On the buses: how the National Union of Railwaymen organised bus workers

This rather beautiful badge is a reminder that the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) was not just about trains. From the 1920s onwards, the union actively recruited and organised bus workers, and by 1950 had nearly 14,500 ‘busmen’, as they were styled, in membership – a small but significant group among the NUR’s total membership of more than 400,000 transport workers. The badge itself is … Continue reading On the buses: how the National Union of Railwaymen organised bus workers

Forging a single union for the iron and steel industry

The organisational history of trade unions in the iron and steel industry is a complex one. The photographs here, published by the ISTC in the early 1980s as a series of postcards, show the banners and membership certificates of some of the organisations that form part of that story. Trade union membership in the iron and steel trades ebbed and flowed over the latter half … Continue reading Forging a single union for the iron and steel industry

SSLH backs drive to conserve historic Belgian trade union banners

The People’s Flag… is in need of a little care, writes Mike Sanders. Banners and flags have played a key role in Labour movement since its inception. Trades unions and political protesters alike have marched behind banners proclaiming their objectives and values using both word and image. Nor has their symbolic importance escaped the attention of those opposed to the Labour movement. At Peterloo, the … Continue reading SSLH backs drive to conserve historic Belgian trade union banners

Radical ambition: Ramsay MacDonald and the 1895 general election

David Hanson reflects on the political trajectory of a firebrand would-be Labour MP whose early radical ambitions were set out during his first foray into electoral politics in 1895 James Ramsay MacDonald fought his first parliamentary election in 1895. The Independent Labour Party had been founded just two years earlier, and though not a founder member, MacDonald had joined early on after gaining political experience … Continue reading Radical ambition: Ramsay MacDonald and the 1895 general election

The Stepney branch committee of the Municipal Employees Association, 1901

This formal studio portrait (technically a cabinet card) captures the officers of the Stepney branch of the Municipal Employees Association shortly after the union came into being in 1901. Dressed in suits and ties, some in fashionable wing-collars, each wears what is most likely to be the union’s badge on their jacket lapel, ceremonial sashes across their chests recording the office they held. The MEA … Continue reading The Stepney branch committee of the Municipal Employees Association, 1901

Walter Crane’s artistic vision of a new social order

Titled ‘The new social order: work for all, art for all’, this powerful image was created by the socialist artist Walter Crane (1845-1915) for a leaflet for the so-called Ancoats Brotherhood – named for the district of Manchester in which they were based. The brotherhood had been founded in 1878 with the aim of bringing art and literature to the working class; it organised lectures, … Continue reading Walter Crane’s artistic vision of a new social order