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Winnipeg General Strike of 1919

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the largest strike in Canadian history. Between 15 May and 25 June 1919, more than 30,000 workers left their jobs. Factories, shops, transit and city services shut down. The strike resulted in arrests, injuries and the deaths of two protestors. It did not immediately succeed in empowering workers and improving job conditions. But the strike did help unite the working class in Canada. Some of its participants helped establish what is now the New Democratic Party.

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Craft Unionism

Craft unionism, a form of labour organization developed to promote and defend the interests of skilled workers (variously known as artisans, mechanics, craftsmen and tradesmen).

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Trades and Labor Congress of Canada

Founded in 1883, the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada (TLC) was the first union central to take lasting root in Canada. Principally bringing together craft unions, the TLC was the largest workers’ organization in Canada at the turn of the 20th century. The TLC saw its membership fluctuate in the 20th century because of the fierce competition between national and international unions and the rise of industrial unionism. In 1956, the organization merged with the Canadian Congress of Labour to become the Canadian Labour Congress.

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AFL-CIO

The American Federation of Labor (established 1886) consisted of skilled craft unions that disagreed with the reform policies and organization of the Knights of Labor.

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Collectivism

As the social evils of industrialization and urbanization unfolded in the later 19th century, many Canadians saw the basic problem as an excess of individualism.

Macleans

General Motors Strike Settled

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on October 28, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

For picketing Canadian autoworkers, it was a symbolic gesture. With the strike against General Motors of Canada Ltd. dragging into its third week, tempers flared at a cavernous GM plant in Oshawa, Ont.

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CUPW Postal Strikes

Since 1965 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (previously Canadian Postal Employees Association) has been involved in approximately 19 major disputes over several complex issues.

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Nine Hour Movement

The Nine Hour Movement was an international phenomenon, taking place in Canada between January and June 1872. The movement’s goal was to standardize shorter working days.

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One Big Union

The One Big Union (OBU) was a radical labour union formed in Western Canada in 1919. It aimed to empower workers through mass organization along industrial lines. The OBU met fierce opposition from other parts of the labour movement, the federal government, employers and the press. Nevertheless, it helped transform the role of unions in Canada.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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On to Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot

In April 1935, about 1,500 residents of federal Unemployment Relief Camps in British Columbia went on strike. They travelled by train and truck to Vancouver to protest poor conditions in the Depression-era camps. After their months-long protest proved futile, they decided to take their fight to Ottawa. On 3 June, more than 1,000 strikers began travelling across the country, riding atop railcars. By the time they reached Regina, they were 2,000 strong. But they were stopped in Regina, where the strike leaders were arrested, resulting in the violent Regina Riot on 1 July 1935.

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ACTRA

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, better known as ACTRA, is the union that represents performers in Canada’s English-language radio, television and film industries. Through its Performers’ Rights Society, it secures and disburses use fees, royalties, residuals and all other forms of performers’ compensation. Some of ACTRA's other activities include administering health insurance and retirement plans for its 22,000 members, negotiating and administering collective agreements, minimum rates and working conditions, lobbying for Canadian content and a strong Canadian production industry, and promoting and celebrating Canadian talent.

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Asbestos Strike of 1949

The Asbestos Strike began on 14 February 1949 and paralyzed major asbestos mines in Quebec for almost five months. The Quebec government sided with the main employer, an American-owned company, against the 5,000 unionized mine workers. From the start, the strike created conflicts between the provincial government and the Roman Catholic Church, which usually sided with the government. One of the longest and most violent labour conflicts in Quebec history, it helped lay the groundwork for the Quiet Revolution

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Strikes and Lockouts

A strike is the withholding of labour by workers in order to obtain better wages or working conditions. A lockout is the opposite, being the temporary shutdown of a business by an employer to compel employees to accept certain conditions.

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Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Sleeping car porters were railway employees who attended to passengers aboard sleeping cars. Porters were responsible for passengers’ needs throughout a train trip, including carrying luggage, setting up beds, pressing clothes and shining shoes, and serving food and beverages, among other services. The vast majority of sleeping car porters were Black men and the position was one of only a few job opportunities available to Black men in Canada. While the position carried respect and prestige for Black men in their communities, the work demanded long hours for little pay. Porters could be fired suddenly and were often subjected to racist treatment. Black Canadian porters formed the first Black railway union in North America (1917) and became members of the larger Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1939. Both unions combatted racism and the many challenges that porters experienced on the job.