Some newspapers popularized labour's causes. In March-April an unsuccessful Toronto printers' strike reminded labour that employers were strongly antagonistic to workers' initiatives and that trade unions were actually illegal in Canada. On May 15 Hamilton's "nine-hour pioneers" defied opposition with a procession of 1500 workers. Skilled, respectable craftsmen emerged as labour leaders. James Ryan, a Great Western Railway machinist-engineer recently arrived in Canada, was Hamilton's central figure. In Toronto his counterpart was cooper John HEWITT, and in Montréal, James Black.
Although some groups won concessions, the movement was unsuccessful. Employer hostility helped its defeat, as did the waning of post-Confederation prosperity. Equally significant were divisions within the working class. Women and the unskilled figured peripherally at best, ensuring that the struggle touched certain sectors more fully than others. All this, in conjunction with the apparent failure of militant strikes and workplace action to win decisive victories for workers, fed the attempt to secure rights politically through LABOUR LAW.
The Nine-Hour Movement was not an utter failure. Its struggle in 1872 indicated that labour had a public presence and that its interests, institutions and political stance reflected its unique social position and economic needs. It represented a necessary, if ambiguous, beginning in labour's capacity for self-government. The right to associate in trade unions was obtained. Working-class activists won major concessions immediately after 1872: repeal of repressive legislation, passage of laws strengthening workers' hands against employers, and franchise extension. The nine-hour pioneers gave way to the CANADIAN LABOR UNION.
Author BRYAN D. PALMER
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Labour Protest and Organization in Nineteenth-Century Canada, 1820-1890
This article provides detailed information about the history of the labour movement in Canada. From the journal "Labour."
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...