The Winnipeg General Strike
Last spring, Daniel introduced Motion 195, which would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike.
The motion reads:
That the House: (a) recognize the significant historical contribution of the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 to the struggle for social and economic justice in Canada; (b) recognize the formative influence of the Winnipeg General Strike on important Canadian political leaders like J.S. Woodsworth, former leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, and T.C. Douglas, former leader of the NDP, as well as many thousands of working people across Canada; (c) affirm its commitment to free and fair collective bargaining; and (d) commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike as an important historical event in the development of Canada.
About The Winnipeg General Strike:
The Winnipeg General strike took place in 1919, during a time of post-war unemployment and inflation. In March of 1919 western labour union leaders met to discuss the possibility of forming a ‘Revolutionary Industrial Union’ to be called the One Big Union.
In May of 1919 however, the talks on collective bargaining, improved wages and working conditions broke down and the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council called for a strike.
The response from workers was overwhelming. Nearly 30,00 workers left their jobs, and the city of Winnipeg was severely impacted: factories, retail trade and public transport came to a halt. Inspired, public sector employees such as policemen, postal workers and telephone operators showed their solidarity by following suit.
The strike inspired similar workers’ movements across the country, leading the federal government to intervene. On the 17th of June, the government arrested the 10 leaders of the strike committee, including J.S. Woodsworth, who would go on to lead the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the precursor to the present day New Democratic party. Four days later, on what became known as “Bloody Saturday”, the Royal North-West Mounted Police charged into a crowd of picketers, and federal troops occupied the streets of Winnipeg. Seven of the Winnipeg strike leaders were convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to jail, and the strikers returned to work on June 25.
It would take nearly thirty years for Canadian workers to gain the rights to collective bargaining and union recognition, however the Winnipeg General Strike was about respect and dignity for workers. The Strike demonstrated the strength of working people when they stand together in solidarity. It launched a new generation of Canadian politicians and labour leaders and has inspired many since. While state violence ultimately suppressed the Strike, the period that followed the Strike was one where collective bargaining and protections for workers expanded.