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.