ELA was founded in 1911 and has already celebrated its centenary. It was set up at a time of great change in Basque society at the start of the 20th century. It initially sought to respond to the need to channel the aspirations of many Basque workers to overcome the helplessness and precariousness at the time, as well as to defend the national feeling of belonging to a nation, the Basque one. Thus, the regulations were approved in July 1911 and the “Basque Workers’ Solidarity” was founded.

From 1911 to Franco’s coup d’état in 1936, ELA rapidly spread among the Basque working class in the Basque Country. The Congresses held during that period reflected the endeavour to consolidate the organisation and for it to be a useful tool for the Basque working class.

ELA has always been particularly aware of and given great importance to the areas of international collaboration. In 1993, it decided to join the World Workers Confederation (WWC). The bleak period of Franco's dictatorship subsequently meant that much of the activity of the trade union's leaders in exile was to consolidate links and open up new areas with the international trade union movement. ELA was also a founding member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 1949. Later, in 1973, at the end of the dictatorship, ELA joined the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). ELA is a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and its professional organisations are part of the International Professional Secretariats. Nowadays ELA is founding member of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

ELA has now consolidated its majority representative position in the Basque Country, by reasserting its national and class values, and boasts a very significant majority membership among Basque workers. It has thus proven to be a useful tool to defend the collective interests of the Basque working class.