The GMB, Britain's General Union as it is known today, was formed through the merger of a number of unions throughout the last century.
Its first battle in spring 1889 ended with a reduction of the London Gas Workers' hours from 12 to 8 per day. The union began as the Gas Workers and General Union was formed in March 1889 in East London by one of the greatest pioneers of the Labour movement, Will Thorne. Will Thorne was born in Birmingham in 1857. He lived in great poverty and began his working life in a brickworks at the age of 6.
Asked why he had dedicated his life to the labour and trade union movement Thorne explained:
There is a world of freedom, beauty and equality to gain, where everyone will have an opportunity to express the best that is in them for the benefit of all, making the world a place more to our heart's desire and the better to dwell in.
These principles still guide the GMB today.
A resolution was passed in favour of a gas workers' union being formed, with the 8 hour day as one of its objects… Sunday morning March 31st 1889 — a lovely sunny morning — was the birthday of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers.