‘Grunwick’ was an industrial dispute centred on Cricklewood, north London but which had national significance. Political and campaign groups from around Britain rallied to the support of the London strikers and this exhibition focuses on the reaction of the labour movement in Birmingham.
The Grunwick dispute can be regarded as being a meeting point of two distinct, yet interrelated political trends; the mobilisation of the ‘traditional’ mass labour movement in support of industrial disputes as typified by the miners’ strikes of 1972 & 1984; and an increasing use of industrial action by predominately Black or Asian workers against racism and exploitation, as represented by the Imperial Typewriters and Birmid disputes. Grunwick represented a fusion of those two trends with the trades union ‘establishment’ and wider labour movement providing widespread support for industrial action by predominately female, Asian strikers, most of whom were from East Africa. This ‘mainstreaming’ of a local dispute involving workers from ethnic minorities was significant in British politics, as many previous industrial actions organised by minority workers had not been supported by union hierarchies. Whilst union responses to ‘Grunwick’ would later be judged by some as perpetuating this discrimination, the mobilisation of mass pickets from the miners’, fire brigade and many other trades unions and high profile support from Labour politicians indicate the high level of popular labour movement support the strikers received. The breadth of this support in Birmingham is illustrated in the exhibition.
At face value this is a ‘typical’ picket line view, but it contains the essential elements that defined ‘Grunwick’; a female, Asian striker with a placard depicting a white strike breaker, with a police presence that was often controversial.
Donor Ref: '
Birmingham City Archives: MS 1591
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