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Our history

For more than 150 years, unions have fought for safer workplaces and wages you can build a life on.

Dispatch riders wait for orders outside the TUC headquarters,1926

In 1868, a group of trade unionists from all over the UK came to Manchester, and together they held the first meeting of the Trades Union Congress, at the Mechanics' Institute.

This first Congress passed a resolution "that it is highly desirable that the trades of the United Kingdom should hold an annual congress, for the purpose of bringing the trades into closer alliance, and to take action in all Parliamentary matters pertaining to the general interests of the working classes".

Over the following years, the TUC grew and established itself as the voice of trade unions in the UK. In its first decades, the TUC concentrated on influencing government policy, but from the 1920s onwards it took a more active role in industrial matters, playing a key part in co-ordinating the 1926 general strike.

Over time, the TUC recruited a permanent staff, and became part of the infrastructure of the trade union movement, as well as a formidable campaigning and influencing body. The TUC also became part of the fabric of British political life, consulted by governments on policy and leading opposition to any attempts to undermine the rights and living standards of working people.

In 1958, the TUC moved into Congress House in central London. Now Grade II* listed, it was built as a modernist memorial to the trade unionists who died in the two world wars, and is home to a notable Jacob Epstein sculpture in the courtyard. 

150 years on from our founding, while much has changed, the TUC’s mission remains the same: standing up for working women and men, and making sure their voices are heard.

You can find out more about the TUC’s history at The TUC’s library is at London Metropolitan University and our archive is at the University of Warwick. The TUC also runs the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum, commemorating early trade unionists, in Dorset.

150th anniversary

In 2018, the TUC marked it's 150th anniversary. It was an opportunity to celebrate our proud history. But even more importantly, it’s a chance for us to reach out to a new generation and get ready for the challenges of the next 150 years. Find out more.

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