GLI History Project

In 2019, the GLI launched a new programme on the history of the international trade union movement, including a book on the history of the international trade union movement, accompanied by education projects to be undertaken with national and international unions.

The book was originally inspired by a 2005 essay, The Labour Movement, written by Dan Gallin, the founding Chair of the Global Labour Institute in Geneva and former General Secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF). Those interested to learn more are encouraged to read Solidarity, Dan Gallin’s collection of nineteen essays on the international labour movement.

Supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the project explores the influence of different radical political ideas, the struggles for liberation and independence, the growth of unions in the global south, the impact of war and revolution, and the challenges of globalization, financialization, precariousness and environmental destruction. 

It is designed to introduce activists who are new to the international movement, and those active in local and national trade unions, to current important issues and debates within the international labour movement, and their long histories.

The Story of our International Labour Movement

GLI’s new book ‘The Story of our International Labour Movement’ is now available to read. The text was written because GLI believes that the international labour movement can play an important role in changing the world. It is hoped that this book can provide trade unionists and activists with a guide to some of the different important organisations, campaigns, and ideas within the international labour movement and show how these have developed over time. By looking at the history of the working class movement across the globe, labour activists can be better equipped to discuss, debate, strategize, collaborate, and ultimately transform the world to create a system that works for all of us. This book was made possible through the financial support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 

Click here to read and download the book in full.

Each Chapter of the book is also available to read and download separately:

Click here to read Chapter 1: Where Did We Come From? The Origins and Ideals of the Workers Movement

Click here to read Chapter 2: A Baptism of Fire-Wars, Revolutions, and International Labour

Click here to read Chapter 3: Partner or Predator? Unions and the State (1945-1989)

Click here to read Chapter 4: Globalisation and Labour

Click here to read Chapter 5: What can we learn from the past? What is the future?

Chapter 5

GLI made a conscious decision not to write a conclusion to this text, but instead to appeal to activists from the labour movement to contribute their conclusions. We want to hear what you think are the key lessons to be learned from history, and the ways that they can be incorporated in our struggles today.

Over the course of 2023, GLI will be organising with Global Union Federations, national, regional, and local trade union bodies, and labour NGO’s to organise a series of discussions, workshops, and educational programmes. Participants in these events will be asked to make short contributions on what they think the value of labour history is to them, and their contributions will be collated into the physical version of the text.

If you are interested in taking part in this process, please contact gli-uk@global-