Labour Research November 2016



The workers’ story

Graham Taylor & Jack Dromey, Lawrence & Wishart, 192 pages, £12

It’s 40 years since a small group of mainly women Asian workers at the Grunwick plant led a historic fight — and faced an onslaught from the right wing gang that would help to launch Thatcherism. 

Strike leader Jayaben Desai and the rest of the workers had been sacked for trying to form a union to challenge the conditions at the company’s film processing laboratories in the London suburbs. Pay rates differed from one individual to another, with white workers consistently paid more than black workers. Day after day, television news focused on clashes between mass pickets and the police at the plant.

Each day, supporters travelled across London to join the protests before going to work. These were the scenes when the quiet streets of Dollis Hill in north west London were jammed with thousands of workers. Post workers at the local sorting office refused to handle post destined for the plant. 

The book examines the intersection of unions, race and the law during a defining moment for unions in the 20th century. The Grunwick dispute brought migrant labour concerns to the fore and fundamentally changed the way trade unions operated. 

This second edition of Jack Dromey and Graham Taylor’s work is published in association with the GMB general union.

“Grunwick” review contributed by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop.