WCH E1: The Grunwick strike, 1976

Grunwick strike

Interview with Amrit Wilson and Grunwick 40 about the iconic strike of East African Asian women in London in the 1970s.

Apologies for the audio quality which isn't great on headphones at least. All our later episodes are much better quality, so if you don't enjoy this one please check out one of our later episodes instead.

Support the WCH podcast on patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/workingclasshistory

FOOTNOTES

For a short video history of the Grunwick strike see here on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWuB7JYo818
This is an interesting article with more information about the strike which was written while it was ongoing: https://libcom.org/library/the-grunwick-strike-a-sivanandan
Check out their website of Grunwick 40 here: https://grunwick40.wordpress.com/
The website of the South Asia Solidarity Group is here: http://www.southasiasolidarity.org/
Before Grunwick, there were other strikes by black and Asian workers in the UK, where the unions basically adopted a racist approach and supported preferential treatment of white workers. Notably these included the 1974 Imperial Typewriters strike (https://libcom.org/history/imperial-typewriters-strike-1974-ron-ramdin), the 1973 Standard Telephones and Cables strike (https://libcom.org/library/standard-telephones-cables-strike-1973) and the 1972 Mansfield Hosiery strike (https://libcom.org/library/women-struggle-mansfield-hosiery-strike).
Also mentioned during the podcast was the “colour bar” on public transport in Bristol enforced by the TGWU union which was eventually broken by a boycott in 1963 (https://libcom.org/history/black-white-buses-1963-colour-bar-dispute-bristol).
In addition to struggles in workplaces, Asians in Britain fought racism in the streets, forming militant Asian Youth Movements around the country. This is a good account of these organisations: https://libcom.org/history/here-stay-here-fight-kenan-malik

GLOSSARY

Arthur Scargill – left-wing leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), at the time the most powerful trade union in the UK
Ian Tomlinson – a newspaper seller on his way home in London who was attacked and killed by a police officer during the 2009 protests against the G-20 summit in London. The press originally falsely claimed that police trying to “help” a “dying man” were “pelted with bricks” by demonstrators.
IWGB union – the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, a rank-and-file-controlled union in London: https://iwgb.org.uk/
Kettling – the police practice of penning in demonstrators for prolonged periods of time
Orientalism – the subtle and persistent patronising Western representations of “the Orient” – meaning individuals and cultures from Asia, North Africa and the Middle East
Trades Council – an umbrella body for delegates from different trade unions in a geographical area
United Voices of the World union – another rank-and-file union of mostly migrant workers: https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/
More information about WCH on our website: https://workingclasshistory.com

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Edited by Tyler Hill of the Gods & Ghosts podcast: https://tylerkenthill.podbean.com/
Our theme tune is Bella Ciao, thanks for permission to use it from Dischi del Sole. You can purchase it here: http://www.alabianca.it/store/bravo-records/le-canzoni-di-bella-ciao-aa-vv/ Or stream it here: https://open.spotify.com/album/6yXBmaTSWDKWz45JuE78xi?si=imm7zdnXQrWJWUUEzgNEAQ

Comments

rat
May 12 2018 22:10

In the BBC documentary Tory, Tory Tory there are interveiws with Freedom Association members who broke the strike:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgSSoYCM00A

The Freedom Association organised "Operation Pony Express" and distributed the mail order photo packages themselves directly into post boxes to get round the solidarity actions of postal workers. In the documentary they claim that their actions "began the breakdown of the stanglehold of Trade Unionism".

Maybe that's true?

wojtek
Aug 2 2018 16:58
zugzwang
Aug 13 2018 10:26

Listened to this first episode at work, was interesting. Don't know much about strikes or labor history in the UK. It would be neat if there were a Brecher-type book out there. Anyway look forward to listening to the other episodes.