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Article from the Globe and Mail . Read through the article entitled: “ Union battles loom after Tories push to overhaul labour laws” and consider the following: What is happening in this situation between the federal union and the Conservative government?

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article from the globe and mail
Article from the Globe and Mail
  • Read through the article entitled: “Union battles loom after Tories push to overhaul labour laws” and consider the following:
    • What is happening in this situation between the federal union and the Conservative government?
    • What are the reasons both sides are giving for this change in policy?
    • In there a side that you are in agreement with more after reading this? If so, which?
    • Make a prediction about what we will be discussing in class today.
what is a union
What is a union?
  • Definition of a trade union:
    • an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.
  • Large groups of professionals are often represented by unions. Examples: teachers, many tradespeople, professional actors, nurses, etc
  • Unions protect the rights of their members and negotiate contracts with employers.
the world in 1919
The World in 1919
  • Russian Revolution: Rise of Communism (1917)
  • World War One is ending: soldiers are starting to come home (1919)
  • Costs of the War are

causing huge spikes in

inflation in Canada

(photo of powerhouse

workers in Philadelphia,


winnipeg manitoba 1919
Winnipeg, Manitoba: 1919
  • Employers are becoming more demanding: asking for longer hours, less pay and creating unsafe work environments
  • A recent strike in 1918 caused the employers in Winnipeg to give in to some concessions, so workers are eager to see if they can make that happen again.
tensions felt throughout canada
Tensions felt throughout Canada
  • These escalating issues between employers and employees were not just limited to Winnipeg. Across Canada, unions of all trades and job sectors were unhappy with the employment conditions
  • In March, 1919, the western labour leaders met to discuss the creation of One Big Union. It was successful and launched in June of that year.
  • In 1919, workers in Winnipeg were asking for the following rights:
    • right to collective bargaining(currently not recognized by employers)
    • a living wage
    • an eight-hour day (depending on the union, some were asking for twelve-hour days)
  • Employers refused to give in to the demands
may 15 1919 strike is declared
May 15, 1919 – Strike is declared
  • Strikers felt they were standing up for their rights, employers and much of the public saw it as an attempt at overthrowing the current system.
  • Because the walkout eventually climbed to 30,000 employees, much of

the city’s systems

were crippled,

including utilities,

post offices,



a divided community
A divided community
  • All citizens, striking or not, were affected by the limited services now available to the city of Winnipeg
  • Other unions joined in an act of solidarity known as “sympathy strikes”
  • Because of the continued notion of the “Red Scare”, some opponents labelled the strikers “Bolsheviks” and accused them of attempting to start a revolution.
world war veterans
World War veterans
  • As veterans came home, they were met with high cost of goods and unemployment
  • They supported the workers through the strike and many volunteered to help through demonstrations and parades
  • This caused added

sympathy from the

public for the strikers

activity primary documents
Activity: primary documents
  • Review the two articles from Winnipeg newspapers at the time of the strike
  • Consider the perspectives that each one takes and answer the questions on the attached worksheets
  • Be prepared to share your answers with the class.
a country divided
A country divided:
  • “Canada most emphatically wants immigrants… But at the same time she does not want that element if foreign agitators whose nihilistic hysteria may be the natural product of the unfortunate lands from which they come.” – May 21, 1919, The Telegraph, Quebec
  • “If instead of denouncing every labor outbreak as “revolutionary” and “disloyal” an attempt was made to understand the reasons behind it, the causes which induce workingmen to act as they do, something might be accomplished toward permanent settlement.” – May 27, 1919, The World, Vancouver
listen radio broadcast cbc
Listen: radio broadcast (CBC)
government reaction
Government reaction
  • Arthur Meighen, Minister of Justice and Gideon Robertson, Minister of Labour, were sent to manage the conflict
  • Their perspective aligned with those believing it was a potential revolution.
  • When they arrived in Winnipeg, they met with local leaders and citizens, but refused to meet with the Strike Committee
government crackdown
Government crackdown
  • The federal government acted quickly: broadening the definition of sedition and changing immigration laws so that British-born immigrants could be deported
    • Sedition: conduct such as speech or organization that is deemed to tend toward insurrection against the established order
  • Under these new terms, 10 of the labour leaders were arrested.
bloody saturday
Bloody Saturday
  • As the standoff continued, strikers and sympathizers took to the streets of Winnipeg in an act of protest
  • The army and Royal North-West Mounted Police were ordered into the crowd, killing one person and injuring 30 more.
  • By the end of the day, the streets were controlled by the police and military
who was right
Who was right?
  • Answer the questions on the worksheet and consider the following: did the government do what was required in order to resolve the matter or could they have done something different
  • Once decided, stand on the spectrum where you feel you are.
in the end
In the end…
  • Finally, on June 25, fearing further violence, workers returned to their jobs
  • Many union leaders were convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to jail time of up to 2 years
  • It took another 3 decades before workers were able to secure union recognition and collective bargaining in Canada
let s compare then to now
Let’s compare then to now
  • Thinking back to the article we read at the beginning of class, what similarities and differences do you see between how the government treated these “illegal” unions in 1919 and how they are treated today?
  • What can we conclude about the necessity of them through our history and into today?