The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), which today is a large and complex organisation, can trace its origins to the earliest years of Australian trade unionism and the first meeting of Sydney’s Amalgamated Society of Engineers. This book presents the achievements of the union since the 1850s, but does not shy away from challenges to that history or from controversies past and present.
Contributors detail the industrial influence of the AMWU since the middle of the nineteenth century, discuss the importance of union banners and their place in industrial and political campaigning, and relate stories of memorable people, movements and campaigns. Laurie Carmichael stresses the significance of the shorter hours movement of the 1970s and 80s. Australia Reconstructed, one of the most important – and neglected – union documents of the late twentieth century, is revisited; the politics of union amalgamation, analysed; and the continuing pressures on women as union delegates and leaders, is revealed. Reeves and Dettmer have compiled not a comprehensive chronological history, but a volume that draws out the rich human flavour of AMWU, and suggests its deep and complex connections with the society of which it is part.
Andrew Reeves is a Professorial Fellow at Charles Darwin University and Deakin University, where he works on collaborative research and cultural projects. A historian by training, he worked for many years in Australian museums and more recently as a senior advisor to Senator Kim Carr, then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. He has published widely in the fields of labour and industrial history and material culture studies. He is co-author, with Anne Stephen, of Badges of Labour, Banner of Pride, a pioneering study of the place of banners and celebration in the Australian labour movement. His most recent book is a history of the mine workers in Victoria’s black coal industry, Up from the Underworld: Mineworkers and community in Wonthaggi, 1909–1968.
Andrew Dettmer is National President of the AMWU. He has held that position since mid-2012. Prior to this he was Queensland and Northern Territory State Secretary of the union from 2003. He has been involved in the labour movement and the Australian Labor Party for more than 30 years. Originally from Victoria, he has recently moved back to Victoria from Queensland to undertake his duties as National President. Andrew has a lifelong interest in labour and trade union history, and holds an Honours degree in history from Monash University.