Fraser River Railway StrikesThe Fraser River railway strikes broke out on 27 March 1912, when railway workers organized by the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD walked out of construction camps on the Canadian Northern line to protest conditions. By 2 April, 8000 men were on strike and work had ceased on 640 km of construction line; later, workers on the Grand Trunk Pacific line joined the strike. Unskilled immigrant workers struck to demand strict enforcement of the Provincial Health Act, a 9-hour day and a minimum wage of $3 per day. The IWW set up camps to feed and shelter the workers, and picketed employment offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Minneapolis and San Francisco to prevent the hiring of strikebreakers.
The Wobbly poet and martyr Joe Hill visited the camp at Yale and wrote several songs, including "Where the Fraser River Flows," still a labour standard. The federal government refused the IWW request for arbitration under the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, and the provincial government broke the strikes with violence and arrests; by June, more than 300 Wobblies had been arrested and many more driven from the region. Small concessions were won by the workers, but the strikes are more important for showing that unskilled workers could be successfully organized. The Fraser River strikes also mark the peak of IWW organization in Canada.