GMB Union puts faith in new branch

Download as PDF

One of Britain’s largest trade unions has launched a new branch aimed at Jewish faith workers.

GMB’s new Jewish Faith Workers’ Branch had its inaugural launch event this week in Hendon.

Attending the event were the founding members of the new branch which aims to represent Jewish faith workers and improve the terms and conditions of their employment.

At the event Gary Smith, General Secretary of GMB, spoke about the central role in labour movement history played by Jewish workers and how the new specialist branch will help to improve the lives of members who fulfil a religious function in the Jewish community.

The initiative, founded by Rabbi David Mason and Rabbi Richard Jacobi, has been supported by the Jewish Labour Movement over a number of years to successfully launch the ground-breaking branch.

Gary Smith, General Secretary of GMB Union said:

“Today marks a remarkable day and a new chapter in both GMB’s and the wider labour movements’ history. Our union was co-founded by Eleanor Marx in 1889 who, after seeing the dire conditions of Jewish factory workers in London’s East End, and led by her sense of justice, fought for a more compassionate world.

“It is in this great tradition that we have listened to our members and supported their efforts to launch a specialist faith branch for those working for Jewish faith employers. Workers’ interests are best served when people organise themselves, from the bottom up, not the top down.

Warren Kenny, GMB London Regional Secretary said:

“May I thank all the founding members of the new Jewish Faith Workers’ Branch who have volunteered their time and effort to get us to this point. Today our bond endures, stronger than ever, written in over 130 years of standing shoulder to shoulder.”

Rabbi David Mason, one of the founding members said:

“I would like to thank the GMB for building this new branch. There is a long history of the Jewish community being part of the trade union story. This branch will allow that story to continue and give Rabbinic staff across the community an important voice on their workplace conditions. It has been a pleasure to have been part of bringing this to fruition.”

Mike Katz, National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement said:

“We’re incredibly proud to have been part of establishing this ground-breaking, new branch. It’s in our values as an organisation to champion trade unionism in the Jewish community and beyond. Rabbis and Jewish faith workers, just like all workers, deserve trade union representation that advocates for them.”


Editors Notes:

  • Jewish faith workers include rabbis, rebbetzins, student rabbis, chaplains, youth leaders and all those employed to carry out a religious function by synagogues and Jewish faith spaces
  • The branch is cross-communal and currently representing United Synagogue, Masorti, Reform and Liberal rabbis
  • The Jewish Labour Movement has been the Jewish affiliate of the Labour Party since 1920. JLM has a long association with the trade union movement including links to Jewish tailoring unions that merged to form the GMB.
  • In the 1930s relatively small, local unions based around the Jewish community became part of GMB. From the turn of the 1930s, the journal of the Tailor and Garment Workers’ Union had been publishing eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities. Prominent in the anti-fascist, counter-demonstrations, of the mid-1930s was the London Number 2 branch, led by Aaron Rollin, which – from March 1936 – carried the banner of the London Trouser Makers’ Union at its head. This amazing banner, in red silk – with slogans in both English and Yiddish, and showing men and women workers united in struggle – survives to this day, and is preserved in GMB’s London Region Office.

You can read what Warren Kenny, London Regional Secretary said here.