TRADES UNION CONGRESS, THE. The Trades Union congress came into existence in Great Britain when the Manchester and Salford trades council convened a trades union conference in Manchester in Whit-week 1868. There were earlier national conferences, but the Trades Union congress itself dates its birth from the gathering at Manchester of 34 delegates rep resenting 118,367 members of unions. In 1869 a parliamentary committee was appointed to carry out the decisions of the con gress. In its early days, the congress was concerned largely with trade union legislation. It was not long before it was con sidering political questions, though for years the "economist" or laissez faire school held their own against the more advanced school. In 1882 the congress adopted by 71 to 31 votes a resolution in favour of land nationalisation, but in later years a similar resolution was rejected. In 1888, however, the principle was decisively endorsed by 66 to 5 votes. It was not until 1885 that the principle of the legal regulation of hours of labour was adopted by the Trades Union congress, and in 1890 it carried a resolution in favour of an Eight Hours Bill. By this time, it may be said, the congress had finally repudiated economic individualism and embraced the Socialist philosophy, and before many years passed it had created the Labour Party. As early as 1869 a paper dealing with direct labour representation in parliament was read at the T.U.C. In 1886 it appointed a labour electoral committee which, however, came under Liberal influence, and in 1893 it ceased to operate. In 1899 a resolution was carried for a special congress of trade unions and Socialist organizations. The result was the inauguration of the Labour Representation Committee, and the birth of an independent political labour movement.
The influence of the congress grew with the increase in trade union membership. But it was the World War which laid the foundations of its present prestige. The decision of the congress to take part in the war-time administration of the nation marks an important stage in its history. The congress emerged from the war with greatly increased membership and authority.
The following table shows the organization of the council: This organization is carried further by the establishment of group committees. For administrative purposes the 17 trade groups were formed into six group committees as follows : (a) mining and quarrying, railways, transport ; (b) shipbuilding, engi neering, iron and steel, building; (c) cotton, other textiles, cloth ing, leather; (d) glass, pottery, etc., agriculture, general workers; (e) printing, public employees, non-manual workers; (f) the two women members and three members appointed by the general council from organizations with women members.
The congress also accepted in 192o as did the Labour Party conference of 1921, proposals for the establishment of four joint departments: (a) research and information; (b) press and pub licity; (c) international, and (d) legal. This new central machin ery resulted in a great expansion of activities by the general council of the T.U.C. itself and by the council in conjunction with the political labour movement. In 1925 the general council reported to the congress that the rapid expansion of work necessitated separate machinery, and on March 31, 1926 the joint departments ceased to exist. The administrative side of the T.U.C. has now departments dealing with organization, trade boards, research, publicity, social insurance and international matters.