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Winnipeg General Strike


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(15 May– 25 June 1919).

Canada's best‐known general strike was caused by the breakdown of industrial negotiations in Winnipeg's building and metal trades, in an atmosphere of general social unrest and economic uncertainty. The central issue consisted of the employees' demands for collective bargaining. A general strike was called, which was supported almost unanimously, including by public‐sector employees. Sympathetic strike action in other cities was also triggered off. The employers and the local elite reacted by accusing the strikers of revolutionary intent. Worried by the potential impact of the strike in other cities, the government intervened. Federal employees were threatened with dismissal, the Immigration Act (immigration legislation) was altered to allow deportations of strike leaders. Moreover, the legal definition of sedition was extended. On 21 June, a confrontation with the police resulted in thirty injured strikers, and one dead. Of its imprisoned leaders, Woodsworth became Canada's first socialist MP in the House of Commons (1921), while in 1920 four other socialists were elected to the Manitoba legislature while still in prison. The defeat of the strike struck a heavy blow against the Canadian labour movement. It took over thirty years before the main goals of the strike, union recognition and collective bargaining, were realized by Canadian workers.

Subjects: History of the Americas.


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