(K. Brent Tomer),
A DIMINUITIVE woman in a sari and buttoned-up cardigan stands with her right arm aloft in triumph, as a long line of police holds back crowds of people lining a terraced street. This eye-catching photo (below) captures Jayaben Desai, a strike leader, being cheered by thousands of supporters during the strike at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Dollis Hill, northwest London that began in August 1976.
Workers, mainly Indian women and men, walked out in protest at exploitative and demeaning treatment such as being coerced into working overtime and having to ask to use the toilet, and sought to form a union. Desai led the strike. Her photo takes pride of place in “We Are The Lions”, an exhibition commemorating the dispute’s 40th anniversary at The Library in Willesden Green, half a mile from where the strike unfolded. The title comes from an altercation between Desai and her boss, who said he was not running “a zoo”. She replied: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. In a zoo there are many types of animal. Some are monkeys who dance to your tune; others are lions who can bite your…Continue reading