The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs is used by the TUC to popularise basic trade unionism. Every summer there is a festival in Tolpuddle to commemorate the group of Dorset agricultural labourers who in 1834 were prosecuted and transported to Australia for trying to organise a union.
But the story of the “Tolpuddle Martyrs” is about much more than the need for workers to join a union for the improvement of wages and conditions. It is much more instructive and inspiring than that.
By Jean Lane
No Sweat was once more at the Tolpuddle Festival this year. Organised by the South West TUC, this is the annual celebration of the men who fought to set up a trade union, in their a tiny Dorset village in 1830.
Des Warren, who died on 24 April aged 66, was one of the "Shrewsbury pickets", a group of building workers who were jailed by the then Conservative government in 1973 after a bitter dispute. Warren was a steel fixer and a member of the Communist Party. He later joined the Workers' Revolutionary Party.
In his TV review, Jack Cleary gives a rather confused potted history of the Daily Herald (Solidarity, 8 April). You might be interested in a more accurate version from one who was a regular reader of the paper.
In the summer of 1766, Mexican silver miners of Real del Monte, about one hundred kilometres north of Mexico City, developed a major industrial strike without a trade union or a political ideology to sustain them. It was the first strike in the history of Mexican labour and the first strike in North America.
by Oona Swann
The workers’ fight goes on
“In the year 1831-32, there was a general movement of the working classes for an increase of wages, and the labouring men in the parish where I lived [Tolpuddle] gathered together, and met their employers, to ask them for an advance of wages, and they came to a mutual agreement, the masters in Tolpuddle promising to give the men as much for their labour as the other masters in the district… Shortly after we learnt that, in almost every place around us, the masters were giving their men money, or money’s worth to the amount of ten shillings a week — we expected to be entitled to as much — but no, nine shillings must be our portion. After some months we were reduced to eight shillings per week. This caused great dissatisfaction...
By Nick HoldenThis year's Tolpuddle Festival is on Friday 18-Sunday 20 July, at Tolpuddle, Dorset. It is a heady mixture of music, drama and politics, uniting people across the country in a celebration of the trade union movement, and the memory of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
On May 1 1886, 80,000 workers and their families walked down Chicago's Michigan Avenue in the worlds first ever May Day Parade. At the same time 340,000 workers in 12,000 factories across the US downed tools in a general strike to demand an eight-hour day. They demanded that their employers provide work for the thousands who were being made unemployed by new machinery.
By Paul Hampton
Two million people are killed at work around the world every year according to the International Labour Organisation. This is greater than the numbers killed in wars, by AIDS or by alcohol and drugs.