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The Winnipeg General Strike

Updated on May 5, 2014

The Winnipeg General Strike

The Winnipeg General Strike is a popularly known strike in Canada. This strike was experienced between 15th May to 25 June 1919. Among the causes of this strike were the increasing revolutionary industrial unionism, the success of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and massive inflation and unemployment in the country. It was coordinated by the central strike committee, which constituted delegates that were elected from each of the unions that were affiliated with the WTLC. This committee was responsible for bargaining with employers on behalf of employees, and coordinated the provision of the basic services. The strike led to several leaders of the strike being arrested and eventually convicted of the conspiracy to overthrow the government. Many of these leaders and organizers were also sentenced to jail terms that ranged from six to two years.

In March 1919, western labor leaders met in Calgary in discussing the creation of a larger union. In Winnipeg 15 May, negotiations between the labour and the management in metal trades and building broke down. This led to the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) calling a strike. What were at stake were issues related to better wages, collective bargaining, and better working conditions. More than 30, 000 workers almost left their jobs within few hours. The unanimous response by employees led to a closure of the city’s major industries, including the transport sector, retail trade among others. Public sector employees including firefighters, police officers, telephone operators, postal workers and waterworks works joined the private industry workers as a display of solidarity.

The general impact of the strike to the Canadian history was that it left a legacy of controversy and bitterness among organized labor groups in the country. The strike also sparked a wave of increased militancy and unionism across Canada.

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