August 2016 – Grunwick Picket Placard, 1976

Grunwick picket placard, 1976This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick Dispute.  This hand painted sign was made for the picket line at the Grunwick factory, highlighting the workers’ grievances.  This object is on permanent display in Main Gallery Two.

Caitlin LaPorte writes about Radical Hero, strike leader Jayaben Desai

‘Jayaben Desai was the leader behind the Grunwick Dispute that took place in London from 1976 to 1978.  Originally from India, Desai had moved to Britain in 1967 with her husband and children.  Desai was a low paid worker, first as a sewing machinist and then as a film processor at Grunwick Factory.  Working conditions within the company were less than desirable, and eventually caused Desai to become the driving force behind a strike that consisted of mainly female employees of an ethnic minority.

The strikers were protesting pay inequality and the institutionalised racism that was experienced in the factory.  There was also the hope of being recognised as a unionised workforce by the managers at the factory.  Unfortunately, despite receiving a large amount of support, this did not happen and the strikers were not reinstated.

The Grunwick dispute did however, result in an increased respect for female, immigrant workers.  This would not have been possible without the courageous and determined Desai as leader.  Jayaben Desai inspired the actions that resulted in the largest support for fewer than 200 strikers in British labour movement history.’

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