40 years ago some brave women stood up for their rights. We’re planning a mural, an exhibition and a conference to mark their contribution.
Help us commemorate the Grunwick Strike!
In 1976, six workers walked out of Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden. They staged a strike against their poor working conditions, demanding the right to join a union.
Less than two years later, those six had been joined by 20,000 supporters in an historic dispute fighting for better rights for poorly treated workers. Predominantly Asian women, these strikers shattered stereotypes, challenged the establishment, brought a community together to support the rights of workers and changed the face of trade unionism.
40 years after the start of the Grunwick Strike we want to celebrate their bravery and take their inspirational story to a new generation by installing a mural, developing an exhibition and holding a conference.
A bit more background
Led by Jayaben Desai, a group of Asian workers walked out in protest against low pay and poor treatment by managers. They asked their bosses at Grunwick to allow them to join a union but the company refused and sacked them. The management thought that Asian women were passive and obient and wouldn’t protest but more than 100 other workers joined Jayaben in a dispute that lasted for almost two years, attracted the support of thousands of ordinary people, made news headlines every night and was even debated in Parliament.
This was the first time that trade unions had given proper support to a strike of black or Asian workers. At a time of great racial polarisation the Grunwick strike brought people together in suppport of better rights for all workers.
We want to make sure that the unity which the dispute symbolised will never be forgotten.
We began developing this idea in at the end of 2015, we’ve been amazed by the level of support so far and already had a short piece about us in our local paper. We’re now in touch with thousands of trade unionists, local residents and academics who are discussing plans over on our facebook page.
How we’re going to do it
Now the street that saw 20,000 people come down in a single day to support the strike is looking pretty drab. As you arrive at Dollis Hill tube station and walk past the former Grunwick site to the main road, you’ll see plenty of plain, bare walls and unloved spaces. Grunwick 40 plans to install a mural to add colour and life to this forgotten yet important area.
The mural will be coordinated by an artist and designed collboratively by local people through a series of workshops. The first of these are already confirmed for April 2016 . We’ll also be collecting ideas, memories and images from others and developing the mural, exhibition and other events through further workshops this summer. It will be printed on weatherproof board and installed on a prominent wall on the high street where it will remain for years to come.
We also want to bring the story of Grunwick to a new, younger audience by holding a major exhibition at the Brent Museum in Willesden, accompanied by learning materials and special events that we hope will inspire future generations to come together to challenge injustice.
Our project is not just about remembering the past, it’s also about organising for the here and now, so we will use some of the money raised to organise a conference this autumn on how the lessons and legacy of Grunwick can help us to understand current migrant workers’ struggles and campaigns.
We need to raise £12,000 to pay for mural materials, participation workshops, exhibition boards and conference publicity. Can you help? Can your organisation or trade union make a donation?
We have some great rewards on offer for when you donate and every penny will go towards ensuring that this important legacy is not lost and the bravery of the Grunwick strikers is never forgotten.
Who we are
We’re a group of Brent residents living close to the original site of the factory who want to do something to remember our history. The project is being run by a steering group initiated by Brent Trades Council and the Willesden Green Town Team, we have planning meetings that are open to all who want to participate.
© Dan Jones
Main image © TUC collection
Let’s make ‘Commemorating 40 years since the Grunwick Strike’ a reality