London Gas Workers Strike 1889 - fact, history

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The Gas Workers Strike led by William Thorne was the most successful because it inspired more workers to rise up against their employers oppression. Yet, its success was overshadowed by the Great Dockers Strike which gave new hope to the Socialist movement because this strike received more publicity than any other strike at this time. In addition, the success of these new labor unions gave hope to the working class and transformed the labor movement from an elite few to encompass the entire working class throughout Britain and the world. This eventually led to the establishment of a political labor movement which worked to make laws to protect workers from unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. By using his life experience in the workforce, William Thorne, as alabor union organizer, was instrumental in bringing about the changes necessary in the workplace to make a better life for the working class.

The Gas Workers Union organized across all the Gas Works Companies and demonstrated solidarity. No one accepted an offer from the company unless all agreed.[18] It was the only way to win a strike. If strikers showed weakness then the strike could go on longer or worse they'd lose. All would be wasted effort. After Thorne won these battles, he headed for London to replicate his labor winnings there at the London Gas Works companies.

The news of Gas Workers Union success of achieving the eight hour work day spread throughout the working class and many workers became encouraged to improve their lot throughout Britain and Europe. [20] Yet, the impact was most significant on the Dockers. It was partly due to the many Gas Workers that worked on the Docks when they were laid off in the winter months. These workers had associates on the docks whom they shared a beer and ideas with at local taverns or on the street.

Since the Gas Workers worked part time on the docks, they had a personal interest in improving the conditions on the docks as well. Therefore, it was natural for these Gas Workers to encourage the Dockers to form a union and strike if necessary to rectify grievances.[21] A few of the Dock workers approached Thorne on joining the Gas Workers Union and let that union representative (Thorne) speak for them. Thorne told them quickly that Ben Tillet had already formed a small union for the Dockers, they had only to join.[22]