Trade Unions

Early workers’ organisations

Early trade societies in Stafford and Stone appear to have been friendly societies, which provided benefits for members and their families when they were sick or unemployed. There were a number of these organisations in the 1850s, including the Operative Shoemakers Society, the Old Trade Society of Stafford Shoemakers, and the United Society of Cordwainers.

The National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives

Union Contricution Card

Contribution Card for National Union of the Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades (Staffordshire Heritage & Arts)

In 1874 the National Union of Boot and Shoe Rivetters and Finishers was formed as a breakaway union from the Amalgamated Society of Cordwainers, then seen as a craftsmen’s association rather than a workers’ organisation. Stafford’s boot and shoe workers played a major role in the formation of this new national union, and the conference to set it up took place in Stafford. Its members called themselves ‘The Sons of St. Crispin’, after the patron saint of shoemakers.

The union was renamed the National Union of Boot & Shoe Operatives in 1898, six years after it had amalgamated with the General Union of Clickers and Rough-stuff Cutters. The Union thrived throughout the first half of the 20th century, but declined thereafter in tandem with Britain’s shoe industry. In 1971 NUBSO joined forces with the Amalgamated Society of Leather Workers, the National Union of Leather Workers and Allied Trades and the National Union of Glovers and Leather Workers to form the National Union of Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades. Following a further series of mergers, the union is now part of ‘Community’, which represents workers in trades as far apart as the clothing and steel industries.

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