Anniversary of the first Trades Union Congress, 1868

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This week marks the 147th anniversary of the very first meeting of the TUC. The congress took place between 2nd – 6th June 1868 in the Mechanics’ Institute, Princess Street, Manchester.

The Mechanics’ Institute, Princess St, Manchester, site of the first Trades Union Congress

In February of 1868 a proposal had been circulated by the Manchester and Salford Trades Council to trades unions and trades councils to convene a meeting to discuss matters of mutual interest. As the circular (below) states, the motivation for convening the meeting was the “profound ignorance which prevails in the public mind” with regard to the organisation and principles of trade unionism, “together with the probability of an attempt being made by the Legislature, during the present session of Parliament, to introduce a measure detrimental to the interests of such Societies”.

Circular calling the first Trades Union Congress, 1868

The proposed topics for discussion at the meeting included regulation of hours, apprenticeships, technical education, the law of picketing, the Factory Acts, the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, and “the Necessity for an Annual Congress of Trade Representatives”.

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