Commemorating the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’: a trade union origin story in brick and stone

There can be few visitors to Tolpuddle over the past twenty years who have resisted the temptation to sit on the bench that forms part of sculptor Thompson Dagnall’s statue the ‘Tolpuddle Six’. Unveiled in 2002 and depicting an anguished George Loveless awaiting transportation to Australia, the work, carved from local Portland stone, has proved a popular addition to the small circuit of sites in … Continue reading Commemorating the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’: a trade union origin story in brick and stone

The People’s March for Jobs: taking the protest to Westminster

The first People’s March for Jobs had been a great success. Five hundred marchers set off from Liverpool, Yorkshire and South Wales, heading towards Westminster in a conscious echo of the Jarrow Crusade of 1936 and with a similar objective – to highlight the plight of those at the sharp end of government economic policies that were devastating whole industries. Initiated by the North West … Continue reading The People’s March for Jobs: taking the protest to Westminster

Enter stage left: when Unity Theatre put the politics into panto

Established in 1936, Unity Theatre was without doubt the most important focus for political theatre of the mid twentieth century, providing a venue for new work that would never have seen the light of day on the traditional stage and offering a way into the acting world for many working-class performers who would go on to become significant figures in post-war stage, screen and television. … Continue reading Enter stage left: when Unity Theatre put the politics into panto

‘Be united and industrious’: the emblem of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers was by no means the first trade union to produce an emblem for its members. But just as the constitution and structure adopted by the ASE in 1851 proved influential among the New Model unions that followed, so the design of its emblem inspired numerous imitators. James Sharples, a blacksmith and founder member of the ASE (more properly, the Amalgamated … Continue reading ‘Be united and industrious’: the emblem of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers

The Edwardes Plan and Your Job: when the 1970s ended and the managerialist 1980s began

By November 1979, the ‘Winter of Discontent’ was long past, Margaret Thatcher was nearing her first Christmas as prime minister, and everything had changed. But if you were looking to identify the exact moment at which the confident trade unionism of the 1970s gave way to the rising managerialism of the 1980s, you could do worse than choose the day that this pamphlet landed on … Continue reading The Edwardes Plan and Your Job: when the 1970s ended and the managerialist 1980s began

GCHQ: a badge of honour for trade unionism

On 14 May 1997, just a fortnight after the landslide election of a Labour government, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stood up in the House of Commons to announce that a thirteen-year ban on trade union membership at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) was to be rescinded. The long-promised move brought to an end one of the longest-running industrial disputes in British history, and one of … Continue reading GCHQ: a badge of honour for trade unionism

‘Farewell to convicts’: the long life of a classic trade union image

The medallion shown here was awarded by the TUC for ‘organising services’, as the text on the clasp makes clear. The ‘farewell to the convicts’ design had been commissioned by the TUC for a commemorative badge issued to all delegates to the 1934 Congress, marking the centenary of the Toldpuddle Martyrs’ arrest and transportation to Australia. It depicts a sailing ship under a night sky … Continue reading ‘Farewell to convicts’: the long life of a classic trade union image

‘War to end war’: the Union of Democratic Control and the call for alternatives to conflict

David Hanson shares a leaflet from his collection of political memorabilia to help tell the story of the Union of Democratic Control Founded at the very start of the first world war by an alliance of socialists, liberals and pacifists, the Union of Democratic Control represented a brave attempt to stand against jingoism and to demand alternatives to conflict based on new international structures and … Continue reading ‘War to end war’: the Union of Democratic Control and the call for alternatives to conflict

Steam power: boilermakers mark 100 years of trade unionism, 1834-1934

A small green booklet published as a souvenir of the United Society of Boilermakers’ centenary celebrations shows members’ pride in their union’s achievements By 1934, the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders was able to trace its history back a full hundred years, to the birth at a meeting in Manchester of the Friendly Society of Boilermakers. Although the new organisation had … Continue reading Steam power: boilermakers mark 100 years of trade unionism, 1834-1934