Purpose of unions• Organize workers collectively to represent the interests of workers and the working class• We organize in the workplace, in the community and throughout the country• For better treatment for workers and the working class by employers and the government• Has our purpose changed over the years?• Let’s explore this issue during this discussion
How did Canadians make a living for 14,000 years?
How did Canadians make a living for 14,000 years?• Hunting• Gathering
Canadian Labour History, 6 eras• Beginnings of industrial revolution in Canada, mid-19th Century; workers united to resist power of capital by late 19th Century• Workers’ revolt, early 20th Century• Organizing in the Great Depression, 1929- 1939• Labour gains in World War II, 1939-45• Post – war years (up to 1976)• Labour movement today
Beginnings of industrial revolution in Canada, mid-19th Century andworkers united to resist power of capital in late 19 Century th
1850-early 1900s industrial revolution in Canada• With the emergence of capitalism and the industrial revolution, workers needed to fight back to defend their interests• Working conditions were terrible, hours were long and work was very unsafe; many workers were killed or maimed• Wages were very low and the standard of living very poor• Work included building of canals, railways, factories• Western Canada, heavily resource based with – Mining – Forestry – Fishing
Loggers having lunch;Miners in Rossland; Womentextile workers in Toronto
First unions in Canada were craft unions• Unions were organized according to workers’ skills, e.g. machinists, carpenters, railway workers, etc. were all in different unions• Employers were very hostile• Governments declared unions illegal• Workers organized unions in secret• Wages were low; hours long; jobs were dangerous; no job security• 1830s and 40s huge strikes in canal construction and logging
Hamilton, Ontario demonstration,1872: a fight for the 8 hour day?
Nine hours movement• In 1872 workers organized for reduction of work day by 2 or 3 hours• Hamilton: 1,500 workers took to streets• Failed but did generate basis for trade unions on railways and in the crafts
What happened in Vancouver in 1889?• Vancouver & District Labour Council was founded
Early struggles hard-fought• Employers threatened and fired workers for forming unions• Employers hired thugs to beat workers• Governments used army and police to beat and imprison workers• Employers and governments used courts to imprison unionists, grant injunctions against picketing and financially cripple unions
Industrial unions began• Organized all workers in a workplace, regardless of their job, race, or heritage• Development of true working class consciousness• Strikes in 1880s (e.g. boot and shoe workers) but employers were more powerful• Knights of Labour arrived from the U.S. warning of dangers of unfettered capitalism and Canadian workers organized, but it collapsed by late 1880s
American craft unions into Canada• By the 1890s, business unionism had arrived here from the U.S.• Erosion of class consciousness, protection for only their own members• Opposed, e.g. to establishing a minimum wage• Accepted capitalism and its tenets. Since the ‘pie’ the capitalists allowed labour was only so big, they wanted a bigger slice for their own members and not to unskilled workers.
Canadian unions were industrial unions• But the American craft unions in Canada were successful in cutting deals with the employers for their members and taking over the central trade union body.• Canadian unions were expelled from the central trade union body in 1902 if there was an American union with the same jurisdiction.
Workplaces became larger• Automobile assembly lines in Ontario employing thousands of workers• Hundreds of thousands of workers from Europe, with diverse languages and culture• Thousands from Asia, especially Chinese workers built the railroad in the west• But unions, to our shame, were racist and did not organize Chinese workers
First major strike in BC, 1903Railway workers struck Canadian Pacific Rail for union recognitionLabour leader Frank Rogers was killed while picketing at the docks by CPRprivate police during that strike, becoming the British Columbia movementsfirst recognized labour martyr.
Workers’ Compensation• Dangerous working conditions led to workers being killed and maimed on the job, including child workers• Employers had suffered big lawsuits, especially from the families of child workers who could not be said to have known about the risks. Juries of peers were sympathetic to child workers.• The employers feared more lawsuits and thus wanted an insurance system which would protect them from lawsuits• Thus the workers’ compensation system began first in Ontario in 1914, then spread across the country• Employers paid the cost of the system and injured workers or the families of dead workers were paid benefits
Workers fought back and joined industrial unions• Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from U.S. from 1905 on led many strikes• BC Federation of Labour founded in 1910• IWW strike: 1912 in B.C. massive strikes in construction camps: workers spoke up to 16 different languages but united to fight back and strike• Depression of 1913 put an end to fight backs
Pre WWI, depression, 1913-15• Employers on the attack• Job shortage ended by WWI but speed-up on assembly lines• Workers fought back• But Industrial Disputes Act gave power to government to end disputes and impose wages and conditions suitable to employers
End of WWI, workers continued to organize and fight back• Industrial unions expanded and some towns experimented with one union for all workers (e.g. Trail, BC)• Public sector workers (e.g. postal workers, teachers) began to organize• Demands by all for: – 8 hour day – Union recognition – Better wages
Canada’s first general strike• Canada’s first general strike (called a one day labour holiday by the organizers) occurred following the murder of labour leader, Ginger Goodwin, in 1918, at the Cumberland coal mines on Vancouver Island• Coal mines were incredibly dangerous places to work throughout Canada with thousands of men and children dying in explosions
1919• 150,000 workers on strike in various workplaces across the country• Many unions opposed to capitalism and imperialism and inspired by Russian Revolution• One Big Union founded in Calgary
1919 Winnipeg General Strike May 15 – June 26• Workers demanded union recognition and higher wages• Employers, vigilantes and government fought them• Sympathy strikes in Brandon, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, and in as many as 20 other towns• Police attacked the Winnipeg strikers, arresting and injuring many, and killing 2• Federal government intervened, deported many strikers
Women workers• Canada was largely a sexist society which discriminated against women• Canadian women fought for and won the right to vote in 1918• Canadian women workers were paid less than Canadian men• They had the worst and hardest jobs and promotions were denied them because they were women
Minimum wage laws, 1918• For women only and only in some occupations• Men in unions were said to be able to protect themselves through their unions
1920s, unemployment• Unions are weaker when jobs are scarce• But when employers imposed wage cuts of 37% in Cape Breton and fired union leaders, coal miners fought back in a 5 year strike (1922 to 1927)• Police and militia used against strikers• Much public support for miners across the country• They finally won union recognition and restored most of their standard of living• Federal government forced to restrict use of military in strikes.
Great Depression, 1929 - 1939• Huge numbers of unemployed, about 30% of workforce• Many rode on top of railroad boxcars from coast to coast looking for work• Workers, especially led by Communist Party through the Workers Unity League (1928 to 1935), fought back and won many strikes• 1937, 10,000 workers, many women, struck Dominion Textile in Quebec. Quebec government enacted most repressive labour legislation in country.
1935, Ballantyne Pier strike, Vancouver, led by CP police hunted for strikers
On to Ottawa Trek: leavingKamloops, Calgary joiners, Regina Riot
Strikes in BC led by CP• The strike wave peaked in 1935 when unemployed men flooded Vancouver to protest conditions in the relief camps run by the military in remote areas throughout the province.• On to Ottawa trek: more than 1,000 unemployed workers left Vancouver riding the railroad for Ottawa to protest to federal government; joined by 1,000 more along the way; but were stopped by police in Regina, half way there
Harold Pritchett (Canadian) and Harry Bridges (US), joining CIO in 1937
Industrial Unionism again• CIO (Committee of Industrial Organizations) formed in U.S.; Communist Party in Canada (founded in 1921) disbanded WUL and became main organizers of many CIO unions in Canada.
Oshawa, 1937• One of most significant strikes in Canadian history• 4,000 auto assembly plant workers at General Motors plant in Oshawa went on strike for union recognition• Demands: – Union recognition – 8 hour day – Better wages and working conditions – Seniority system to eliminate favouritism• Union won union recognition and improvements in other areas after 2 weeks; company concerned about losing market share
World War II• Labour shortages due to workers going to war overseas led to increased power of unions• By 1943, strikes had exploded and more workers were on strike than in 1919• Big successful strikes of miners and steelworkers• Public opinion shifted in favour of workers
Kirkland Lake Strike, 1941 police protectedthe company and the scabs
1941 Kirkland Lake strike• Mine Mill Union organized workers• Government ruled workers could vote on whether they wanted a union• Company refused to allow the vote• Government refused to act to compel the vote• Workers went on strike• Government then sided with company by sending in police• Although strike was lost, many union leaders were formed in this struggle and went on to successfully organize elsewhere
1944, Unions Recognized by Federal Government• New law protected workers right to organize into unions• Required employers to recognize unions chosen by a majority of the workforce at the workplace• Grievance procedure to settle disputes between contracts, (e.g. unjust firings) deemed to part of collective agreement, whether written or not• Ended need for union to always strike for union recognition
Unemployment Insurance Plan, 1940• Because the lack of unemployment insurance benefits was such a central problem during the Great Depression, unions lobbied for an unemployment insurance system• Unemployment insurance plan, began in 1940: federal government run, for all working Canadians who are out of work, paid for by employers and workers, compulsory payment• Back then, most unemployed workers qualified for benefits.
1945 Ford strike• Context, during WWII, there was a shortage of labour making unions more powerful• 17,000 Windsor, Ontario auto workers struck for 99 days for union recognition and won• Result was the Rand formula imposed by Justice Rand: all workers must pay union dues (automatic check-off) and in exchange union must represent all workers
Collective Agreements negotiated byunion cover all workers in a workplace• Only workers are members of unions. It is illegal for managers and those who have the power to hire, fire and discipline to join the union.• Same wages for the same job• E.g. auto assembly workers all make the same rate of pay per hour• Skilled workers such as maintenance mechanics in an auto plant all make the same rate of pay per hour (about 10% more than an assembly worker)• Incentive pay is rare and unions are opposed to it because it pits workers against each other,
Women Shop Stewards BurrardDry Dock, North Vancouver, WWII
Duty of Fair RepresentationUnions have a legal obligation to represent individualworkers who have problems with the employers, if theyare:•Unjustly fired•Laid off out of seniority (principle is last hired, fired laidoff)•Not promoted fairly•Harassed by management•Do not receive proper pay whether regular pay,overtime pay, extra shift pay, vacation or holiday pay•Or for any other violation of the collective agreement
Cold War• Industrial unions in Canada were controlled from the United States.• Communist Party members still led many industrial unions in Canada and actively and successfully organized workers in the late 1940s and 1950s• But Cold War politics meant Communist Party union leadership began to be expelled from many trade unions and leadership went to CCF ( the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation which was social democratic) supporters.• 1956 Canadian Labour Congress founded from former competing central labour bodies.• Fights against CP leadership in various unions extended into 1960s and the CP leaders mostly lost.
Ideology• The post World War II period saw workers’ standard of living steadily increase and consumer goods became affordable• It became harder to convince workers that capitalism was a fundamental problem when workers felt their lives were improving• Capitalist ideology in education, the media and the workplace actively tried to persuade workers that their interests were the same as the owners• We call this ‘false consciousness’ when workers don’t realize that their interests are fundamentally different from the employers.
Communist Party influence diminished while CCF influence increased • Cold War propaganda made most workers fear the Soviet Union and the Canadian CP remained very close to the Soviet Union • Most workers stopped feeling that a revolution was necessary and that socialist ideas such as medicare could be achieved through supporting the CCF
Influx of Women Workers• Beginning in 1960s women began working more than ever before so that by the 1980s, 56% of women worked, comprising 42% of the Canadian workforce.• By mid 1980s, Canadian trade unions had 35% women members.
1960s: Public Sector Workers Organize• Postal workers wildcat strike in 1966 led to right to organize in law in 1967 meant many women became union members.• Public sector growth since WWII meant that many more women were employed.• Today, the largest union in Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is a public sector union
1960s• Collective agreements: unions guarantee there will be no strikes during the term of the agreement (usually 3 years)• But in the 1960s, wild-cat strikes were a growing phenomenon; indeed, these strikes accounted for one third of disputes reported in 1966. Workers ignored the legalities of their contracts and struck to protest speed-ups on the assembly line, the firing of a fellow worker, and slow resolution of grievances or contract negotiations.
Improvements in the 1960s in law or collective agreements• Two day weekends became standard• Two week paid vacations were required by law• One day paid holidays for Christmas and other holidays, 8 per year• Overtime pay of time and one half if work over 44-48 hours per week
Social programs introduced• Medicare, 1966: all Canadians receive free doctor visits and treatment at hospital (note: no drugs away from hospital and no dental)• Canada Pension Plan, 1965: federal government run, for all working Canadians, paid for by employers and workers compulsory payment; benefits according to income• 1971, Unemployment Insurance plan greatly improved: 42 weeks of benefit for 10 weeks of work and 15 weeks sickness and maternity benefits added (benefits have been mostly cut back during the 1990s and 2000s, except for parental leave being extended to 35 weeks in 2001)
Occupational Health and Safety• Labour militancy of early 1970s including many strikes over unsafe and unhealthy workplaces led to new occupational health and safety laws protecting workers• These laws are based on three fundamental rights for workers: to participate in joint worker and management occupational heath and safety committees; to know about workplace hazards; and to refuse unsafe work.
1972• Common front of Quebec unions, largest strike in Canadian history (250,000 workers) calling for major wage increases (context: high inflation) and improved working conditions• Started in public sector and spread to sympathy strikes in private sector• Confrontations with police• Union leaders were arrested and jailed• Public pressure led to their early release (4 months instead of one year)
Wage controls• In response to labour militancy of early 1970s fighting inflation and unsafe and unhealthy work through strikes,• Federal government imposed wage controls, October 14, 1975• Response to government wage controls, day of protest, October 14, 1976, one million workers participated across the country
April 2001, demonstrations inQuebec City against WTO and corporate agenda
October 2008 recessionProtesting layoffs in Hamilton
October 2008, recession, tens of thousands of workers laid off
Protesting layoffs in Ontario;Workers deserve severance pay
Today, 70% of workers in unions are in Canadian unions
Most workers now in Canadian Unions• In 1970, only 30% of workers who were members of unions in Canada were members of Canadian unions. The rest were members of American-based unions.• Today, 70% of all workers who are members of unions in Canada, are members of Canadian unions. The rest are members of American- based unions.
Vancouver & District Labour Council• Founded in 1889• Second largest labour council in Canada• Represents 65,000 workers in 118 local unions• Executive of 5 elected officers (President is full time) plus 12 members representing various unions