The many union badges arranged in this case testify to the dramatic changes in union organisation over the past 160 years. Each of these first five boards represents a union that exists today – often formed from the amalgamation of many smaller craft or trade unions. For example, today’s United Workers Union was formed in 2019 when the National Union of Workers amalgamated with United Voice. United Voice, once known as “The Missos”, was itself an amalgamation of unions such as the “Barmaids and Barmen”, union, the Pastrycooks and biscuit makers, and the Saddlery and Leather Workers Trades Employees Federation. The membership of these unions has changed; with riding saddles in considerably less demand now than in the nineteenth century.
Other unions, like the United Firefighters Union, have thrived without reorganisation or amalgamation.
All of the unions represented here – and many more – were at one time or other affiliated to the Victorian Trades Hall Council; with members and delegates meeting in this very room to discuss the issues of the day.
At a national level, the "Inter-colonial Trade Union Congress" met for the first time in 1879, but the Australian Council of Trade Unions – or ACTU - was not officially formed until 1927, here at Trades Hall.
The solidarity shown between workers of different unions remains the most powerful force for social and economic justice in Australia – and is a continual source of fear for the powers of capital.