ME Jallow founded the Gambia Workers’ Union (GWU) in 1956, and held the position of General Secretary until the mid 1980s. GWU’s base consisted of unskilled laborers, especially the growing number of workers in Bathurst. The union first began by supporting industrial workers who were taking action to protest low pay. In February 1960, the colonial government, pressured by an upcoming election, responded positively to a strike in Bathurst led by daily paid workers. Government officials formed a commission on wage rates and increased the minimum wage by 25 percent.
Between 1965 and 1994, The Gambia was ruled over by Sir Dawda Jawara, who had allowed the IMF and World Bank to introduce Structural Adjustment Plans (SAPs) that sapped The Gambia of prosperity and fostered widespread discontent. There was initial celebration when in 1994 Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh took control of the government in a military coup. However, Jammeh proved himself to be a corrupt and repressive leader, and his election in 1998, two years after he seized power, is generally considered to have been rigged.