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Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual & Transgender Conference 2005
29 July 2005

Conference notes that:

1.Early last century the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) was at the forefront of a campaign to abolish sweated labour; in 1909 the Trade Board Act fixed wages in some sweated trades, including chain making;

2.The employers at Cradley Heath in the Black Country exploited a loophole in the law; they persauded the women chain makers to sign an opt out; NFWW realised action was needed to make the legislation effective; its secretary, Mary Macarthur, organised a strike of women chain makers in the summer of 1910; after ten weeks on strike the women returned to work victorious for 14/- a week compared to 4/6d before;

3.As a permanent memorial to the women’s achievement; NFWW used the residue of the strike fund to build a Workers’ Institute in the Arts and Crafts style on the site where many of the strike meetings were held;

4.By the beginning of this century it was one of the few workers’ institutes left and it has since been demolished; the Black Country Living Museum rescued the institute and plans to re-erect it on the museum’s site in Dudley as a centre for the study of labour history, particularly, women’s labour history and the labour history of the Midlands;

5.The redevelopment will cost £1.4 million; the National Lottery has awarded £1.1 million and over £100,000 has already been raised towards the shortfall including donations from UNISON and other unions in the Midlands; and,

6.On 22 October 2005 the museum celebrated the 95th anniversary of the women’s victory with the first, it hopes annual, Women Chain Makers Festival.

Conference considers that women’s under-representation in trades union activity is attributable, in part, to women’s labour history being insufficiently researched and seldom celebrated and that the contribution of Bisexual, Lesbian and Trans women is more hidden still.

Conference recognises that, with UNISON establishing a LGBT group, it is more vital than ever to develop the participation of women so they are represented in its structures in proportion to their numbers in the union. To achieve this we must celebrate the achievements of the collective action of women and the gains it has brought to women and men alike.

Conference therefore warmly supports the project to rebuild the Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute. It urges everyone at this Conference to contribute to the museum’s Sponsor A Brick Campaign with a view to the amount collected being presented as a collective contribution from LGBT trades unionists.