Collegia: The First Trade Unions?
journal contributionposted on 06.06.2017, 01:03 by Jerrard, Marjorie
The paper refutes claims made by Melbourne University classicist Andrew Turner in 1994 by focusing on the available epigraphical, literary, legal and even archaeological evidence to demonstrate that Roman collegia were not just clubs which organised funeral funds but were actually industrial organisations that were more akin to modem trade unions than to simple superannuation funds. A comparison of Roman collegia, particularly the collegium fabrum tignuarum and the collegium fullonum, against classic and modem definitions of trade unions representing thoughts from both sides of the Atlantic and also Australia demonstrates that the Roman organisations definitely fulfilled industrial, political, social, and economic roles that are met by modem trade unions. Even if the polemical and largely outdated argument that there is a thread of continuity from collegia through to medieval guilds and then to trade unions is discounted, there is enough evidence to prove that the collegium was the Roman version of the trade union.