The trade union movement in Britain has existed for nearly two centuries: from the Tolpuddle Martyrs, to the 1888 Matchgirls’ strike, to the militant action of Women machinists at the Ford plant in Dagenham in 1968 – organised labour has a rich, if complicated, history. But in the ebb and flow and workers’ power over the decades, we find ourselves at a historic low point. Union membership is declining, with young workers in particular less likely to be part of a trade union than ever. In every year since 1991 the number of strikes has been lower than in any year prior to that point.
Much of this decline can be laid at the door of successive rafts of anti-union legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher, and more recently by David Cameron, raising the legal bar for strike ballots and outlawing secondary action.
But as our guests on this month’s show argue, reports of the trade union movement’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Not only is the need for unions more urgent than ever as we face our second winter of the Covid-19 Pandemic, but workers are taking action across the economy and winning. And it is women, young people and migrant workers who are leading the charge.
We are joined on the panel by:
Eve Livingston, author of Make Bosses Pay: Why We Need Unions; Jane Hardy, author of Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Work and Resistance in 21st Century Britain; and Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
Find out more about the IWGB: iwgb.org.uk