ernest bevin

picture: statue of ernest bevin on tooley street, london se1 2008 ( Bevin (1881-1951) was the first general secretary of the Transport and General Worker's Union 1921-1940). He then entered Parliament serving first as Minister of Labour and National Service in Churchill's War Cabinet (1940-5) and then as Foreign Secretary in Atlee's government (1945-51). Bevin was born  Somerset in 1881 to poor parents. Orphaned by the age of six and having the briefest of formal educations, he became a farm labourer. He moved to Bristol when he was eighteen where he worked as a van driver, became a Baptist lay preacher. Bevin joined the Dockers' Union and later became a paid official. When the Dockers Union joined with over 30 other unions to form the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) Bevin was elected general secretary.

In the major dock dispute in 1920 Ernest Bevin argued the dockers' case when the dispute went to arbitration. According to Howie (1986) he made a great impression, especially by exhibiting the actual amount of food a docker's wages would buy. Through his advocacy most of the demands were achieved and Ernest Bevin became known as the 'the dockers' KC'.

References: Bullock, A. (2002) Ernest Bevin. A biography, London: Methuen. Howie, Lord (1986) 'Dock labour history' in R. J. M. Carr (ed.) Docland, London: NELP/GLC.
exploring social action: backnext