Founded in 1873 on the initiative of the Toronto Trades Assembly, the Canadian Labor Union represented organized labour's first attempt at a national federation. Moderate in ideology and practice, the CLU would only extend support to striking members who had sought arbitration first. The establishment of favourable legislation for workers and growth in trade-union membership comprised the CLU's 2 primary concerns. At annual conventions held between 1873 and 1877, the CLU passed resolutions in support of universal manhood suffrage, direct labour representation in parliament, the establishment of a labour department, stricter regulation of the apprenticeship system, and shorter hours of work. The CLU opposed government-assisted immigration, child labour, and the use of prison labour in competition with free labour.
CLU lobbying resulted in amendments to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Mechanics' Lien Act and the Master and Servant Act. Despite its claim of being a national body, the CLU never contained more than a small minority of Canadian unionists and remained Ontario dominated throughout its existence. A lingering depression led to its demise in 1878.
JOHN BULLEN Revised: JACQUES ROUILLARD
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Labour History
This website documents the history of the labour movement and labour reform in Canada. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.