The emergence of drivers’ unions in the 1920s and 1930s highlights the wide range of strategies for social and economic organization available to workers in the Gold Coast. Particularly among workers who operated outside the conventional categories of the colonial economy, unions provided only one of many models for labor organization. This article argues that self-employed drivers appropriated unions and an international discourse of labor organization in the early twentieth century in order to best represent their interests to the colonial government. However, their understanding of the function and organization of unions reflected a much broader repertoire of social and economic organizing practices. Rather than representing any exceptional form of labor organization, drivers highlight the circulation of multiple ideas surrounding labor organization in the early decades of the twentieth century, which informed the ways in which Africans engaged in the wage labor economy and implicitly challenged British colonial assumptions about labor, authority, and control.
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