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Transport and General Workers' Union

The Transport and General Workers' Union came into being on 1 January 1922 with the amalgamation of fourteen trade unions involved in the transport industry. During the next eighty-six years it absorbed nearly one hundred further unions, becoming the largest trade union in British history and possibly the largest in the free world. It expanded its interests from the transport industry to encompass members in almost every industry in the country. Such was its influence that its first General Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who held office for twenty-three years, was invited by Winston Churchill to serve as Minister of Labour throughout the Second World War, and went on to serve as Foreign Secretary in Clement Attlee's Labour Government. The fourth General Secretary, Frank Cousins, followed in Bevin's political footsteps by serving as Minister of Technology in Harold Wilson's first government. Cousin's successor, Jack Jones, who headed the union at the height of its power in the 1970s, was often described as the most powerful man in Britain. Bill Morris, who headed the union from 1992 to 2003, was the first black General Secretary in British trade union history and was succeeded by Tony Woodley. On 1 May 2007, eighty-five years after its creation, the T&G amalgamated with Amicus to form a new union - Unite.

The Transport and General Workers' Union archive comprises over 1,100 boxes of material, of which over 500 boxes comprises the archive of T&G Central Office, nearly 400 boxes comprise the archive of the T&G Research Department, and the remainder comprise the archives of three former General Secretaries (Ernest Bevin, Jack Jones and Bill Morris) and some eighty predecessor unions, although some are only represented by a handful of documents. The full catalogue of the T&G archive is available online.

All researchers must obtain prior permission from the Transport and General Workers' Union section of Unite in order to examine unpublished material within the T&G archive. Personal permission from Lord Morris is required to examine his papers during his lifetime. Please contact the Modern Records Centre for details.

 
 United Kingdom Society of Coach Makers: Transfer or travelling card in the name of James Carr, coach painter, Dublin, 1847
United Kingdom Society of Coach Makers: Transfer or travelling card in the name of James Carr, coach painter, Dublin, 1847

These documents could confirm the status and record the travels of and benefits paid to members "on the tramp".

The United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers was formed in 1834 by the Liverpool and Manchester Coachmakers' Societies after they had co-operated during a strike. In 1919 it amalgamated with three other trade unions to form the National Union of Vehicle Builders. The union transferred engagements to the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1972.

[Document reference: MSS.126/VB/7/2/1]

 United Kingdom Society of Coach Makers: Black list, 1874
United Kingdom Society of Coachmakers: Black list, 1874

List of coachmakers "blacked" by the Society.

[Document reference: MSS.126/VB/4/7/3]

 Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland: copy of membership certificate, 1891
Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland: copy of membership certificate, 1891

The Tea Operatives' and General Labourers' Association was founded in 1887 after a wage reduction was imposed on the tea workers employed by the East and West India Dock Company at their warehouse in Cutler Street, London. After the great dock strike of 1889 it was renamed the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland. It was often known simply as the Dockers' Union, although by 1922 it was far more of a general union. It initiated the fourteen union amalgamation which resulted in the formation of the Transport and General Workers' Union on 1 January 1922.

[Document reference: MSS.126/DWR/X/21]

 Sheet of portrait photographs showing the general secretaries of the unions which amalgamated in 1922 to form the Transport and General Workers' Union
Sheet of portrait photographs showing the general secretaries of the unions which amalgamated in 1922 to form the Transport and General Workers' Union

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/624/1/2]

 Port Working Rules and Bye-Laws for Dockers in Birkenhead, Bootle and Liverpool, 1924
Port Working Rules and Bye-Laws for Dockers in Birkenhead, Bootle and Liverpool, 1924

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/447/A19/6/1]

 Communication about a permit issued by the Transport and General Workers' Union, allowing goods to be moved during the General Strike, 1926
Communication about a permit issued by the Transport and General Workers' Union, allowing goods to be moved during the General Strike, 1926

In this disputed case, a permit was issued to Harry Day MP for the removal of scenery.

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/11/1/30]

 Telegram from Ernest Bevin, sending news of the termination of the General Strike by the Trades Union Congress General Council, 1926
Telegram from Ernest Bevin, sending news of the termination of the General Strike by the Trades Union Congress General Council, 1926

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/11/4/3]

 Particulars of member victimised following the General Strike, 1927
Particulars of member victimised following the General Strike, 1927

J W Thompson, Branch Secretary of 8/20 West Hartlepool Com. and a former coal hawker, was one of the recipients of the union's 'victimisation grant'.

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/11/2/2]

 First issue of 'The Busman's Punch' (New Series), 4 November 1932, newspaper of the London Busmen's Rank and File Movement
First issue of 'The Busman's Punch' (New Series), 4 November 1932, newspaper of the London Busmen's Rank and File Movement

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/1165/P/3]

 Handbill from the London Busmen's Rank and File Movement, attacking the leadership of the Transport and General Workers' Union
Handbill from the London Busmen's Rank and File Movement, attacking the leadership of the Transport and General Workers' Union

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/1165/P/23]

 

 'The Transport Leader': Official Journal of The Transport & General Workers' Union (Glasgow District Committee), vol.1, no.12, June 1937
'The Transport Leader': Official Journal of The Transport & General Workers' Union (Glasgow District Committee), vol.1, no.12, June 1937

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/148/G/PUB/1]

 'The Lorry Driver's Special' newspaper, vol.I, no.3, November 1938
'The Lorry Driver's Special' newspaper, vol.I, no.3, November 1938

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/469/PUB/6]

 Transport and General Workers' Union recruitment notice directed at Manchester bus and tram conductresses, 1939
Transport and General Workers' Union recruitment notice directed at Manchester bus and tram conductresses, 1939

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/148/F/PUB/1]

 Recruitment handbill and application form for the Transport and General Workers' Union Approved Society, [c.1939]
Recruitment handbill and application form for the Transport and General Workers' Union Approved Society, [c.1939]

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/398/3/2]

 Recruitment leaflet, 'Air Raid Precaution Workers: For Your Special Attention', 1940s
Recruitment leaflet, 'Air Raid Precaution Workers: For Your Special Attention', 1940s

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/593/G/1/2]

 Leaflet encouraging women to join the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) as part of the war effort, 1940s
Leaflet encouraging women to join the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) as part of the war effort, 1940s

This is one item from a series of publications collected by the Transport and General Workers' Union Research Department.

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/RES/GW/130/1]

 'Three Points for Trade Unionists': Handbill encouraging contracting-in for the political levy, 1944
'Three Points for Trade Unionists': Handbill encouraging contracting-in for the political levy, 1944

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/783/1/2]

 Photograph of the 'Transport Cavalcade', 1947
Photograph of the 'Transport Cavalcade', 1947

'Transport Cavalcade' was a musical stage show staged by the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1947 to celebrate its Silver Jubilee. The script was by L. Du Garde Peach and the music by Charles Williams and it was directed by Edward Genn. It ran from 9-24 May 1947 at the Scala Theatre, Charlotte Street, London W1.

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/662/2/3]

 Photograph of the 'Transport Cavalcade', 1947
Photograph of the 'Transport Cavalcade', 1947

[Document reference: MSS.126/TG/662/2/3]