Exactly one century ago, British industrialists came up with a dirty solution for the «troublemakers» that posed a threat to their unbridled pursuit of profit: they started a secret blacklist and added the names of activists and trade unionists agitating for better working conditions. The Economic League gave bosses a phone number to call if they wanted to check on a prospective employee for anything other than passive obedience to the state and to those overseeing the cogs of the money-making machines. It was disbanded in 1993 following pressure from press investigations, but its blacklist files on the construction industry were simply carried over to a new organisation, The Consulting Association, run by former League employee Ian Kerr, to continue the vetting procedures. More than two thousand of its files were seized by a data protection organisation in 2009, and their revelations form the basis of documentary Solidarity . In interviews with a number of workers whose job prospects and personal lives were seriously impacted by this clandestine targeting and surveillance, director Lucy Parker conveys the human toll of such sinister methods of societal control.
Members of the Blacklist Support Group started a decade ago to campaign for justice and truth through a public inquiry, give shocking accounts of how little it took to get on the wrong side of those hiring and firing. Any gesture of sympathy for non-moderate causes, no matter how minor, could get you a file, not to mention any legitimate plea for attention to health and safety. A worker who complained about asbestos was sacked the next day, and his information written up. A former serviceman who wrote a letter to his local council praising it for awarding Nelson Mandela a Freedom medal was also put on the list for his effort (institutionalised racism also drove which actions were deemed suspect). A female picketer reads herself described as a «nasty piece of work» in her file and asserts that the behaviour ascribed to her was exaggerated or fabricated. Another worker recalls a Jubilee Line Extension colleague in London whose morale was driven so low that he hung himself. Blacklisted workers would battle to …
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