Today we remember the significant contribution made to the Australian union movement by Ted Grayndler of the Australian Workers’ Union, who was born at One Tree Hill in New South Wales on October 12, 1867.
Ted left school in his early teens and worked a number of jobs in the New South Wales outback. He was a shearer, a drover, and a miner, depending on what jobs were available.
In 1886 he was a foundation member of the Shearers’ Union, which later joined with the General Labourers’ Union to form the Australian Workers’ Union – the AWU – in 1894.
Ted gave a lifetime of service to the AWU.
In 1895 he was appointed as an organiser for the union in New South Wales, and in 1900 he became Secretary of its Victoria-Riverina branch.
Under his leadership the AWU massively expanded its organisation in rural industries. The union branch was headquartered in Ballarat, where Ted met a young James Scullin. Ted was a mentor to Scullin during his early career, with the young man later serving as Australia’s Prime Minister.
Ted left his post with the AWU in 1909, but he was soon back at the union’s service.
In 1912 he was elected as the AWU’s National Secretary, moving to Sydney.
His biographer noted that from 1912 to 1940 he prepared all of the union’s Arbitration Court Cases personally.
He was a fierce and powerful advocate for the workers covered by his union. He remained in his post almost right up until his death on the 12th of March, 1943.