Today in labor history, April 4, 1935: 1,600 unemployed men living and working in Canadian federal relief camps – constructing roads and other public works at the rate of twenty cents per day – go on strike. Public support was enormous and the men decided to take their grievances to the federal government. On June 3, hundreds boarded boxcars headed east in what became known as the “On-to-Ottawa Trek.”
Today in labor history, March 27, 1912: Unable to tolerate the unbearable living conditions in the Canadian Northern Railway construction camps, 8,000 workers organized by the Industrial Workers of the World walk out. The strike extended over 400 miles of territory, but the IWW established a “1,000-mile picket line,” as they picketed employment offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco, and Minneapolis to halt recruitment of scabs.
Today in labor history, March 26, 1919: A group of Alberta government employees hold a founding meeting of the Civil Service Association of Alberta, adopting a crest that incorporated the slogan “Unity Strength Protection.” The union – now known as the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees – is the Canadian province’s largest union, representing 81,000 public sector workers.
Today in labor history, January 28, 1914: The Edmonton, Canada, city council agree to the Industrial Workers of the World’s Unemployed League demand that the city assist the unemployed. The city council provided a large hall for the homeless, passed out three 25-cent meal tickets to each unemployed man daily, and employed 400 people on a public project.
Today in labor history, January 8, 2004: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) grants a charter to SEIU Local 1.on in Canada, which formed from a merger of six SEIU healthcare locals in Ontario. In 2013, the local changed its name to SEIU Healthcare Canada and currently represents more than 55,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, long term care facilities, and home care agencies throughout Ontario.
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.
Today in labor history, June 18, 1935: Locked out dock workers and supporters march through Vancouver, British Columbia, toward Ballantyne Pier where scabs are unloading ships, and are met and attacked by police and Mounties. The ensuing battle lasted for three hours, and resulted in numerous injuries and hospitalizations, including that of a fleeing striker who had been shot in the back of his legs.