Last week, I was honoured to join friends and colleagues at the unveiling of a plaque in Wolverhampton Civic Centre which marks the plight of Early Trade Unionists 200 years on.
It was remarkable to hear from Graham Dodd who is the secretary of Wolverhampton’s Craft Branch of Community TU tell the story behind the plaque which specifically remembers five early trade unionists from Wolverhampton, who were arrested and transported to Tasmania 200 years ago.
The group were leaders of the Tin Plate Workers Society which had been established to defend the rights and interests of workers in the Japanning industry. The society was forced to meet in secret because such workers organisations were illegal at the time. After taking part in a strike in 1819, the society’s meeting room, which was on the site of what is now City of Wolverhampton Council’s Civic Centre headquarters, was raided by the Bow Street Runners.
Five of those arrested were subsequently convicted and transported to Tasmania as punishment where it is believed they remained for the rest of their days. The names of the men are not known, but a plaque in the foyer of the Civic Centre remembers their story and we were honoured to be a part of the unveiling.
It was a real pleasure to be there and remember the early trade unionists who through courage and determination fought for justice. What happened to the tin metal workers some 200 years ago isn’t widely publicised or reported but the plaque allows us to remember their bravery.