The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is a federation of state, regional and industry-based branches representing more than 130,000 members across Australia. It is Australia's oldest general union, formed in 1886 when William Guthrie Spence and David Temple began organising shearers in Creswick. In 1887 unions in Creswick, Bourke and Wagga joined to form the Amalgamated Shearers Union of Australia. It soon grew to represent shearers across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In 1894 it amalgamated with the General Labourers Union to form the Australian Workers Union.
The AWU struggled with falling membership during the economic downturn of the 1890s, but recovered in the early years of the new century. Federation brought a Commonwealth industrial relations system. The AWU was the first union to secure a federal award under the new conciliation and arbitration system: the Pastoral Industry Award. This award helped to ensure that workers, not just bosses, had a say in determining pay rates and workplace conditions.
In 1993 the AUW amalgamated with the FIME (Federation of Industrial Manufacturing & Engineering Employees), with a combined membership of 160,000 people. Today, the AWU represents working Australians from all walks of life.
Australian Workers' Union website http://www.awu.net.au/national/about/history.html