10, The United Catering Trade Union

We managed to get the name of the union changed to the United Catering Trade Union, but Tom Cann had the majority of the executive committee supporting him in everything, and as there were only two of us we could do nothing but support the remained after decisions were taken. We tried to do all we could to give advice and reason but it was useless. Nevertheless, we stuck loyally to the members.

There was a vast difference between the revolutionary Syndicate which stood for attacking and abolishing the cause of slavery, capitalism, and the United Catering Trade Union. The union was run on the old TU methods. Just simply increasing wages and other reforms. This made Tom Cann content. He did not trouble about the class struggle. He was the secretary. He and his supporters were the bosses. There was no constitution. Cann gave the orders, the members who paid him just obeyed. Though realising all this, as there was no other catering organisation, we stuck it. Every time a members’ meeting was called, I taught the girls to sing the “Red Flag” and whenever Cann, who was always chairman announced my name to speak, hundreds of girls seated in the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, would start singing the “Red Flag”. I also preached the class struggle, which Cann did not realise.

During this time, every member of the luncheon club in which I worked, joined the union and made me the shop-steward. We elected our shop committee, and had meetings of members which had forty in the kitchen, and soon got some drastic improvements in conditions. But it was easy to see that was all that they wanted. They did not mind being slaves so long as they could, as they said themselves, “pay their way”. When May Day came and I walked out of the kitchen for Hyde Park, not one left their work, although I had told them what May Day meant to the working-class movement. Now the management of the kitchen luncheon club saw that I, and I only, was a danger, to their easy domination of the kitchen staff. So they made an excuse of not doing the same trade as before and the staff would have to be reduced. I retorted, “That’s all right, keep the sheep and sack the man.” Every one of the forty kitchen staff held a trade union card. Not one protested or even said one word when I, their shop steward, walked out of the job. Picture my reactions.

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