Pelloutier Labour Exchanges

Unique places for labour union meetings in big cities


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FR France


About the project Edit

Through lectures and night classes, labour exchanges are the among the first supports in popular education.

Fernand Pelloutier was the First Secretary of the Fédération des bourses du travail (a type of labour council in France), founded in 1892 at the Saint-Étienne congress. The Fédération des bourses du travail was part of the labour movement’s foundation when it organized unionized workers in the territories.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Fernand Pelloutier, who died in 1901 at the age of 33, was one of the main forces of an unparalleled experience – the Labour Exchange.

The Labour Exchange was many things: a gathering place for the most divers of unions, space for anti-establishment shaping another society, employment offices, cultural and professional training centres, and a place of concrete solidarity between employees and the unemployed.

In the few years between the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the number of exchanges grew and became centres of worker-class resistance and with time, according to Fernand Pelloutier’s formula, “social revolution through general strike”.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The Labour Exchange created services that can be divided into four classes:

1) Service of Mutuality that includes: placement, unemployment assistance, allowance for travelling or accidents, accident relief

2) Educational Services that includes: a library, information office, social museum, professional and general courses

3) Propaganda Services that includes: statistical and preparatory economic studies, creating industrial, agricultural and Maritime unions, sailors’ homes, cooperative societies, etc.

4) Service of Resistance that is responsible for the way that strikes are organized, strike funds and protests against troubling bills for economic action.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The Labour Exchange was to become the social organization’s home base. They intended to replace the municipality. As a federation, it was to be a flexible organization to replace the department in the industrial agricultural region.

From 1892 to 1902, The Exchange grew quickly from 22 to 86.

However, after World War I, priority was given to the departmental unions at the detriment of the Exchange. Support services were gradually abandoned under the left-wing political parties that transferred them to the towns or the State (unemployment relief, professional courses, free placement services).

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Until the end of the 19th century, these structures helped unions to organize. As a result, organized labour movement in the CGT seized the locals and made veritable fortresses and organized workers.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

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