Lord Garfield Davies CBE, who died in March aged 83, was general secretary of Usdaw from 1986 to 1997, serving on the TUC General Council from 1986 to 1996. He started work as an electrical apprentice at the Port Talbot steelworks, becoming a full-time official with Usdaw in 1969 and a national organiser in 1978. As general secretary, he was closely involved in the Keep Sunday Special campaign to defend the existing working week of members. He was on the executive of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the European TUC and was a member of the Employment Appeal Tribunal from 1991 to 2006. He also served as a Labour councillor.
Denise Doherty, who died in May aged 62, was Frances O’Grady’s secretary at the TUC. Previously a union rep in the airline industry, she joined the TUC in 2003, holding a number of administrative posts in the equality, organisation and learning services departments. In 2007 she became Frances’ secretary, managing her diary, meetings and external commitments. Diagnosed with lymphoma in 2018, she continued to work as much as possible, and was deeply committed to the trade union cause.
Trevor Fowler, who died last year aged 87, worked for the TUC from 1966 to 1971. After furthering his education through Workers’ Educational Association courses, he became secretary of his local trades council and a Labour councillor. During his time with the TUC, he taught trade union education, dealt with industrial relations issues and helped organise Congress. Subsequently he worked for the National Graphical Association, organising picket lines and demonstrations during the disputes at News International in Wapping and at Eddy Shah’s Warrington Messenger.
Harry Leslie-Smith, who died in November aged 95, was an activist and critic of austerity. A keen supporter of the trade union movement, he made his mark in later life as the author of the bestselling memoir Harry’s Last Stand, a passionate defence of the welfare state. Brought up in abject poverty, he served with the Royal Air Force during the war and spent the rest of his life fighting racism and fascism. Harry’s address to the 2014 Labour conference, defending the NHS and denouncing austerity, made headline news.
Max Levitas, who died last year aged 103, was a lifelong communist, community activist and veteran of the Battle of Cable Street in 1936. Born in Dublin to Jewish immigrant parents from Latvia and Lithuania, he later lived in the East End of London. He led a four-month rent strike and became a fire warden during the Blitz. In 1945 he was elected a Communist councillor for Stepney, serving for almost 15 years. As a community organiser, he supported anti-racism campaigns, tenants’ associations and pensioner groups.
Doug McAvoy, who died in May aged 80, was general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) from 1989 to 2004 and a member of the TUC General Council from 1989 to 2003. A shrewd negotiator, he persuaded John Major’s government to abandon league tables of SATS results for seven-year-olds, easing pressure on children and teachers’ workloads. His first job was as a miner, after which he became a PE and maths teacher at Walkergate secondary modern in Newcastle. He became active in the NUT and joined the union’s executive in 1970, becoming deputy general secretary to Fred Jarvis in 1974. During his time as general secretary, membership rose by over 40 per cent to 267,000, and he became a figure of national prominence during the national strike by teachers over pay
Fred Smithies, who died last year aged 89, was NASUWT general secretary from 1983 to 1990 and served on the TUC General Council from 1983 to 1989. After qualifying as a teacher, he taught at schools in Accrington and Northampton and joined NASUWT, becoming a national executive member in 1966 and serving as chair of the Education Committee. He was elected the union’s vice president in 1976, subsequently becoming assistant general secretary and deputy general secretary. He also served on the executive of the International Federation of Free Teachers’ Unions.
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