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Showing posts from April, 2019

The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike: Breaking Point - Contract Negotiations Stall

The specific catalyst, the breaking point for the workers that provoked the Winnipeg General Strike, was a bargaining impasse between industry employers and a group of unions representing employees. Negotiations over a key issues in early 1919 seemed impossible to resolve as positions vigorously polarized. Two sets of contract negotiations converged in April and neither was going well.

The Metal Trades Council was bargaining for increased wages and shorter working hours. The owners of the ‘big three’ industries in the north end of Winnipeg: Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works, Vulcan Iron Works (which remains on Sutherland Avenue), and Dominion Bridge Company were adamant they would not bargain with the Council that sought to represent the various unions and their members – metal workers, tinsmiths, boilermakers, and machinists.

At the same time, the Building Trades Council, which represented workers in the skilled trades such as electricians and carpenters, was negotiating with the Build…

The Gated Glory that was Kilmorie: The Nanton Estate

In the early 20th century, Kilmorie, the estate of Sir Angustus and Lady Nanton was at the heart of Winnipeg's elite social and business circles. A family home, philanthropy base and entertainment hub, it was a sprawling, beautiful and luxurious property that spoke to the prosperity of the young city. Its grandeur was its downfall, demolished by the very people who owned it, unwilling to cover the cost of its upkeep. Now the gatehouse, converted into residential space, is also facing the wrecking ball, another piece of Winnipeg's irreplaceable history soon to be lost.

Augustus Meredith Nanton was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1860. His alcoholic father, a barrister, passed away when Nanton was just 13, leaving a wife and five children behind. To help support his family, Nanton left school and took up a position as an office boy for the real estate firm. After two years in real estate, Nanton moved to the brokerage firm of Pellatt and Osler to work as a junior clerk. The move was …

The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike: The Western Labour Conference in Calgary

In March 1919, about 240 union delegates attended the Western Inter-Provincial Convention in Calgary to discuss a number of common issues. The conference followed the Quebec City TLC convention the previous September, and the purpose was to assure “the voice of protest should be heard”. Delegates from Winnipeg put forward one resolution on a six-hour work day and a five day week for all labour. Union representatives discussed strengthening their bargaining power and endorsed the concept of industrial unionism. The model proposed was to create One Big Union (OBU) to bring together all the unions in Canada, to collaborate and provide both bargaining and political support. While the idea of unifying unions across Canada was not novel, the industry base versus the craft base to unionization was reflecting significant change to come. The unions were seeing proof they could exert more power when workers collaborated with other trades or within industrial sectors.

The impetus for this collab…