Tom Mann (1856-1941) was one of the leading figures in the history of the British Labour movement. After completing an engineering apprenticeship in the Midlands he moved to London.
Unable to find work in his trade, Mann did a variety of menial jobs before being employed in an engineering shop in 1879. Mann’s foreman, Sam Mainwaring, was a socialist and introduced him to the ideas of William Morris and other reformers.
In 1881 Mann joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and soon afterwards participated in his first strike.
He also became a member of the Fabian Society and the Social Democratic Federation (SDF).
A leading advocate of the eight-hour day, Mann also played a key role during the London Dock Strike of 1889. Ben Tillett asked Mann to manage the distribution of relief tickets to his union members.
Tillett’s union was demanding four hours continuous work at a time and a minimum rate of sixpence (2.5p) an hour.
During the dispute Mann emerged with Tillett and John Burns as one of the three main leaders of the strike.