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Searching round for a woman’s cause Annie [Besant] found one in the teenage match-girls who worked amidst phosphorous fumes for Bryant and May in East London. They were paid just between four and ten shillings a week, and if they had dirty feet or an untidy bench they were fined, taking more money out of their already pathetic wages. Most horrifying of all, the girls ran the constant risk of contracting the hideously disfiguring Phossy Jaw, since Bryant and May persisted in the use of phosphorous which other match companies had given up. Simon Schama, A History of Britain s3e2: Victoria and Her Sisters, BBC 2002
The owners of Bryant and May threatened the girls with instant dismissal if they didn’t sign a document repudiating the article [White Slavery in London] and the journalists ... A strike committee was formed ... George Bernard Shaw volunteered as the cashier of the strike fund ... Annie Besant and the girls were triumphant. ibid.
His [Churchill’s] grandstanding egotism. As Home Secretary he was a bit too ... trigger-happy employing troops against strikers. He regarded the suffragettes like prisoners of war. Simon Schama, A History of Britain s3e4: The Two Winstons
He was now back in the fold as Chancellor of the Exchequer, busy crushing the General Strike. ibid.
In devilish dreams the horror show of deep-frozen Saturday nights fronting the gates of Hades at Murdoch’s Wapping. Snorting leviathan lorries smashing down the hill at the barbed wire and the purple-faced protesters, rage-red front covers of The Sun flapping like pirate flags in the windscreens. Bobby-boys in blue finger tenderly their bully-sticks. esias
Now, you stop work altogether. This is much nicer and anyone can do it. In fact, the lower-class bastards can no more stop going on strike now than a laboratory rat with an electrode on its brain can stop jumping on a switch to give itself an orgasm. Philip Larkin, letter to friend Kingsley Amis
Are You Being Served: a bit of slap-stick silliness. A bit of saucy innuendo. And in 1975 a spasm of angry workplace strikes. The British at Work: Them and Us 1964-1980, BBC 2011
Unions were relatively new in America, and Frick wasn’t about to let them take root on his watch. The Men Who Built America IV: Blood is Spilt, History 2012
Two-thousand steel workers barricaded the front of the plant to prevent Frick bringing in replacements. ibid.
The public’s outrage was escalating. ibid.
Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass
The strike is the weapon of the oppressed, of men capable of appreciating justice and having the courage to resist wrong and contend for principle. The nation had for its cornerstone a strike, and while arrogant injustice throws down the gauntlet and challenges the right to conflict, strikes will come, come by virtue of irrevocable laws, destined to have a wider sweep and greater power as men advance in intelligence and independence. Eugene V Debs
Workers marched on Whitehall for better wages and lower prices. Around seventeen million working days were lost to strikes in Britain between 1915 and 1918. There were strikes by miners in south Wales, engineers in Coventry, Sheffield and Manchester, and shipbuilders on Teesside, Tyneside and the Clyde. The First World War: Revolution, Channel 4 2003
Kenneth Williams: I don’t believe it! They’re coming back!
Syd James: I had a feeling they would come back today.
Kenneth Williams: Why today?
Syd James: It’s the annual works’ outing. Carry on at Your Convenience 1971 starring Kenneth Williams & Charles Hawtrey & Joan Sims & Hattie Jacques & Bernard Bresslaw & Kenneth Cope et al, director Gerald Thomas
The Nation Wins – General Strike Called Off. The Mirror 14th May 1926
In Chicago a group of factory workers watched like the rest of us as taxpayers bailed out the financial industry. Now these laid-off workers are demanding Bank of America spend some of its bail-out money on them. CNN News, workers’ sit-in of factory
The thirties were a rough time for labor relations in the United States. Organisers were killed, cars were bombed and strikes often turned violent. Hoffa’s brother was among the victims of a shooting that occurred during one of these strikes. Troops were sometimes moved in. Great Crimes & Trials s2e20: Jimmy Hoffa
And together they begin to make their voices heard. In October 1836 women from the Lowell Mills gather after work and organise. Their protest against wage cuts is one of the first strikes in US history. And they will win. The mill bosses backed down. A generation of young women go on to become teachers, writers and college graduates. Harriet Robinson would become a leading suffragette. America: The Story of the US: Division, History 2010
Strike strike strike, why do we bother, Fawlty? Fawlty Towers: Basil the Rat s2e6, Major to Basil, BBC 1979
There was still a huge gulf between rich and poor. In 1910 the chain makers of the black country went on strike ... The most exploited were the women. Michael Wood, The Great British Story: A People’s History 8/8: Modern Britain, BBC 2012
The London Docks may have been the gateway to the wealth of empire but the men who worked here were some of the poorest in Britain ... They were paid little and only by the hour. On average a doctor worked three hours a day. Resentment ran high. But all this was about to change. On August 12th 1889 the London dockers fought back ... Within a week 30,000 men were on strike ... For the strikers the suffering was intense; but not only for the dockers, for their families too ... In London the dock strike took to the streets. Thousands of dockers and their families marched carrying huge banners, their children holding signs saying please feed us. Jeremy Paxman, The Victorians: Having It All, BBC 2009
Hubert von Herkomer: On Strike. ibid. German-born British painter
On 4th May 1926 more than two million ... downed tools ... in solidarity with Britain’s one million miners. Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip: An Emotional History of Britain III: Last Hurrah? BBC 2012
Miners: It was a showdown that divided the nation ... The miners raised the stakes as their overtime ban became an all-out strike. Dominic Sandbrook, The 70s II: Doomwatch 73-74, BBC 2012
The [Brentford] Trico women went out on strike ... After twenty-one weeks with production lines at a standstill Trico gave in. Dominic Sandbrook, The 70s III: Goodbye Great Britain 75-77
The Day of Action was extended into weeks of action – dustmen, ambulance drivers, caretakers, bus drivers, road-gritters and many more began a series of rolling strikes that caused total chaos. Dominic Sandbrook, The 70s IV: The Winner Takes It All 77-79
Members of the flexible workforce might find a lesson in the dockers’ fight against casualisation.
Near the end of Dockers, shown last Sunday on Channel 4, there is a scene in which Big John, a docker, is found dead in his garden. It is deeply moving. I remembered the freezing day last year when Bill Rooney had a heart attack and died. A week later, Jimmy McUmiskey, who seemed a fit man in his 50s, followed. He was the fourth to die since the Liverpool dockers and their families made their stand: one of the longest and most tenacious in British labour history.