Thursday, March 5

Context: The State of Labour

Labour unrest did not come to Winnipeg out oft eh blue. For years, labour action had been mounting in cities around the world, from Limerick to Liverpool, New York to Seattle.

 Source: Kealey, p 16

Vancouver already had a one-day general strike in August 1918. February 1919's Seattle General Strike, (also), saw 100,000 people walk off the job and is actually considered the first "general strike" the U.S. ever had. Hundreds of strikes also took place in Canada in the years preceding 1919.

1906 streetcar strike F36b

Some say that the seeds of the General Strike were sown in 1906 during the bitter Winnipeg Streetcar Strike (page 15). Other industries such as textiles and metal workers struck on and off as well.
The largest labour action prior to the General Strike came in May 1918 after city council refused to meet wage demands by civic employees. Streetcar workers, watermen, telephone operators and the like walked off the job. Other unions, such as construction workers, struck in sympathy. Before others could join in a settlement was reached.

The letter above is between two labour leaders discussing that 1918 strike and the state of labour in the city at the time. Another great source is "Roots of the Strike" which contains other pamphlets and photos leading up to 1919.

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