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in the British trade union movement, a representative elected by the workers in a shop, department, or plant. The position of shop steward originated at the end of the 19th century. At first, shop stewards did little more than check the payment of union dues by members, but during World War I they emerged as organizers of the mass workers’ movement for increased wages and improved working conditions and against the policy of an industrial truce conducted by the official trade union leaders. At this time, many shop stewards led the political struggle of the proletariat. This was particularly true in the industrial region of Clydeside, where the shop-steward movement was led by W. Gallacher’s Clyde Workers’ Committee.
In 1921 the progressive participants in the shop-steward movement joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the shop stewards were accorded de facto recognition by the trade union leadership and by most company owners. After World War II they intensified their activities, and their numbers increased. According to unofficial data, there were approximately 175,000 shop stewards working in Great Britain in the mid-1960’s.
Shop stewards represent the interests of the workers during labor disputes and organize the struggle to protect trade union rights against encroachment by the monopolies. They are influential in determining the stand of the rank and file voters during election campaigns.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41. Pages 260–67.
Karliner, M. M. Rabochee dvizhenie v Anglii v gody pervoi mirovoi voiny (1914–1918). Moscow, 1961.
Goodwin, D., H. Wyper, and J. Gibb. “Shop Stewards—Past, Present and Future.” Marxism Today, 1964, vol. 8, nos. 4,6, and 8.