Today in labor history, May 9, 1992: A methane explosion in the Westray coal mine near Plymouth, Nova Scotia, kills all 26 miners working there at the time. In 2003, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended with the passage of Bill C-45 — “The Westray Bill” — to hold corporations, directors, and executives accountable for their criminally negligent acts in the workplace.
Today in labor history, January 24, 2002: The Supreme Court of Canada rules in R.W.D.S.U., Local 558 v. Pepsi-Cola Canada Beverages (West) Ltd., that secondary picketing is legal. Pepsi had gotten an injunction against its striking workers who were picketing at retail stores that sold Pepsi products, and the court overruled that decision, finding that picketing is a freedom of expression covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Today in labor history, January 21, 2012: 15,000 trade unionists and supporters rally in London, Ontario, in solidarity with the Canadian Auto Workers locked out by Electro-Motive Diesel, a subsidiary of Caterpillar. The lockout began on New Year’s Day in an attempt to force workers at the company to accept a 50 percent pay cut.
Today in labor history, December 20, 2001: The Supreme Court of Canada rules on Dunmore v. Ontario (Attorney General), upholding the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers under Ontario’s 1994 Agricultural Labour Relations Act. The Act had been repealed in 1995 when the Progressive Conservatives came to power in the province and all agreements made under that Act were terminated.
Today in labor history, December 11, 1995: The first of eleven mass strikes and demonstrations organized to protest the provincial Conservative government’s actions begins today in London, Ontario, as 40,000 union workers in the city participate in a general strike. Ten more “Days of Action” swept through Ontario and involved broad labor-community coalitions in opposition to Premier Mike Harris’ anti-worker policies.
Today in labor history, September 29, 1931: On strike over union recognition, hours of work, wages, and working and living conditions, 400 coal miners march through the streets of Estevan, Saskatchewan, with their wives and children. When they refused to disperse, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shot and killed one of the workers and a battle ensued that resulted in three men dead and a number of others seriously injured.
Today in labor history, September 24, 1918: The Canadian government outlaws the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other organizations. Penalty for membership was set at five years in prison. The ban on the IWW was lifted after World War I ended.
Today in labor history: August 15, 2008: Eight automotive department employees at a Wal-Mart in Gatineau, Quebec, win an arbitrator-imposed contract after voting for UFCW representation, becoming the giant retailer’s only location in North America with a collective bargaining agreement. Two months later the company closed the department.
Today in labor history, August 2, 1918: The first general strike in Canadian history is held in Vancouver, B.C. The 24-hour strike, called for by the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council, was in response to the police shooting of labor leader Albert “Ginger” Goodwin.
Today in labor history, July 27, 1918: Coal miner and labor leader Albert “Ginger” Goodwin is shot and killed by Canadian police. Although he had been ruled unfit for military service during World War I because he had lung disease, the conscription board reversed its decision just days after Goodwin led a smelter workers’ strike for the eight-hour day. Opposed to the war, Goodwin fled and for months avoided capture by the authorities. His death inspired Canada’s first general strike on August 2 in Vancouver.