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Section - Early union leaders and their causes

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Early union leaders and their causes

Robert Applegarth

Robert Applegarth, secretary of the Members of the Junta Amalgamated Carpenters, and the dominant figure in the Junta, the leadership of the London Trades Council

George Odger

George Odger, an official of the Ladies Shoemakers, who while still a working shoemaker himself, became the eloquent part-time secretary of the London Trades Council

William Allan

William Allan, secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers. A man whose cautious nature and policies conditioned the Junta’s reservations about George Potter’s flamboyant militancy

George Potter

George Potter, militant editor of the labour journal Beehive and virtual leader of the London building trades, was one of the only two delegates from London to attend the first Trades Union Congress, 1868 in Manchester

"THE MINUTE-BOOKS of the London Trades Council from 1860 to 1867 present a mirror of the Trade Union history of this. period . . .", wrote the Webbs. "In 1861-62, for instance, we see the Council trying vainly to settle the difficult problem of overlap between the trades of the shipwrights and the iron-shipbuilders . . .

"But the special interest of these minutes lies in their unconscious revelation of the way in which the Council become the instrument of the new policy of participation in general politics.

"Under Odger's influence, the Council took a prominent part in organising the popular welcome to Garibaldi, and in 1862 it held a great meeting in St. James's Hall in support of the struggle of the Northern States against shoemaker himself, negro slavery, at which John Bright was the principal speaker.

"In 1864, the Junta placed itself definitely in opposition to the `Old part-time secretary of the London Unionists', who objected to all connection between the Government and the concerns of working men."

  • When Garibaldi, architect of the Italian liberation campaign came to London in 1864, members of the Junta were waiting to welcome him, and to organise demonstrations in his support.
  • Pressure by trade unionists at the 1895 general election and the ensuing mass demonstrations of working people, gave Disraeli that basis of popular support which he needed in Parliament in order to secure the passage into law of the Reform Bill, whereby the working men in the towns were accorded the right to vote.
  • During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and his men were fortified by fervent addresses of support sent to them by great meetings of British workers in Manchester and London, urging them to complete the task of abolishing slavery every where - not merely in the rebelling Southern States.

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