The right to belong to a union with union benefits and engage in collective bargaining came about only after a determined and lengthy struggle, often involving violence as employers and governments fought to hold back the tide of progress.
One of the most significant examples of this struggle was the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, a protest formed from poor wages and working conditions, in addition to massive unemployment and inflation. This protest led to 25,000 strikers taking to the streets of the city, only to be met with armed resistance.
Their action led to the mayor of the city reading the Riot Act and calling in police who charged in on horseback, using clubs and weapons against the demonstrators. The day became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and ended with Canadian soldiers being called in to restore order.
However, in spite of the unsatisfying conclusion, one of the strikers, J.S. Woodsworth, went on to found the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which later became the New Democratic Party. It would then be another three decades before the rights to unionize and engage in collective bargaining were earned.
However, despite the progress earned on the streets and in the courts, including a Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing a worker’s right to strike, the path has not always been straight and narrow. Legal protections won by unions rose and fell with economic, social, and political changes. Yet, labour groups strove for legal and political gains in the 20th century, often prompting a strong pushback from employers and government.
In recent decades, factors that have worked against unions include privatization, globalization/free trade and deregulation. However, despite such ebbs and flows, unions continue to fight to improve the working conditions for Canadians. Despite setbacks, the fight for workers’ rights has historically trended upwards.
There are still many workers that are exploited and unable to have a voice in the workplace. The benefit of being a part of a union, is that the union provides a collective voice for their members. Here, at IUPAT, we can assist you with a better standard of living anywhere in the province. We do our best to ensure you are treated fairly in regards to wages, hours of work, training and career change. For more information about the benefits we offer as a union, contact us today.