Hey, it's #DisabilityHistoryMonth, and also #UCUStrikesBack #UCUStrike! What better time for some history of disabled strikers?? And what better place to start than Glasgow? I will spin you a tale exactly 101 years old this month. #blind #DisHis
Some back-story: The National League of the Blind was formed in 1899, and was the first (to my knowledge) union to represent an identity instead of a specific trade (it still exists too!). The newspaper of the NLB was The Blind Advocate, archived at National Archives in London.
I bring you this history via an awesome septuagenarian working-class blind historian, Francis Salt. I had the joy of colloborating with Salt in 2017 to write a short story for @commapress's Protest! He gathered this info from the archives for a Manchester Metropolitan Uni Masters
Now, to Glasgow! Glasgow Asylum for the Blind, built in 1881 on Castle St, was a charity-run school & workhouse for blind workers (some worked in and lived out, some lived there). Here's a pic from 1901 + my pics of the facade / what's left in 2019. Needless to say, pay was shit.
There were all kinds of messed-up things like curfews, no doors in women's dorms, blind people not being able to marry blind people (eugenics) & blind people having crap jobs like tarring brushes which meant their hands got so burnt it was hard to read Braille. Skip ahead to 1918
The following account is from The National League of Blind Annual report, 31 December 1918, with 3,615 members, entitled: "The Strike at the Royal Glasgow Asylum".
'The largest and most important strike in which The league has ever engaged took place in November. ...
'Since the commencement of June the members of the Glasgow Branch who were employed in this Institution have been endeavouring to obtain redress for certain grievances & misrepresentations. On several occasions they approached the managers...
...with a view to having a deputation from the workers received, all of which have been refused. On October 21st the workers at the Institution marched in procession from the Institution to the place at which the managers were meeting.'
'Having arrived there a deputation of 12 was appointed to interview the managers. On October 23th, at 1245 pm, the 12 members who formed the deputation were notified that their services would be dispensed with at and from 6 p.m. on that day.'
(So like they complained and were fired.) 'Four days later another member who refused to take up the work of one of the dismissed men was suspended. Every effort was made to induce the managers to have the men reinstated...

...but at a meeting of this body on the 18th November they upheld their previous decision and dismissed the 13th man. The Executive was then summoned to a special meeting at Glasgow on November 22nd...

#Glasgow #blind #DisHist
'...after having heard a statement by the Branch Representatives it was decided to call out the whole of the workers. At a crowded meeting of the Branch, held the same evening, the decision of the Executive was endorsed with great enthusiasm and with only four dissentients.'
'In their struggle our Glasgow members had the whole-hearted support, both moral & financial, of the sighted Trade Unionists in & around the city. The Glasgow Trades Council and the Clyde Workers’ Committee were untiring in their efforts to bring the fight to a successful issue.'
'As the result of further negotiations the Institution authorities agreed to reinstate the dismissed men; and these hostilities ceased & work was resumed an the last day of the year.'

#UCUStrikesBack #DisabilityHistoryMonth #DisabledStrikers #WorkerSolidarityThread
'Not only was the object for which we fought achieved;
in addition to the reinstatement of victimised workers an advance of 6 shillings in the case of men & 3 shillings for women per week was obtained.' (Arg, note gender discrepancy, also they made way less than sighted workers.)
Notable about this Glasgow blind workers strike from Nov/Dec 2018 is that it pre-dates the famous Battle of George Square in January 1919, & blind workers were fighting for way less money / hour reductions than sighted workers.

#DisHist #StrikeHistory
But in April 1920, 200 National League of the Blind workers from Ireland, Wales, Scotland & England would march on London in 1st & largest march of this kind (pre-dating Jarrow March by 16 years). This resulted in 1st piece of disability legislation in UK The Blind Persons Act...
Here's a pic of blind marchers from 1920, with a sign saying 'Justice Not Charity'. #DisabilityHistoryMonth #DisHist #UCUStrikesBack #UCUStrikes #solidarity #WorkersUnite @UCUScotland @ucu Thread might be of interest for Glasgow & UK strike history + incentive to keep going!
(Post script, Francis Salt says in his thesis that the National League of the Blind was formed in 1893 not 1899 like on wiki. Moral: don't take shortcuts, always check your source, San.)
(post post script you can forgive me that part where I said 2018 instead of 1918. Especially when current events and governments show us that Plus Ça Change...)
Strike song by blind Glasgow poet/worker Charles Lothian:
‘Why should this beauteous world of ours
In such confusion ever be?
The wealthy waste their precious hours
While others pine on charity’
#CripTheStrike #DisabilityHistoryMonth
NLB were v against charity industrial complex
Twitter keeps omitting the 1 tweet in this thread that links to further reading (even when I re-added it) so if you want more you can search me on Disability Arts Online or buy Protest: Stories of Resistance from Comma Press (or listen to it free via my DAO blog). #CripTheStrike
Bonus tweet 1/2: Lots of interesting gender stuff in this history (women members not allowed to march on London; women got much lower pay; workers sacked for pregnancy esp if partner also blind; activist m&w workers sacked & made homeless for intermarrying even after law changed)
Bonus tweet 2/2 Also NLB took much inspo from suffragettes (in case of marching, ironically, sigh). Also 'pitiful' nature of marchers played up for/by press despite NLB stance on pity/charity. Also 1920 Blind Act 'win' = far from what demanded, tho significant for disability law.
Thanx everyone for reading, commenting, sharing! Francis Salt isn't online so it's extra lovely you're engaging with the amazing research of this working-class blind historian in his 70s. His dad was also a worker at Henshaws (a Manchester blind asylum). #CripTheStrike #DisHist
National Archives not accessible to blind / VI people (despite being about them), so Salt's research involved having to engage someone to find & transcribe every National League of the Blind newsletter & meeting minutes, + every relevant newspaper article about the Blind March.
You can follow @san_alland.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: