Chapter 2: Labour History

Industrial Relations in Canada – 3rd Edition (Hebdon and Brown)


Master-Servant Relationship \rightarrow Employees had few rights

  • Unions, collective bargaining illegal
  • Little court protection
  • Power imbalance, coercion

Common Law - The legal regime for nonunion employment

Movement to Unionization - Early Years (pre 1990s)

New Model Unionism \rightarrow Movement to craft unions, occupation-based

Apprenticeship \rightarrow Trainees learn a trade under the supervision of a senior trades person

Trade Union \rightarrow Organized all workers of a trade regardless of industry or workplace

  • Negotiated solutions rather than strike action

Nine-Hour Movement, Trade Union Act (1872) 2.1 PAGE 30

  • Hamilton workers, printer’s strike
  • First unified protest movement
  • MacDonald “working man’s friend”
  • No longer conspiracy or a crime to join a union
  • Penalties for striking
  • Birth of formal Canadian labour movement

Canada and the U.S.

Guiding Principles, “Divide or Conquer”?

  1. Exclusive Jurisdiction - The concept that each union would be responsible for a single trade – one union per craft
  2. Business Unionism - The view that trade unions should seek to improve the economic well being of its own members rather than to seek to overthrow capitalism or business owners
  3. Political Non-Partisanship - View that labour should not align itself with any one political party or group, but rather support those politician who support labour

American Federation of Labor \rightarrow Samuel Gompers, 1886

  • Exclusive Jurisdiction \rightarrow One union per craft
  • Business Unionism \rightarrow Pure and simple, bread and butter
  • Political Non-Partisanship
  • Trades & Labour Congress of Canada (1886)
  • Included Knights of Labour
  • Skilled and unskilled labour
  • Women members
  • Opposed to strikes, cooperative businesses
  • Social Unionism \rightarrow Issues of interest to broader labour movement
  • Agitated for legislative change

The Years of Struggle


  • Rapid economic development
  • 14 strikes, violence, military
  • The Berlin Convention, 1902
  • splits craft and industrial unions


  • Industrial Disputes Investigation Act (IDIA), 1907
  • Cornerstone of Canadian law
  • Third-party intervention prior to a strike
  • Winnipeg General Strike, 1919
  • Building trades were on strike and the metalworkers joined them
  • Both wanted their unions to be recognized and working conditions and wages improved
  • Lots of support – 11000 votes in factor of the strike
  • Strikers did not achieve their goals, but strike did lead to positive changes in legislation
  • One Big Union and other socialist movements
  • Labour activists go on to win elected office
  • Associated with the general strike
  • Radical in nature with a social unionism orientations
  • Key demand was the introduction of a 6-hour workday to minimize unemployment
  • Focused on organizing all workers, NOT JUST craft workers
  • Actively seeking to unionize worker by industry vs trade (PAGE 37)

Decline and Resurrection

1930's and 1940's

  • The Wagner Act
  • Created an independent agency National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
  • Required employers to bargain collectively with certified unions
  • Defined unfair labour practices
  • NLRB able to order remedies for employer violations of Act
  • Doctrine of exclusivity
  • Encouraged collective bargaining
  • Committee of Industrial Organization, 1935
  • CIO splits from AFL on craft/industrial
  • Rapid increase in industrial workplaces and industrial unions
  • CIO became a large social movement as workers in various industries hosted “sit ins” to improve their workplaces
  • P.C. 1003 (1944)
  • Patterned on Wagner Act
  • Mechanisms for workplace disputes during life of collective agreement
  • Conciliation procedures prior to a strike
  • Rand Formula (1945)
  • Dues check-off, all workers - Process where the union dues are deducted automatically from pay; regardless is they wanted to be a union member
  • Direct submission to union

Reconciliation and Expansion

1950's and 1960's

  • ALF-CIO merger, 1955
  • Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), 1956
  • When skill and unskilled workers were reunited
  • Merger required compromise from both sides- TLC originally adhered to principles of political nonpartisanship; the CIO had traditionally supported the reform-oriented Co-operative commonwealth federation
  • Environment of reconciliation between the two groups, the formation of a union backed labour organization, and landmark legislation permitting unionization of public-sector employees

PSSRA (1967)

  • Triggers provincial Acts
  • Marked an important turn in Canadian Labour Relations
  • 1. Passage combines with the passage of similar laws in provincial jurisdictions lead in the public sector representing a large percentage of the unionized work force in Canada
  • Public sector large percentage of unionized workforce
  • Contrast with U.S. where public sector collective bargaining is prohibited

Changing Relationships

1970's and 1980's

  • Wage and price controls and legislation
  • Free trade agreements \rightarrow North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • Canadian Auto Workers union \rightarrow Splits from U.S. union
  • Early 1980's \rightarrow Spike in inflation rate (12%)

Increased Resistance

1990's and Beyond

  • Recession, unemployment, globalization
  • Government restructuring
  • Privatization - Transfer or contracting out services to the private sector
  • Crown corporations - corporations owned by the government
  • Layoffs
  • Back-to-work legislation – Legislation that required strike action crease and employees return to work
  • Strike action ceases
  • Employees return to work
  • Terms and conditions set by government


  • A century of significant change
  • Initially employees had few rights
  • Trade union focus shifts to industrial unions
  • Rupture in labour movement
  • Legislation permits bargaining 1940's,1950's
  • Growing government intervention 1980's,1990's
  • Canadian labour movement own path
  • Job loss, union power declines globally

Note Created by
Is this note helpful?
Give kudos to your peers!
Wanna make this note your own?
Fork this Note