What is the TUC?

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The TUC was formed in 1868 as an umbrella organisation of Britain's trade unions. Our headquarters is Congress House in London, but we also have regional offices around the country.

We aim to be a voice for working people in the UK.

The TUC is headed by the General Secretary. Its governing body is the General Council which is elected by Congress in September each year. You can find out more about this, and other things in our general information section.

If you have specific questions, biz/ed, a business studies website, has a page about the TUC. For a more detailed history of the trade union movement, there are some links below.

What are trade unions?

Trade unions are organisations that represent people at work. Their purpose is to protect and improve people's pay and conditions of employment. They also campaign for laws and policies which will benefit working people.

Trade unions exist because an individual worker has very little power to influence decisions that are made about his or her job. By joining together with other workers, there is more chance of having a voice and influence.

TUC and trade union history

The Union Makes Us Strong websiteAn invaluable new online resource, 'The Union Makes us Strong' tells the story of the labour movement over the last 200 years and includes replicas of original source documents.

We also commissioned a history of the TUC at our centenary in 1968, which is now available on our website.

  • The 1868-1899 section explains the events which led to the establishment of the Trades Union Congress, working hours and conditions of the time and the victory of the 1899 dockers' strike.
  • The 1900-1928 section includes the implications of the Taff Vale decision and the The Osborne Judgement, foundations of a welfare state, outbreak of the First World War, rise of the shop steward, impact of the Russian revolution and the 1926 general strike.
  • The 1929-1938 section covers the first Labour government, the Mond-Turner talks, the growth of unions, and the Spanish civil war.

Other labour movement history sites include:

The Tolpuddle Martyrs
Tells the story of six English farm workers who, in the mid 1830s, were transported to the penal colonies in Australia for forming a union.

TUC Library Collections
Based at London Metropolitan University, their website contains useful links to related sites such as those of museums, libraries, bibliographic sources, and discussion lists. If you would like to visit the Library, you must make an appointment. Telephone: 020 7133 2260 or email: [email protected] 
Undergraduates will require a letter from their tutor or course supervisor.

The North West Labour History Group
Promotes and popularises the knowledge and study of labour history in the North West.

Peel Web
Written by a qualified teacher as a resource for students studying British history between 1830 and 1850 it includes a great deal of information about Trade Unionism during this period.

The People's History Museum
The national centre for the collection, conservation, interpretation and study of material relating to the history of working people in Britain.

The Spartacus Internet Encyclopaedia
Covering British history 1700 - 1900 this extensive resource includes biographies of key trade unionists, histories of the development of trade unions and key trade union and political legislation.

Working Class Movement Library
A collection of English language books, periodicals, pamphlets, archives and artefacts, concerned with the labour movement, since the late 18th century.

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