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Labour: An injury to one is an injury to all!

WORKERS UNITE : ONE COUNTRY - ONE FEDERATION : 30 NOVEMBER 1985 (AL2446_1724) produced for COSATU, Cape Town. This poster celebrates the launch of COSATU and its call for 'One country, one federation'.

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Independent trade unions have long been a part of the South African liberation movement. The first black trade union emerged as long ago as 1919, when the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) was formed in Cape Town. In succeeding decades it was followed by many others, including the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU). These unions achieved some gains for their members, but none managed to gain the official recognition the state reserved for white unions.

After the National Party came to power in 1948, black unions found many of their leaders banned from trade union work under the Suppression of Communism Act. Determined to resist, the union movement regrouped and in 1955 formed the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). In the face of a common onslaught from the government, SACTU joined forces with the African National Congress (ANC) and others to form the Congress Alliance. It reflected their belief that workers' rights could never be adequately defended as long as apartheid existed.

SACTU eventually succumbed to state repression and in the early 1960s, following the Sharpeville massacre and the banning of the ANC. was driven underground. The following ten years were a dark decade for black trade unions.

In the early 1970s, workers began reorganising in Durban. In 1973, mass strikes broke out in support of demands for wage increases. This marked the rebirth of the independent trade union movement.

JOHANNESBURG LOCAL GENERAL MEETING  AL2446_0217 This image advertises a local general meeting led by the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU)METAL & ALLIED WORKERS UNION : TRANSVAAL BRANCH : ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 	AL2446_1106 This poster refers to the Transvaal annual general meeting, led by the Metal Allied Workers Union (MAWU) in 1984.Paper, Wood and Allied Workers Union : PWAWU : Annual General MeetingAL2446_0214produced by the Paper, Wood and Allied Workers Union (PWAWU), Johannesburg. This poster refers to the annual general meeting, led by the Paper, Wood and Allied Workers Union (PWAWU) in 1984.AL2446_0236 RETAIL & ALLIED WORKERS' UNION : ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING : INTLANGANISO YONYAKA JIKELELE Retail and Allied Workers Union (RAWU), Cape Town. This poster refers to the annual general meeting, led by RAWU in 1984. SAAWU : ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE : SOWETO 1984 (AL2446_1107) ohannesburg. This poster advertises the annual general meeting, led by the South African Allied Workers Union (SAAWU) in 1984.

Unions emerged in the major urban centres of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and despite intense harassment, managed to survive and grow. The union movement's democratic structures proved resistant to repression, and by 1979 both employers and the state agreed that black unions should be legally recognised. The authorities believed limited recognition would result in more effective control of union activities.

OYCOTT ALL Simba PRODUCTS ! : WE DEMAND OUR JOBS BACK!!! : 464 FIRED! (AL2446_1567)This image depicts Simba workers roaring, to show their discontent with management during a strike.

BOYCOTT THE CAN! (AL2446_0207) http://saha.org.za/imagesofdefinace/boycott_the_can.htm




However, the independent unions refused government regulation and continued to organise against low wages and racism, both at work and in the wider society. The Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU), the South African Allied Workers Union (SAAWU), the Western Province General Workers Union (WPGWU), and the Food and Canning Workers Union (FCWU) were among the most prominent of the unions engaged in bitter battles to organise and expand the frontiers of unionisation.

New tactics emerged, including calling on community organisations to support striking workers by boycotting company products. The FCWU used this tactic during the Fattis and Monis strike, as did SAAWU during the Wilson-Rowntree dispute. The early 1980s also saw the 1950s tactic of work stayaways revived.

The emergent unions recognised the need to unite into one trade union federation. But a variety of differences, both organisational and political, made this a lengthy process. During four long years of unity talks, the unions grew rapidly, and new unions, such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), were established.


MINEWORKERS FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE : SUPPORT THE MINERS STRIKE : SUPPORT THE LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN AL2446_1004 his poster was based on a drawing by Judy Seidman for the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in Lusaka, which was distributed as a sticker in South Africa. This was turned into a poster by M. Smithers at STP for COSATU and NUM for the mineworkers strike in 1987. This poster relates to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) celebrating the end of the national miners’ strike.


Educate Consolidate Advance to Victory! : Second National Education Conference 20-22 October 1989 NASREC Johannesburg AL2446_0723

WORKERS RALLY: LAUNCH OF THE NEW FEDERATION AL2446_0199 OYCOTT ALL Simba PRODUCTS ! : WE DEMAND OUR JOBS BACK!!! : 464 FIRED! (AL2446_1567)This image depicts Simba workers roaring, to show their discontent with management during a strike.



The political climate within the country also changed. Growing opposition to apartheid resulted in widespread resistance in the face of an intransigent government. This grassroots movement was strengthened by the formation, in 1983, of the United Democratic Front (UDF), which brought together a wide range of antiapartheid organisations, including a number of the emergent unions. By 1985, most of these emergent trade unions announced themselves ready to unite under the banner of 'One Country, One Federation'.



COSATUCongress of South African Trade Unions Third National Congress : EDUCATE CONSOLIDATE ADVANCE TO VICTORY AL2446_1066 This poster was produced to advertise the Third National Congress of COSATU.


On 1 December 1985 the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was launched in Durban. It brought together 33 unions representing some 450 000 organised workers, making it the largest trade union federation ever formed in South Africa. Elijah Barayi, a mine employee, was elected president, and Jay Naidoo, previously general secretary of the Sweet, Food and Allied Workers Union (SFAWU) was elected general secretary. COSATU openly proclaimed its determination to be politically active: it would fight for a non-racial, democratic South Africa.


Among the policies adopted by COSATU was that of creating one strong union in every industry, by uniting the various smaller unions organising in each sector of the economy. 'One Industry, One Union' became its guiding slogan. In its first five years, COSATU had combined the original 33 affiliates into 13 much larger, stronger, industrial unions.

COSATU : UNITE AND FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE AL2446_1032 rawn by a COSATU worker named Eve Hedrew and issued by COSATU, Johannesburg. This poster was produced so that COSATU could announce their Living Wage Campaign.

Congress of South African Trade Unions MASS RALLY : SCRAP THE LABOUR BILL! : CAPE TOWN CITY HALL AL2446_1252 This poster was produced to advertise COSATU's mass rally in support of the Anti-Labour Relations Act Campaign.

COSATU's formation also saw a dramatic growth in the number of unionised workers. By mid-1988, COSATU represented some 700 000 workers. Part of this growth stemmed from its policy of organising in sectors where unions were not yet legally recognised. This included organising workers on the farms, in domestic service and, particularly, in the public sector. Membership grew as railway workers, postal workers and others flocked to join the unions. Recognition of these unions was only achieved after lengthy and often bloody battles against a well-armed state. The railway strike of early 1987 brought a measure of recognition to COSATU's railway union, but not before police had killed a number of strikers.


 HIGH PROFIT LOW WAGES: NOT OK : SUPPORT THE STRUGGLE FOR A LIVING WAGE!  AL2446_0571 This poster refers to the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA) calling for support for strikers at OK Bazaars, which was one of South Africa’s largest retail chains. Consolidate our gains and advance to a living wage: PPWAWU Congress  AL2446_0576produced by COSATU for PPWAWU. This poster refers to PPWAWU advertising its national Congress.Wednesday 1st October '86, day of mourning: Remember the 177 miners killed at Kinross... AL2446_0763 This NUM poster condemns the death of 177 mineworkers due to unsafe working conditions. Defend your oganization: hands off COSATU AL2446_0510 his poster refers to the 'Hands-off COSATU' campaign, which followed the bombing of the federation's headquarters and the killing of striking railway workers.

Another COSATU battlefront has been its Living Wage Campaign, with union members involved in major wage strikes in all industries. The most dramatic of these occurred on the mines during mid-1987 when some 350 000 miners downed tools for 21 days. This, the biggest strike in the country's history, hit hard at the core of the economy, the gold mining industry.

SIGN THE STOP ORDER FORM NOW : HAVE YOU JOINED NUM? : Every mineworker a NUM member AL2446_1096NO TO HIGHVELD'S OFFER : WE WANT A LIVING WAGE : VOTE YES FOR ACTION (AL2446_1682) produced by the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU) and the SA Boilermakers, Johannesburg. This poster reflects an appeal to Highveld Steel workers to reject the company’s wage offer and vote ‘yes’ for union action in support of a living wage. METAL : WAGE TALKS 1988 : DEADLOCKED : IMF general meetings will be held on 11th and 25th June AL2446_0449 This poster refers to the International Metalworkers Federation meetings that were held in the wake of a wage deadlock between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and employers.

The Living Wage Campgain focused not only on wage increases, but also on achieving other changes — public holidays, for example, have been a major battleground. COSATU's members have fought and succeeded in having internationally-celebrated May Day recognised as a public holiday in South Africa. This was achieved only after the federation organised massive work stayaways on 1 May for a number of years. COSATU has also achieved a large measure of success in getting 16 June (the anniversary of the Soweto uprising), and 21 March (the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre) recognised as public holidays — in fact if not in law.


 Al2446_1969 IN THE WORLD : MAYDAY IS OURS! produced by the Gardens Media Group at Community Arts Project (CAP), Cape Town. This poster is the first of a set of five posters celebrating May Day which was created by various artists, such as Justin Wells, Billy Mandandini, and othersAL2446_1970 IN THE MINES : MAYDAY IS OURS! produced by the Gardens Media Project at CAP, Cape Town. This poster is one of a set of five posters produced to highlight the 1 May- May Day, as an official public holiday in South Africa.AL2446_1968 ON THE LAND MAYDAY IS OURS! produced by the Gardens Media Group at Community Arts Project (CAP), Cape Town. This poster is one set of five posters celebrating May Day which was created by various artists, such as Justin Wells, Billy Mandandini, and others.

AL2446_2596 IN THE FACTORIES MAYDAY IS OURS! produced by the Gardens Media Group at Community Arts Project (CAP), Cape Town. This poster is one set of five posters celebrating May Day which was created by various artists, such as Justin Wells, Billy Mandandini, and others. AL2446_1116 IN THE STREETS : MAYDAY IS OURS!

None of these achievements were easily won. COSATU has existed under an almost continuous State of Emergency which involved intense repression of trade unionists, together with activists in youth, community, religious and political organisations.


UMSEBENZI : VOICE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY : may day : WORKERS UNITE! AL2446_1569 issued by the SACP, Johannesburg.Even though it was issued as the first SACP May Day poster produced legally inside the country since 1950, this was painted in prison by an ANC member during 1990.May Day: Public holiday: Long live the workers' struggle. AL2446_0243  issued by the UDF in 1986, Johannesburg. This poster relates to the UDF's call for May Day to be declared a public holidayAL2446_0637 LABOUR DAY 1984 issued by the JODAC in 1984, Johannesburg. This poster depicts JODAC's support in recognising May Day as a public holiday.AL2446_1251 WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! : MAY DAY IS OURS : COSATU LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN This image depicts how the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) celebrated May Day and popularized the federation’s Living Wage Campaign.


9-30 August 1987:21 days that rocked the chamber: Forward with the struggle of a living wage. AL2446_0060  This poster depicts NUM celebrating the end of the national miners' strike.

A propaganda war aimed at undermining COSATU involved the widespread distribution of dirty tricks pamphlets and posters. And repression did not stop with words: thousands of unionists found themselves detained and held without charge, often for lengthy periods. Others have been assassinated, the victims of secret death squads. Union offices have been raided by police, vandalised, bombed, and burned to the ground. The most vicious attack occurred in May 1987 when COSATU's headquarters in Johannesburg were destroyed in a massive explosion. The police have still failed to apprehend the perpetrators of any of these attacks.

Viva Comrade Moss : Viva Alex comrades : We stand in solidarity 	AL2446_1101 This image refers to NUMSA demanding the release of its general secretary and four other activists. WORKERS! SMASH THE LABOUR - RELATIONS ACT! BUILD UNITY!AL2446_0587  created by Justin Wells and issued by COSATU and NACTU, Johannesburg. This poster refers to the Anti-Labour Relations Act Campaign.

Repression failed to intimidate either COSATU or its affiliated unions. As a result, more systematic attacks were launched against it in 1988. In February, the government restricted COSATU from any participation in politics, at the same time banning the UDF. Breach of these regulations was punishable by heavy jail sentences and fines. In addition the government, at the urging of employers, introduced a new labour law. The Labour Relations Amendment Act aimed at reversing many reforms introduced in 1979. Both the restrictions and the new labour law fostered greater unity among COSATU affiliates. There was widespread defiance of the restrictions on its political activities — the new labour law, although promulgated, was rendered largely a dead letter. Two major national stayaways were central to achieving this. One stayaway lasted three days, and in both, millions rallied to COSATU's domesdefence. These stayaways were conducted jointly with many non-COSATU unions, in particular those affiliated to the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU).

LIVING WAGE RALLY: SADWU AL2446_0091 his poster was produced to advertise SADWU's Living Wage rallies in different parts of the country.WORKERS UNITE FOR INDEPENDENCE! : MAY DAY NAMIBIA. 1989. : Build solidarity action with Namibian workers and youth AL2446_1108 produced simultaneously by the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and COSATU in Johannesburg. This image refers to a May Day poster saluting Namibian independence.

SACTU 30th ANNIVERSARY RALLY 	(AL2446_0093) his poster refers to progressive unions who were celebrating SACTU's 30th anniversary.The text reads: "SACTU 30th ANNIVERSARY RALLY


Not all COSATU's activities have been so spectacular. Like trade unions worldwide, it has involved itself in the normal range of bread-and-butter activities. It has attempted, with a large measure of success, to draw unions outside COSATU into its ranks. It has tried to harness militant rural workers into disciplined unions. It has developed links internationally, and played an important part in assisting the development of independent unions in Namibia.

AL2446_2580 ORGANISE EDUCATE NEGOTIATE MAKE WORK SAFE! produced by members of the Industrial Health Research Group. This image refers to a health and safety poster and attempted to inform people about certain groups who were able to help unions with health and safety problems.



COSATU unions have taken up health and safety issues. The miners' union, NUM. is particularly active in this regard. The dangers facing mineworkers were demonstrated by an horrific accident during September 1986, when 177 workers died at Kinross gold mine.



Since its inception, COSATU has been politically active. In 1987 it adopted the Freedom Charter, thereby aligning itself with the non-racial, democratic perspective of the ANC. With the unbanning of political organisations in February 1990, these links strengthened.



COSATU has stressed both its determination to remain politically active in the search for democracy, as well as its desire to remain independent. This has involved retaining its strongly separate identity, but entering into a strategic alliance with both the ANC and SACP.




Today COSATU is widely recognised, by friend and foe alike, as one of the pillars of the liberation movement. It now represents over a million workers, with organisation expanding daily. Its existence is a challenge to a post-apartheid South Africa. The majority of South Africans want not only political rights — they also demand social and economic justice.


WRSC PRESENTS : JOY : MALOMBO : SPIRITS REJOICE : JESSICA & ROBBIE (AL2446_0244 ) produced by the Wilson-Rowntree Support Committee, Johannesburg. This poster relates to a 1981 Johannesburg concert that was held in support of the striking Wilson-Rowntree workers in East London, as part of the ‘Boycott Wilson-Rowntree sweets’ campaign. COSATU WITS REGIONAL CONGRESS AL2446_1253 	This poster is an offset litho in black, green and yellow, produced by TOPS for COSATU, Johannesburg. This poster was produced to advertise COSATU's regional congress, which focused on issues that the federation was facing.SOUTH AFRICAN SCOOTER DRIVERS UNION (AL2446_0264)

 International Literacy Day September 8 AL2446_1118 This poster publicises COSATU's participation in International Literacy DayLIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN : WOMEN WORKERS! : UNITE & FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS : 6 MONTHS PAID MATERNITY LEAVE AL2446_1006 produced by the Gardens Media Group/ CAP for COSATU, Johannesburg.This poster refers to COSATU recognising the need to pay special attention to the organising of women workers. Support the strikers! : SOLIDARITY! AL2446_0710

 WE FIGHT FOR : GOOD WAGES - A SAFE AND HEALTHY WORKPLACE - NO UNJUST FIRINGS - NO RETRENCHMENT - NO UNEMPLOYMENT - EQUALITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN - IN THE WORKPLACE - GOOD WORKPLACE AL2446_3547 produced by TGWU, Johannesburg. This image refers to the TGWU general poster. SAPEKOE FARMWORKERS : NO MONEY NO HOME AL2446_0770 produced by the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), Durban. This poster depicts how the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) exposed the oppressive working conditions on a tea estate and how they demanded union recognition.RACIST HOTEL BOSSES! :REINSTATE THE WORKERS YOU FIRED FOR OBSERVING JUNE 16 : VIVA CCAWUSA! VIVA COSATU! AL2446_1117 produced by the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA), Johannesburg. This poster depicts the famous image of Hector Pieterson in front of a hotel. This image represents the hotel workers who were dismissed after staying away on 16 June. South African workers demanded recognition of 16 June as an official public holiday.


COSATU EDUCATION CONFERENCE : COSATU COURSES : WORKING CLASS CULTURE (AL2446_1234) This poster was produced to advertise COSATU's first Education Conference.	COSATU INTIMIDATION CONFERENCE:COSATU COURSES :EXECUTIVE CLASS CULTURE (AL2446_2625) This poster, which is titled as ‘Poster 85’, was produced by unknown parties to undermine the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and sabotage COSATU’s first Education Conference (which was advertised as ‘Poster 84’).

NUMSA WITS REGION general meeting for women workers AL2446_0767 produced by NUMSA, Johannesburg. This poster advertises a general meeting for women workers.AL2446_1759 MATERNITY RIGHTS FOR WORKING WOMEN roduced by the HIC, Johannesburg. This poster lists women workers' minimum demands for maternity rights.

AL2446_1397 IZISEBENZI ZOKUDLA ZIPHOQELELA IZINDAWO EZIPHEPHILE NEZINEMPILO : UMSINDO UNGAKWENZA ISITHULU FOOD WORKERS DEMAND A HEALTHY AND SAFE WORKPLACE : NOISE CAN MAKE YOU DEAF produced at the Screen Training Program (STP) by the Health Information Centre (HIC) for the Food and Canning Workers’ Union (FCWU), Johannesburg. This poster depicts the dangers of noise in the workplace and how food workers fought for a healthy and safe workplace. NORTHERN TRANSVAAL : Regional Women's Congress : COSATU WOMEN UNITE AL2446_1250 This poster advertised a regional women's congress that was organised by COSATU's Northern Transvaal structure.

 Domestic and Farmworkers : Organise or STARVE AL2446_1097 The boers took our land and broke our families up they forced us to work fro them. Now after 100’s of years we still have no legal rights. We still earn starvation wages. We get no rest, no peace. We grow their food and we look after their children. But we are hungry and our children who we never see are dying. We cannot go on like this. We demand at least the same rights as other workers.  Farm and domestic workers must be covered by the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment act Now!AL2446_2583 WE DEMAND JOBS AND A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL  produced for the Clothing Workers Union (CLOWU) by the Community Arts Program (CAP), Cape Town. This image depicts a cartoon that CLOWU wanted to use to educate workers.



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