From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When Canadians Had Balls: The Winnipeg General Strike.

The rich profiting from war, gross income disparity,low wages, high unemployment and poverty rates, sure sounds like today but this post is about a time when under the same conditions, Canadians actually fought back instead of meekly shrugging their shoulders and throwing up their arms in surrender. In Winnipeg 1919, the people having had enough stood up and fought back, hence, The Winnipeg General Strike.

Some 30,000 workers,including the police and firefighters fed up with the conditions of the day shut down the city of Winnipeg for six weeks. The bosses responded by forming the "Citizens Committee"to oppose the strikers and with the help of the government, to destroy the fledgling union movement. They succeeded for a time, however the union movement stayed in the fight and eventually won some measure of fairness for workers, leading to the growth of the middle class.

Almost immediately the elite began fighting to take back these gains and unfortunately they have succeeded to a great extent,thus today we see many of the same conditions that led to the people taking to the streets in order to get their fair share.What is happening all around the globe today except sadly in Canada is no different than what happened that spring in Winnipeg in 1919. We the people can only be pushed so far until we feel cornered with no choice but to fight back. Will Canadians join the fight or unlike those who built this country, have we become too cowardly.

                              The Winnipeg General Strike         
  • The Citizens Committee ignored the strikers' demands and with the assistance of local newspapers accused the strikers of "Bolshevism," of being "enemy aliens" and of undermining "British values."
  • On May 22, the federal Minister of Labour, Senator Gideon Robertson, and the federal minister of the interior and acting minister of justice Arthur Meighen met with the Citizens Committee. They refused to meet with the Central Strike Committee.
  • Within the week, federal government employees, provincial government employees and municipal workers were ordered to return to work. An amendment to the Immigration Act was rushed through Parliament to allow the deportation of British-born strike leaders and the definition of sedition in the Criminal Code was expanded.
  • On May 30, the Winnipeg police refused to sign a no-strike pledge. They were fired and an 1800-man force of "Specials" was hired to tame the strike. They were supplied with horses and baseball bats by the Eaton family of  Eaton's fame.
  • On June 17, the strike leaders were arrested in late-night raids.
  • The city council outlawed the regular demonstration marches, both pro and anti-strike, by veterans. 
Bloody Saturday
  • On June 21, which came to be known as Bloody Saturday, strikers pushed over and set fire to a streetcar. The Royal North-West Mounted Police attacked the crowd of strike supporters gathered outside City Hall, killing two and injuring 30. The Specials followed the crowd as it dispersed through the streets, beating protesters with baseball bats and wagon spokes. The army also patrolled the streets with machine guns.
  • Authorities shut down the strikers' paper, the Western Labour News, and arrested its editors.
  • On June 26, afraid of more violence, the strike leaders called off the strike.
Video Resources

On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919

Lost Dreams

Remembering the Winnipeg General Strike

No comments:

Post a Comment