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Last updated:15 June 2015

First meeting of the TUC

Following the establishment of many Trades Councils in British towns and cities in the 1860s there were calls for an annual national meeting of trade unions - particularly from Manchester and Salford Trades Councils. The idea was the creation of an organisation which would form a national and united voice to defend trade union rights.

The inaugural congress was held on 2 June 1868 at the Mechanics' Institute in David Street, Manchester, and was attended by 34 delegates from various Trades Councils. It was here that the Trades Union Congress was born.

Many resolutions were put forward at this meeting, some of which would go on to shape the role, direction and aims of the TUC from this early stage. One key resolution which was passed declared that trade unions ought to meet more than once a year to discuss issues of importance to the labour movement. It also stated that unions should not only act as a united voice for trade unions, but that the TUC should "take action in all parliamentary matters pertaining to the interests of the working classes".

The decision at the inaugural congress to take action in parliamentary matters paved the way for the formation of the Parliamentary Committee at the third Trades Union Congress in 1871 (initially set up to put pressure on MPs to amend the 1871 Trade Union Act).

The founding of a national trade union body meant that for the first time there was some real political representation for labourers or for the working classes.

For more information about trade unions and the Library's vast range of material by and about them, click here.

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