OF WILL THORNE'S SPEECH AT CANNING TOWN HALL
ON 31ST MARCH 1889
"Fellow wage slaves, I am more than pleased to see such a big crowd of workers and friends from the Beckton Gas Works", was my greeting to them. The reply was a heartening cheer, and my stage fright disappeared.
Then I talked to them like this:
"I know that many of you have been working eighteen hours under very hard and difficult circumstances, that many of you must be dead tired.
Often I have done the eighteen-hour shift. I am under the impression that the resident engineer knew that I had arranged this meeting, and that he deliberately kept you working late. This sort of thing has gone on for a long time; we have protested, but time after time we have been sneered at, ignored and have secured no redress. Let me tell you that you will never get any alteration in Sunday work, no alteration in any of your conditions or wages, unless you join together and form a strong trade union. Then you will be able to have a voice and say how long you will work, and how much you will do for a day's work."
"In my opinion, you have a perfect right to discuss all these matters with your employer through your chosen spokesman. Why should any employer have the power to say you must do this, that and the other thing. By your labour power you create useful things for the community, you create wealth and dividends, but you have no say, no voice, in any of these matters."
"All this can be altered if you will join together and form a powerful union, not only for gas workers, but one that will embrace all kinds of general labourers. Some of you only work in the gas works in the winter; when the warm weather comes, you are dismissed, to find what work you can get at the docks, in the brickfields, navvying, or anything that comes along."
"Stand together this time; forget the past efforts we have made to form you into a union, when we failed only because you did not respond to our call. Some of you were afraid of your own shadows, but this morning I want you to swear and declare that you mean business and that nothing will deter you from our aim."
"It is easy to break one stick, but when fifty sticks are together in one bundle it is a much more difficult job. The way you have been treated at your work for many years is scandalous, brutal, and inhuman. I pledge my word that, if you will stand firm and don't waiver, within six months we will claim and with the eight-hour day, a six day week, and the abolition of the present slave-driving methods in vogue not only at the Beckton Gas Works but over the country. Now, will you do this?"
There was one loud roar of "We will!" That yell was the last birth pain of the union.
An extract from his autobiography "My Life's Battles"