The national project of the African National Congress (ANC), the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), guides the post-apartheid state’s work to develop a new African middle class through policies such as Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment. A substantial portion of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) public sector trade union members have been the beneficiaries of this project. COSATU is considered as a working-class organisation with a commitment to socialist politics, whereas the ANC is seen as a party that has emerged out of multi-class interests, dominated by the politics of nationalism. The underlying assumption is that much of the conflict between COSATU and the ANC is connected only to class politics. In the post-apartheid era, there has been a shift to Africanism as the ANC’s hegemonic non-racialism nationalism. This has acquired momentum both inside and outside the ranks of the ANC and its allies, including COSATU. As a result, questions about COSATU’s political traditions and its membership composition have emerged. To address this, my study’s contribution is that there are signs of new worker identity, organic workerism, emerging amongst the membership of the Democratic Nursing Association of South Africa (DENOSA) and to a lesser extent amongst the membership of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), two public sector affiliates of COSATU, in the province of Gauteng. The ANC’s ideology was hegemonic through the NDR in COSATU but as it endeavoured to manage too many contradictions, it has now run its course in post-apartheid South Africa. What is striking about organic workerism is that it is challenging the hegemonic ANC’s NDR within COSATU. The identification of organic workerism emerged through an interrogation of a selection of COSATU’s public sector trade union members’ class location, guided by the notion of contradictory class location, their racial identities and subjectivities and intersections with their gendered identities and subjectivities. My study concludes that COSATU and its public sector trade unions are far more complex and contested in terms of their political traditions and in terms of their membership in post-apartheid South Africa.