Thursday 13 April 2023
16.30 - 18.30
Women in Industrial Action
Västra Hamngatan 25 AK2 133
Görkem Akgöz, Büsra Sati :
Caught in between Patriarchy and the Cold War: the Institutionalisation of Gender Politics in Turkish Trade Unions, 1975-1981
In 1976, the union of Textile, Knitting, and Clothing Workers of Turkey (Teksif), and the Asian-American Free Labor Institute embarked on a number of joint ventures to bring women members more into the mainstream of Turkish trade-union life. The working assumption of the collaboration was that the techniques used successfully ... (Show more)
In 1976, the union of Textile, Knitting, and Clothing Workers of Turkey (Teksif), and the Asian-American Free Labor Institute embarked on a number of joint ventures to bring women members more into the mainstream of Turkish trade-union life. The working assumption of the collaboration was that the techniques used successfully to reach and teach male potential union leadership can be applied with equal success to women. As part of a series of events, eight shop steward women from Turkey visited the United States in 1977 to study the role of women in the US textile unions and the activities of women trade unionists in community action programs. They were expected to establish women’s trade union committees and lobby for their causes inside the union. By 1978, the initiative had failed, but the collaborative effort continued at the level of the Turkish Federation of Trade Unions (Türk-??) to establish a national Women’s Bureau.
The activities of the American labour movement abroad during this period have been well documented for many countries and regions. The gender politics of the AFL-CIO in its’ foreign operations during the 1970s, however, has not received adequate attention. In this paper, we situate the development of gender politics in Turkish labour organizations within the contentious politics of the Cold War on global and national scales. Turkish trade union women’s efforts at more visibility were circumscribed by two sets of tensions.
The first tension unfolded at the global level between the Soviet and American-dominated trade union internationalisms. The Turkish-American collaboration in women’s trade union education started in 1976, immediately after the designation of 1975–85 as the UN Decade for Women. Primarily an achievement of the women activists from the Soviet bloc, this designation brought women’s rights issues to the fore of international labour organizations. The competing trade union internationalisms corresponded to the schism between the ICFTU affiliated Türk-i? and the partially WFTU affiliated Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (D?SK). D?SK also took on the issue of strengthening women’s trade unionism in 1975. While the competing trade union internationalisms on the global scale created momentum for developing progressive policies for women workers worldwide, the related escalation of union rivalry and political violence on the national scale, reduced women’s trade unionism to an instrument of political competition.
The second set of tensions marking the efforts to establish a women’s bureau was related to the objective and subjective conditions surrounding women’s work. Concentrated in manual, low-tech occupations and paid accordingly, working ??women were at the bottom of gendered labour hierarchies. The inferior status of women’s work and their image as secondary workers also tainted their trade union experience. Although women constituted 40 percent of the 1.9 million workers within the Türk-??, they were marginalized in labour unions, even in women-dominated industries. Caught in between the pressure of the double burden and escalating trade union rivalry, trade union women managed to institutionalize gender politics in Turkish trade unions albeit slowly and limitedly. Based on an analysis of archival materials and publications of the Asian-American Free Labor Institute and Turkish trade unions, and oral history interviews with trade union women, we provide new insights into the international gender politics of the working-class organisations during the 1970s from a “Third World” perspective. (Show less)
Ralph Darlington :
Working Class Women’s Active Participation in the 1910-14 British Labour Revolt
The so-called ‘Labour Unrest’ that swept Britain in the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War between 1910 and 1914 was one of the most sustained, dramatic and violent explosions of industrial militancy and associated social conflict the country has ever experienced. Yet remarkably, beyond some ... (Show more)
The so-called ‘Labour Unrest’ that swept Britain in the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War between 1910 and 1914 was one of the most sustained, dramatic and violent explosions of industrial militancy and associated social conflict the country has ever experienced. Yet remarkably, beyond some single-case studies, little detailed attention has been given within the fields of industrial relations and labour history to the active and prominent role played by women workers and non-working women to this strike wave revolt and social confrontation. This paper attempts to fill the gap, focusing on 19 different strikes across a varied set of industries in which women were directly involved as workers (in both non-unionised and unionised contexts), as well as 11 other strikes in which they were externally involved en masse in supporting predominately male strikers, in the process exploring the causes, features, limits and potential, and broader consequences of this activity
The paper draws on a range of secondary industrial relations and labour history literature, and deploys new archival material (including trade union records, Home Office and Board of Trade papers, and mainstream and radical left newspapers) to foreground hitherto neglected aspects, reveal fresh insights, critically challenge some existing interpretations, and provide a systematic analysis that draws out some comparative historical and contemporary implications.
Findings suggest that women’s strikes were grounded on grievances related not merely to notoriously poor wages and conditions, but also attempts to win union recognition and build collective union organisation; while strike action appeared ‘spontaneous and impulsive’, the influence of external female full-time union organisers could also be a contributory factor; young women and girls were the driving force of action, with strikes assertive and often aggressive (involving mass picketing aimed at spreading the action to other groups of workers and preventing ‘blacklegs’ from breaking strikes), but also frequently displaying a carnival-type atmosphere with elements of street theatre; wives of male workers on strike mobilised crucial financial support and actively participated in meetings and demonstrations, on picket lines and in violent confrontations with scabs, police and military; there was the rapid spread of female trade unionism beyond its previous textile industry enclave; women strikers were influenced and emboldened by the militant campaign of civil disobedience mounted by the contemporaneous women’s suffrage movement; in challenging the legitimacy of public order and state power women’s struggles contributed to deep levels of social polarisation.
Darlington, R. (2020) ‘The Pre-First World War Women’s Suffrage Revolt and Labour Unrest: Never the Twain Shall Meet?’ Labor History, 61(5-6): 466-485.
Darlington, R. (forthcoming) Labour Revolt in Britain 1910-14, Pluto Press.
Boston, S. (1980) Women Workers and the Trade Union Movement, London: Davis-Poynter.
de La Mare, U. (2008) ‘Necessity and Rage: The Factory Women’s Strikes in Bermondsey, 1911’, History Workshop Journal, 61(1): 62-80.
Hunt, C. (2014) The National Federation of Women Workers, 1906-1921, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kenefick, W. (2015) ‘Locality, Regionality and Gender: Revisiting Industrial Protest Among Women Workers in Scotland 1910-13’, Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, 8(2): 34-58. (Show less)
Hazel Perry :
‘A Little Judgement and Ordinary Human Kindness.’ The Interwar Period, Women Workers, and the Peterborough (UK) Celta Mill Strike, 1928
In 1924 an artificial silk mill opened in the Fletton area of Peterborough. The mill was run by Kemil Ltd. It was part of the global German Celta conglomerate which patented the use of Canadian fir as the raw material to make viscose. Kemil Ltd., promised to employ over 2000 ... (Show more)
In 1924 an artificial silk mill opened in the Fletton area of Peterborough. The mill was run by Kemil Ltd. It was part of the global German Celta conglomerate which patented the use of Canadian fir as the raw material to make viscose. Kemil Ltd., promised to employ over 2000 people in Peterborough, mostly women, and although they never quite reached that target the organisation became part of the city’s civic life. Kemil Ltd., carried out philanthropic duties, planned to build a worker’s village near with houses and a school close to the mill and created a women’s football team. In 1929 a local newspaper included the Celta Mill in an article on Peterborough’s prosperous future, but by 1932 the mill was in a cycle of monthly shut-downs due to the down-turn in global trade and it never recovered. However, many British workers were suspicious of German companies and trouble was brewing at the mill prior to the global economic crash of 1929. These factors were most clearly demonstrated when employees of the mill, mostly women, went on strike 1928. It is this bout of industrial action which is the focus of this paper. The strike, caused by the suspension of one of the workers, started in late October 1928 and lasted for approximately 8 weeks. It featured between 500 and 1000 workers and resulted in court appearances for 16 people over breach of contract. However, this period of industrial action has been largely forgotten both locally and nationally. This paper will bring together both local and global matters to explain why the strike should be recognised as an important part of labour history. The first reason was the timing of the strike. It took place during the economically unstable interwar period influenced by global matters but also shortly after trade union activities were restricted in Britain in response to the 1926 general strike. Secondly, the strike was one containing mostly women. The artificial silk industry was a new global prosperous trade and one of the many chemicals, light engineering and other industries which employed women on a large scale for the first time during the interwar period. Therefore, it was part of modern change to industry in Britain and with it came changing attitudes towards women regarding trade unions. Thirdly, the strike attracted the attention of high-profile members of the British labour movement, factory inspectors and Parliament and demonstrated what their attitudes and those of British workers were towards international industry. The paper will argue that these three factors made the strike worthy of more attention from labour historians. (Show less)
Jason Russell :
The Causes and Consequences of 1960s Public Sector Unionization in the United States and Canada
Labour and employment law in the United States and Canada changed in the post-World War II decades. The boundaries of industrial legality were initially established in America following the passage of the 1935 National Labour Relations Act, otherwise known as the Wagner Act, and Canada implemented labour laws that ... (Show more)
Labour and employment law in the United States and Canada changed in the post-World War II decades. The boundaries of industrial legality were initially established in America following the passage of the 1935 National Labour Relations Act, otherwise known as the Wagner Act, and Canada implemented labour laws that were based on the Wagner model during the late 1940s. The introduction of legal collective bargaining for private sector workers was a major change in workplace relations, and it was followed by the introduction of collective bargaining for public sector workers in both countries by the end of the 1960s. This paper will describe how public sector workers in the United States and Canada achieved the right to collective bargaining, and it will focus on the development and passage of the Public Service Staff Relations Act in Canada and American laws such as the The Public Employees Fair Employment Act in New York State. The extension of collective bargaining rights to public sector workers brought profound changes to the American and Canadian labour movements, including the influx of significant numbers of women into unionized jobs. It had a social impact beyond the workplace as public sector unions gradually eclipsed their private sector counterparts and promoted a social unionism policy agenda. The emergence of public sector collective bargaining brought possibilities and limitations to public sector workers and their unions, and the consequences of late 1960s labour law changes reverberate into the twenty-first century. (Show less)