The Winnipeg General Strike: A Revolution
The Winnipeg General Strike was one of the greatest strikes in Canadian history.
It was very important in history because it was a turning point in the Canadian labour
scene we have today. The Winnipeg General Strike and the strikers’ actions played a
major role in shaping Canada’s present day identity. Although it changed little at the
time, the strike truly has shaped the Canada we know today. Rising revolutionary
industrial unionism, the success of the Russian Revolution and the definite outcome of
the strike along with the lessons learned all contributed to our labour scene. This strike
was very different from any prior ones. It was one of the most influential strikes in
Canadian history that had changed Canada forever.
Times were hard for Canadian workers after the first World War. Prices were
rising much faster than wages. Jobs were hard to find after the war. On May 15, 1919,
Winnipeg stopped working. It was the first day of the Winnipeg General Strike. It was
the height of many years of workers’ frustration and anger. At stake was the principle of
collective bargaining, better wages and the improvement of often dreadful working
conditions. Within hours almost 30 000 workers had left their jobs. The strike was
coordinated by the Central Strike Committee, composed of delegates elected from each
of the unions associated with the WTLC. The committee bargained with employers on
behalf of the workers and coordinated the provision of essential services. “The majority
of the strikers…contended that the strike was a last resort weapon used by the workers to
gain the rights of collective bargaining and to obtain higher wages.” The workers may
have had other ways of dealing with these problems but eventually turned to a strike. “A
tight labour market had allowed workers to unionize more effectively and socialist and
labourist ideas had...