June Rose Nala was born in Durban, Natal. She graduated from the Workers College at Ruskin College, Oxford.
Before becoming active in the Natal trade union movement, Nala worked at the Frame Group textile plant. She described her first day on the job in The Road to Democracy in South Africa:
We were taken into our departments...and told that you will be a weaver...I am told that my minimum pay was going to be about R6 to 8...The next thing is you are...on the loom with piece rates. The normal pay becomes something you never ever come across... (Nala in Hemson, Legassick and Ulrich, 2006: 245)
Through her trade union activism, Nala became involved in organising the Durban workers strikes in 1973. In September 1973 Nala was elected to the executive of National Union of Textile Workers (NUTW). However, as a result she was fired from Afritex three months later. Nala was elected secretary of the Natal Benefit Fund in 1975. In March 1976 Nala was charged with instigating the strike at the Natal Cotton and Woollen Mills. Then in May, along with Obed Zuma, also of NUTW, she was arrested and detained. She was eventually released on December 1976 after which the charges of instigation were dropped. After her release she became general secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU) which had been formed in 1973.
Between 1989 and 1993 Nala was a lecturer at the sociology programme at the University of Natal. During this time Nala worked closely with the Trade Union Movement and assisted in establishing the Workers’ College. The Worker’s College had a strong relationship with the University which was formalised in 1999.
Hemson, D., Legassick, M. and Ulrich, N., 2006. “White Activists and the Revival of the Workers’ Movement” in The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 2 1970-1980. South Africa: Unisa Press|