Labour History Review

The Forgotten Strike: Equality, Gender, and Class in the Trico Equal Pay Strike

Labour History Review (2016), 81, (2), 141–168.

Abstract

This article explores the events and issues of narrative and political identity surrounding the relatively unconsidered Trico equal pay strike, which took place over twenty-one weeks in the summer of 1976. It begins by reflecting on how the strike has been framed as either an addendum to the more celebrated Grunwick dispute or ignored altogether in existing historiography. Thereafter, it situates the strike in the context of women’s changing employment patterns and increased trade unionism in post-war Britain and discusses why the strike has received less academic coverage than similar disputes from the period, such as the Ford sewing-machinists’ strike and the Grunwick dispute. Using a range of media coverage and oral histories, it contrasts this with the importance of the strike to participants and the feminist, socialist, and national media. It outlines the distinction between feminist and labour interpretations of its meaning and purpose before finally analysing these interpretations against the perspectives of the strikers. It concludes by arguing that whilst the strike was afforded greater significance by the feminist press and women’s movement, the women primarily constructed their identities around class and trade unionism, and asks what this means for our understanding of women’s political identities in post-war Britain.

The Forgotten Strike: Equality, Gender, and Class in the Trico Equal Pay Strike

Abstract

This article explores the events and issues of narrative and political identity surrounding the relatively unconsidered Trico equal pay strike, which took place over twenty-one weeks in the summer of 1976. It begins by reflecting on how the strike has been framed as either an addendum to the more celebrated Grunwick dispute or ignored altogether in existing historiography. Thereafter, it situates the strike in the context of women’s changing employment patterns and increased trade unionism in post-war Britain and discusses why the strike has received less academic coverage than similar disputes from the period, such as the Ford sewing-machinists’ strike and the Grunwick dispute. Using a range of media coverage and oral histories, it contrasts this with the importance of the strike to participants and the feminist, socialist, and national media. It outlines the distinction between feminist and labour interpretations of its meaning and purpose before finally analysing these interpretations against the perspectives of the strikers. It concludes by arguing that whilst the strike was afforded greater significance by the feminist press and women’s movement, the women primarily constructed their identities around class and trade unionism, and asks what this means for our understanding of women’s political identities in post-war Britain.


Details

Author details

Stevenson, George