York and Districts Trades Union Council: A Peoples History

York TUC has recently donated their old banner to the Peoples History Museum’s archive in Manchester. The museum is well known for its extensive collection of trade union banners and may be put on display in the near future.

The Trades Council was founded in 1890 against a backdrop of significant developments in British trade unionism. With the introduction of new technologies in the workplace, the skilled craft professions who had previously dominated the movement were in decline. As a result, unions began to recruit unskilled workers to their ranks which created dramatic increases in their membership. Throughout this period there was also an expansion of Trades Councils across the country – with 120 in existence by 1907. The role of the Trades Councils was to harness the energies of local Trade Unions and influence municipal politics. This period is generally referred to as the period of “New Unionism” which was coined by the Fabian Socialists Sydney and Beatrice Webb.

In the years since its formation, York TUC has been at the heart of many local campaigns and disputes. The banner which was recently donated has certainly found itself at the heart of our community. Created by the council for a total cost of £9 in 1975 it has found itself in iconic campaigns such as “coal not dole”, “no to private contractors” and more recently the UCU pay disputes.

With a question mark been placed over the future of the council in March 2012, it has reemerged with a renewed spark of energy. York TUC found itself at the heart of the national campaign “A Future that Works” in 2012 and has continued to provide a voice for working people in the local community. Though the council finds itself against a different political backdrop then years previous, its history remains prominent as we build a politics for the future.

Anti-nuclear demo 1980. Photo by Tim Short
Anti-nuclear demo 1980. Photo by Tim Short
UCU Strike 2012. Photo by Brian Clark
UCU Strike 2012. Photo by Brian Clark
Signalworkers rally 1994. Photo Brian Clark
Signalworkers rally 1994. Photo Brian Clark
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