Vintage Shoe Book by Alan Fox


A History of the National Union of Boot & Shoe Operatives by Alan tells the story of the union founded in 1873.

Many riveters and finishers left the Amalgamated Society of Boot and Shoe Makers, dissatisfied by their low status, to form the National Union of Boot and Shoe Rivetters and Finishers. By 1877, the union had about 4,000 members and included women members in the late 1880s, making it the first union outside the textile trades to admit both men and women.

In Northampton only 600 of the 15,000 shoe workers in the town held union membership until a successful five-week lock-out resulted in a settlement favourable to the union when hundreds of new members joined. By the end of the year, national membership had reached 10,000.

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, socialist members led campaigns against sweatshop working and outworking, where people worked from their own homes and were paid by item completed.

In 1897, the union renamed itself as the “National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives”, and joined the General Federation of Trade Unions the following year and membership rose to over 100,000 by 1920.

The decline in the British shoe-making industry led the union to merge with the Amalgamated Society of Leather Workers, the National Union of Glovers and Leather Workers and the National Union of Leather Workers and Allied Trades in 1971, to form the National Union of Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades.

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