Liz Leicester, ‘You’re not a worker, you’re a pair of hands’ – Women and the unofficial 1970 Leeds clothing workers’ strike

Thursday 13 December, 2018, 6.30 pm. The Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd floor, Anthropology Building, University College London, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW.

In 1970 almost 30,000 Leeds clothing workers went on unofficial strike in support of a demand for a shilling an hour pay increase. Mostly women, the strikers were angry that their union had signed an agreement with the employers’ federation which gave men 6s 7d an hour and women 4s 9d an hour. The action snowballed as women marched around the city calling on others to join them.

In spite of the unprecedented action by women workers which changed the way the union was organised, there is a gap in traditional labour histories concerning the strike. This talk will describe the women’s action and consider the reasons for this gap.

Liz Leicester is a historian, adult education tutor and trade union activist. Her research has included the impact of the 1798 Irish rebellion on English Chartism, radical movements in Victorian England, local history in areas of north west London, the impact of memory on historical constructs and the role of women in the British trade union movement.  She has tutored for the Workers Educational Association and UNITE and was chair of the Camden local government branch of Unison for 14 years.