The Friendly Society of Operative Tobacconists, a craft union, was established in 1834. In 1836 it became the United Tobacconists' Society and in 1881 the United Kingdom Operative Tobacconists' Society. The union was originally an all-male combination of skilled craftsmen. At a conference held in 1918 a decision was made to transform the union into an industrial union for all tobacco workers regardless of occupation or gender. This reorganisation was implemented in 1925 and it was renamed the Tobacco Workers' Union.
During 1925 the first full time General Secretary and Organiser were appointed. In 1926 the union disaffiliated from the TUC following acrimonious disputes with other unions over membership 'poaching'. It reaffiliated in 1941. Women were recruited to the union in large numbers during the Second World War and became a majority of the total membership.
In 1986 the TWU transferred engagements to the Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Section (TASS) under an arrangement whereby a TASS Tobacco Sector was created with a special entrenched constitutional status. In 1988, following the amalgamation of TASS with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) to form the Management, Science and Finance Union (MSF), this special constitutional status was given up.
The head office of the union (in reality the home of its General Secretary) was in Liverpool for many years prior to 1918. The head office was then moved to London, whence it was evacuated to Reading in 1941, returning to London in 1957.
The National Cigar and Tobacco Workers' Union was formed in 1918 by the amalgamation of the Female Cigar Makers' Protection Union (formed 1887), the Cigar Sorters' and Bundlers' Mutual Association (London) (formed 1857), the Cigar Makers' Mutual Association (formed c 1832), and the Tobacco Strippers' Mutual Association (formed 1851). In 1946 it merged with the Tobacco Workers' Union.
Reference: The Tobacco Workers' Union (Tobacco Workers' Union, 1984).