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Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (Plain-Language Summary)

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the biggest strike in Canadian history. A “strike” means that workers refuse to go to work. A “general strike” is a type of strike in which workers from different industries go on strike at the same time. (See also Strikes and Lockouts; Labour Organization.) The Winnipeg General Strike took place between 15 May and 25 June 1919. Factory workers, store workers and transit workers went on strike. Some workers from the public sector, such as policemen, firemen and postal workers joined the strike. Approximately 30,000 workers went on strike. The main goal of the strike was to improve working conditions. The federal government believed the strikers wanted to start a communist revolution. It called in the Royal North-West Mounted Police to stop it. Many strikers were arrested. Some were hurt. And two people were killed. The strike proved to be tragic. But it convinced some Canadians to take the plight of workers very seriously. One of these Canadians was J.S. Woodsworth. He helped form the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. It was a socialist labour party. (See Socialism). One of its main goals was to help workers.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Winnipeg General Strike. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.)

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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.

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Article

Winnipeg General Strike of 1919

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was the largest strike in Canadian history (see Strikes and Lockouts). Between 15 May and 25 June 1919, more than 30,000 workers left their jobs (see Work). 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 (see Labour Organization). Some of its participants helped establish what is now the New Democratic Party.

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

This is the full-length entry about the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. For a plain-language summary, please see Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 (Plain-language Summary).