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Don Garcia

Don Peter Garcia, longshore worker and trade unionist (born 29 October 1926 in New Westminster, BC; died 10 May 1995 in Vancouver). Don Garcia was a prominent figure in the labour movement (see Labour Relations). He served multiple terms as the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canadian Area. He was involved in union work for a total of 45 years, until his retirement in 1991. He also held many other posts, including being on the executive of the BC Federation of Labour and the Vancouver Port Corporation (National Harbours Board). He was a founding member of the Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC). (See Shipping Industry.)

See also Working-Class History.

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Clothing Industries

Mass production of clothing in Canada began in the mid-19th century in urban centres, which supplied pools of semi-skilled labour and were the major consumer markets.

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Working-Class History

Working-class history is the story of the changing conditions and actions of all working people. Most adult Canadians today earn their living in the form of wages and salaries and thus share the conditions of dependent employment associated with the definition of "working class."

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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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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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Helen (Ma) Armstrong

Helen (Ma) Armstrong (née Jury), labour activist, women’s rights activist (born 17 June 1875 in Toronto, Ontario; died 17 April 1947 in Los Angeles, California). Helen Armstrong was a labour activist who fought for the rights of working-class women throughout her life. She was the leader of the Winnipeg Women’s Labor League and a central figure in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. She campaigned for unions, a minimum wage and social security, and against conscription. Armstrong was arrested for her activism at least three times, including twice during the Winnipeg General Strike. Historian Esyllt Jones described Helen Armstrong as “the exception in a male-dominated labour movement.”

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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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James Ryan

James Ryan, railway machinist, labour leader (born 1840 in County Clare, Ireland; died 17 December 1896 in Hamilton, ON). James Ryan was a machinist and railway engineer for the Great Western Railway and later the Grand Trunk Railway. He was a powerful voice in the Canadian Nine Hour Movement, which fought for a shorter workday. Ryan also helped establish the Canadian Labor Protective and Mutual Improvement Association in 1872, the forerunner of the Canadian Labor Union.

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Labour Day in Canada

Labour Day, the first Monday in September, has been a statutory holiday in Canada since 1894. It originated in the first workers’ rallies of the Victorian era. Historically, workers marked the day with various activities. These included parades, speeches, games, amateur competitions and picnics. The holiday promoted working-class solidarity and belonging during a time of rapid industrialization. Since the Second World War, fewer and fewer people have participated in Labour Day activities. Nevertheless, it remains a statutory holiday. Many Canadians now devote the Labour Day holiday to leisure activity and family time.

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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).