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that a thirteen-year ban on trade union membership at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) was to be rescinded.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

When Santa and his elves formed a union

In an era when every self-respecting town centre of any size had at least one department store, no December shopping trip would have been complete without a visit to Santa’s grotto. The experience left most small children with a smile on their face and a cheap toy, while the store owners were equally happy with the additional profits. But for the bit-part actors and bar … Continue reading When Santa and his elves formed a union

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

Video: Anger and Reason in the English Coal Lockout of 1893

Dr Quentin Outram examines the emotions at play in one of the largest industrial disputes ever to take place in Victorian England In the summer of 1893, mine owners sought to reduce wages across the coalfields organised by the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain – including Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire. The lockout developed into what was then the largest industrial dispute ever … Continue reading Video: Anger and Reason in the English Coal Lockout of 1893

Fifty years a labour historian: SSLH President Keith Laybourn on half a century at Huddersfield University

As a school leaver, Keith Laybourn was told, “Don’t be too ambitious”. This year, the SSLH President marks thirty years as a professor and fifty as an academic at the University of Huddersfield. We asked him about a lifetime in labour history Continue reading Fifty years a labour historian: SSLH President Keith Laybourn on half a century at Huddersfield University