SACCAWU was founded as CCAWUSA (The Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa) in 1975, with Emma Mashinini as the general secretary and M. Ledwaba as president.

It was renamed SACCAWU following a merger between Cape Liquor and Catering, Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union (HARWU) and Retail and Allied Workers Union (RAWU) in 1989. This was in response to a clarion call by the 1985 inaugural congress of the trade union federation COSATU to consolidate unions through mergers, to realise the principle/policy of one union in one industry.

SACCAWU (The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union)is a national union with eight regions and more than 500 locals countrywide. The supreme body of the union that is responsible for policy development, election of leadership and programmes is a national congress that takes place every three years.

SACCAWU is affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) at national level and to two global union federations within the hospitality sectors. These are the Union Network International (UNI) and Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF), both of which have their offices in Switzerland.

SACCAWU leadership participates in the structures of these federations, including their education and solidarity programmes. SACCAWU believes in a strong shop-floor shop stewards movement and as a result has, in all companies, smaller, localised versions of a National Shop Stewards Council (Company Councils) that constitute the shop-floor layer of leadership. SACCAWU subscribes to one union in one industry, worker control, democracy, unity and social emancipation, as well as a society free of all forms of discrimination, exploitation and oppression. It further subscribes to workers’ solidarity, one federation in one country and internationalism.

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