or a signatory to the bank account.
g) The duties of any other officers elected by the membership meeting shall be as decided by the membership meeting.
h) The officers’ committee may agree to allow an officer to delegate part of their duties where appropriate.
The group shall be dissolved by a resolution of a special membership meeting called for this purpose. Not less than fourteen days’ notice shall be given by the Secretary to all members of a membership meeting at which a motion to dissolve the group shall be considered. The notice of the meeting shall contain the terms of the motion to dissolve the group.
5) Changes to rules
These rules may be amended by a resolution of a special membership meeting called for this purpose. Not less than fourteen days’ notice shall be given by the Secretary to all members of a membership meeting at which a motion(s) to amend the rules shall be considered. The notice of the meeting shall contain the terms of the motion(s) to amend the rules of the group.
Once you’ve got a group of people together who are willing to be club members and to take on the various roles, call a meeting of your club, agree the constitution, do your elections, and pass the motion required by the bank. You need to elect at least three signatories if you are going to require payments to be signed by two people, neither of which may be the payee.
Your officers will then need to fill in the form for the bank and take along various forms of ID to get the account set up. Some clubs and societies accounts do allow online banking.
If you want the strike fund to be controlled by a body (e.g. a stewards’ committee) other the club you’ve set up to run the bank account, to increase democratic accountability, that’s possible. Firstly, get your new club to pass a motion agreeing that any funds contributed will be spent as directed by the stewards’ committee. Then get the stewards committee to pass a motion agreeing to use the account for its strike fund. The stewards can then advertise the account as the place to send donations.
Some workplaces have set up their strike funds as charities. There are advantages to this in terms of tax etc., but for most strike funds you don’t expect to have much money in there for long so these are limited. The disadvantages are that the purposes for which you can use the money are more limited, and you have the extra bureaucracy of complying with Charity Commission rules.
Activists in some workplaces build up their funds over time, but this isn’t essential. Just having the account ready to use when you need it rather than trying to navigate the bank bureaucracy in the middle of a dispute is a huge help. Spending money to support other strikers is in many ways better than “money in the bank” as it means you’re likely to get solidarity when you need it most. Just a few hundred pounds in there at the start of a strike can help while your fundraising gets going.