Jayaben Desai led the Grunwick strike, campaigning for workers’ rights when many had little power, and no voice. She walked out of her low-paid job at the Grunwick Photo Processing plant in Willesden in August 1976, saying to her manager: ‘What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. In a zoo, there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager.’ The strike lasted two years.
Support for the strike soon came from workers in other industries, including the miners and the postal workers who travelled from all over Britain to picket the factory. Bigger unions supported the strike at first. It was unusual at the time for unions to show such support for migrant workers. On 7th November 1977 over 8,000 people protested and clashes with the police led to 243 of the protesters being injured.
Despite the strike it ended without achieving the aim of trade union recognition in their workplace. However the newspaper headlines at the time showed that attitudes were changing and employers could no longer simply ignore their low-paid workers.