Champions of Equality
Trade unions and LGBT rights in Britain
‘It was active campaigning in the trade union movement, especially in the workplace, that helped us win LGBT equality. And Peter’s book explains how that happened.’ - Angela Eagle MP
This book explores the work done by the unions in supporting LGBT+ equality in the workplace and beyond, redressing a gap in the history of LGBT struggles. Trade unions have contributed immensely to the successes achieved, all the while protecting jobs and securing equality for thousands of LGBT working people.
There is a big hole in the history of the LGBT movement in Britain. Each step towards equality for LGBT people, every positive move in public opinion, was the result of campaigning. But while individuals and lobby groups loudly promote their role in the victories, one major player has been written out of this history: the unions. This book fills the gap.
From the first strike action organised by trade union members to save the job of a victimised gay colleague in the 1970s, through the mutual solidarity of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, to the Trades Union Congress taking the initiative to save London Pride in 2012, and much more, trade unions have contributed immensely to the successes achieved, all the while protecting jobs and securing equality for thousands of LGBT working people.
Peter Purton was the TUC’s first LGBT officer. His book, of interest to everyone interested in equality and trade union history, reveals how LGBT trade union members organised to win recognition, then support, and how trade unions supported the struggles of LGBT communities in Britain and across the world.
This is an inspiring tale, and in the dangerous world of the twenty-first century, it is a warning call to the LGBT community and those supporting it, to wake up to new threats, to remember how past victories were achieved. The labour movement has much potential as an active participant in the unfinished fight for equality, but this book shows the need for mutual engagement to make change possible.
Acknowledgements and bibliographical references
A note on language
Foreword, Frances O’Grady
Foreword, Maria Exall
Introduction: Champions of Equality
1. Early interactions with the labour movement
2. Coming together in the 1970s
3. Breakthrough: the early 1980s
4. Old and new issues, continued progress and laying firm foundations
5. Trade union champions of equality
6. Global outreach
7. LGBT+, trade unions, and new challenges
‘Peter Purton was at the forefront of the battle to convince Trades Unions that the fight for LGBT equality was part and parcel of the fight for working people’s equality everywhere. That victory was crucial in securing the Labour Movements’ commitment to equality, and crucial to the whole range of legislative changes that then took place under a Labour Government. This book tells the story of how it was done. ’
Lord (Chris) Smith, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge
‘This is an important book that brings together the missing pieces of trade union activism – both within and outside the trade unions – on the long and often winding road to LGBT equality. More still needs to be done and by examining the past. Peter Purton shows us a way forward.’
‘It was active campaigning in the trade union movement, especially in the workplace, that helped us win LGBT equality. And Peter’s book explains how that happened.’
Angela Eagle MP
‘Peter has articulated the voices of grassroots LGBT+ trade unionists and their experiences as pioneers of equality…’
Maria Exall, Chair, TUC LGBT Committee