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Rebooting the rank and file: why there’s still hope for the unions

Britain's unions have been on the slide for 40 years. But with new campaigns and a left-wing Labour Party high in the polls, a fragile optimism is now stirring

By Gavin Kelly   November 2017

Thousands marched in protest against austerity. But what is the future of the trade union movement? Photo: Getty

Richard Williams has a story like many others in Britain’s post-crash economy. He’s a young self-described “creative” trying to make his way working for himself. Based in his native South Wales he talks with a quiet resolve about how he’s striving to build a business designing marketing material for housing companies.

His tale is, however, exceptional in one regard: he’s recently joined a trade union. Previously he had no links to…

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