TUC launches project to preserve legacy of black activists

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The TUC has launched what it describes as the first-ever national database to capture the contributions of Black workers across the trade union movement.

The TUC Black Network will “create a space for growth, empowerment and progress” says the union. It will be a “powerful tool designed to connect, amplify, and support the work of Black activists and trade union employees.”

“This is the first time in history that such an effort has been made to preserve and promote the legacy of Black activists in the trade union movement,” reads the announcement published for HeartUnions Week (13-19 February).

It will be a “crucial historical initiative” to “commemorate, celebrate and preserve” the legacy of Black activists and their contribution to safety.

Bill Morris was General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union from 1992 to 2003, and the first black leader of a major British trade union. He also sat in the House of Lords until 2020. Photograph: UK Parliament

Black working people and their contribution to and experiences in industries such as mining, have often been left out of the history books.

In 2023, the trade union movement is also still largely white. According to TUC’s most recent survey of 2,138 safety representatives, 91 per cent described themselves as White British with just 2.6 per cent describing themselves as Black British, Black African or African Caribbean.

In response, the TUC has sought to build a more inclusive movement. Its Action Plan to build an anti-racism trade union movement, published in October last year, calls on members to remove barriers to Black workers’ participation in their unions.

“Unless we are seen to be practising what we preach, we won’t secure the trust or create the conditions needed to deliver positive and lasting change,” said Dr Patrick Roach, chair of the Anti-Racism Task Force in the report’s foreword.

The report noted that not only did the coronavirus pandemic highlight the damaging impact of racial segregation at work, with Black workers up to four times more likely to die from Covid-19, but that they did not feel able to seek help and raise issues.

“At the height of the pandemic, when Black workers needed us most, too many did not have the confidence to turn to us for support. That is not the movement we aspire to be. Our movement must always be a safe haven for all working people,” said Roach.

More on the TUC Black Network here





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