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