India’s trade union movement is not only the oldest in South Asia but also has perhaps the most chequered history. The movement traces back to the formation of the Bombay Mill Hands Association on 24 April 1890, followed by that of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1920. The trade union movement was an integral part of the freedom struggle. In the post-independence period the movement built its strength through the ‘socialist’ years, from the 1950s to the 1970s. However, from the 1980s the socialist mantra began to give way to globalization. In the early 1990s, under the direction of Manmohan Singh who was then finance minister, the first wave of neoliberal economic reforms came about. Trade unions began to be portrayed as impediments to ‘progress’ and economic reform.