‘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

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that a thirteen-year ban on trade union membership at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) was to be rescinded.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

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

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

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