Socialist Worker

Steve Donnelly 1956–2005

by John Bohanna
Issue No. 1949

AC Delco workers won

AC Delco workers won

The death of Steve Donnelly is an enormous loss to the labour movement. Coming from Kirkby, a solid working class town on the outskirts of Liverpool, Steve began and finished his working life with AC Delco, a car components engineering business.

His leadership qualities and determination to challenge capitalism earned him lasting respect from all who knew him, particularly in his role as union steward and factory convenor.

He could be found wherever workers were fighting. But when he visited a picket line he was not one to turn up and stand at the back.

He would ask those involved in the fight, “Right then, how are we going to win. What’s your strategy?”

In the mid-1990s Steve used his love of cycling to help in the Liverpool dockers’ fight by riding from John o’Groats to Land’s End, collecting funds in the towns he was welcomed in, showing solidarity and sharing strength with others.

But he never forgot that it was at the point of production where the real strength for change lay. He learnt, and applied, the first rule as a shopfloor representative — to report back and at all times keep informed the people who had elected and trusted him.

In 1994 AC Delco wanted to transfer the factory 50 miles away. Steve saw this as a cover to move out of Britain and told the bosses that such a move would be “over my dead body”. After a bitter fight the factory remains on the same site in new premises.

During the fight he insisted all workers take their struggle out of the factory into the community and their church. Kirkby was settled in the 1950s by people of a strong Irish and Catholic background.

Steve understood the influence the church could have and knocked on the door of his local priest immediately asking him, “Can you get me a bishop?” A bishop duly arrived and marched with thousands in the rain as a show of solidarity.

Steve insisted that no one worked on the site of AC Delco without a union card — and that included any contractors. Even after the Tory anti-union laws, which outlawed closed shops, Steve continued to apply this.

After workers won the “fight for the site”, management invited the Duke of Edinburgh to open the new buildings that Steve and AC Delco workers had fought for. Steve made the bosses uncomfortable by threatening not to allow Phillip in without a union card!

He also learnt and applied a tactic of his own, which he used to call the TTFA method. When in discussions with management he simply applied TTFA — “Tell Them Fuck All.”

But one thing he did tell them directly was to stuff the job they offered him with the human relations staff of AC Delco.

Steve confronted his illness with the same strength and directness he displayed in any fight. A part of Merseyside culture is to make humour out of any situation and Steve was the classic Scouser in this.

Steve leaves many friends along with his family — wife Pat and children Stefanie, Sean and Mathew.

Farewell comrade.

Article information

Sat 30 Apr 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1949
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