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World Book Day: Six books every trade unionist should read

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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Robert Tressell

A scathing attack on the causes of poverty and inequality, through the eyes of painter-decorator Frank Owens. The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists is classic of working class literature, which generations of trade unionists have taken to their hearts. Explore the original manuscript at TUC History Online.

Union Jack - Val McDermid

Ever wished your union conference was a little more exciting? Be careful what you wish for. When a dodgy general secretary is found dead at a conference in Sheffield, journalist Lindsay Gordon sets out to find the killer among hundreds of unruly trade unionists. 

Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America - Barbara Ehrenreich

In 2001, Barbara Ehrenreich took a journey into low-wage America, telling the stories of workers trying to get by on less than the living wage – living in substandard housing, skipping meals, sleeping in their cars. Sadly relevant in today’s Britain, where one in eight workers are skipping meals to make ends meet.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling

This is the one where Hermione sets up the Society for the Protection of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W), trying to win fair wages and working conditions for house elves. A good introduction to the way exploitative work practices can be taken for granted by those not affected. Although, rather than a witch-run welfare group, we’d obviously like to see the house elves form a union of their own. 

All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work - Joanna Biggs

The world of work is changing fast, so how much do we know about what other people do all day? Joanna Biggs travelled right across the UK talking to people about their work, from fishmongers to bankers. This isn’t an overtly political book, but its portraits of zero-hours contracts, long hours culture and in-work poverty emphasise how much needs to change in British working life.

A.B.C. of Chairmanship - Walter Citrine

This definitive guide to running meetings and committees has become a bible of the labour movement. Published by TUC general secretary Walter Citrine in 1939, the book is still widely used by activists and officials today.

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