David Isserman (Edge Hill) on transnational syndicalism and industrial unionism in Liverpool and Glasgow, 1905-1926

My research focuses on the history of syndicalism and industrial unionism among maritime workers in Liverpool and Glasgow during the early twentieth century. Both cities were centres of labour unrest during the Edwardian and inter-war years, with Liverpool experiencing the 1911 transport strike and Glasgow being the host city to the dual unionist British Seafarers Union (BSU) and Scottish Union of Dock Labourers (SCUDL). Thanks … Continue reading David Isserman (Edge Hill) on transnational syndicalism and industrial unionism in Liverpool and Glasgow, 1905-1926

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

‘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

A ‘vicious class antagonism’ at the heart of the Titanic disaster: the dockers’ union’s response

The sinking of the RMS Titanic in the early hours of 15 April 1912 was a shocking and traumatic event, felt particularly deeply in Belfast where the ship had been built and in Southampton which had been the home port for many of its crew. As news emerged that at least 1,500 people had died, there was a sense of anger throughout the country at … Continue reading A ‘vicious class antagonism’ at the heart of the Titanic disaster: the dockers’ union’s response

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

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

Seven labour history anniversaries in 2022

In 2022, as every year, it is possible to look back and see significant milestones in labour history taking place 25, 50 or 100 years ago. Here we recall seven memorable events, each a quarter of a century further back in time. They include labour movement victories and defeats, and like all of history their interpretation and significance continue to be contested – the role … Continue reading Seven labour history anniversaries in 2022

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

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