Skip to main content

Canadian Strikes

This subject guide is meant to assist students, particularly those enrolled in IRE1611, with research papers and assignments.

Alberta, Manitoba & Saskatchewan - A Selection of Notable Strikes (click on the tab, then scroll down for information on the strike)

Saskatoon Transit Strike 2014

Photo of striker
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Union: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615

Employers: City of Saskatoon

The City issued a lockout after the union local of 330 workers refused to make concessions on their pension. The City rescinded its second lock out order after the City Council vetoed it. The first lock out order was issued to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615, deemed illegal by the Saskatchewan Labour Board on September 20, because an unresolved unfair labour practice case was before the board at the time the lockout was issued (17 October 2014).

"Labour relations board decision could open door for legal transit strike, lockout", Saskatoon StarPhoenix, January 19, 2016

"Lockout ends but pension troubles continue for Saskatoon transit workers",by Ella Bedard, Rabble.ca, October 28, 2014

"City of Saskatoon will comply with labour board decision", CBC News, Oct 17, 2014

"Saskatoon transit workers launch legal action over lockout" CBC News, Sep 22, 2014

Saskatchewan Teachers Strike 2011

strike photo

 

Province-wide

Union: Saskatchwan Teachers' Federation

12,000 members of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) took part in 2 separate job actions after talks failed.  They walked off the job for a total of 3 days after members voted 95% in favour of an action.  The main issue was wages which were the lowest of all the prairie provinces.

 

 

 

Saskatchewan teachers accept new contract (2011). Toronto: Canadian Labour Reporter

Palace Casino Strike 2006

Edmonton, Alberta

Union: United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Local 401

Employer: Palace Casino, West Edmonton Mall

Strike lasted almost a year.


UFCW, Local 401 v. Alberta (Informaiton and Priacy Commissioner) (2013, 239 L.A.C. (4th) 317, [2013] 3 S.C.R. 733 (S.C.C.)

Lakeside Packers Strike 2005

Brooks, Alberta

Union: United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 401

Employer: Tyson Foods Inc.

Tempers between workers and the owners flared from the start when the strike started on October 12, 2005 in Brooks, Alberta. At the time, the slaughterhouse, Lakeside Packers, employed about 2,300 workers and was owned by Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. Things reportedly got so heated on the first day of the strike that the RCMP were called in after a bus carrying workers over the picket line had its windows smashed. The bitter battle ended after three weeks on November 4, 2005, with the ratification of Lakeside Packers first collective agreement. The contract included: wage increases, improvements to short-term disability benefits, and union security and grievance procedures.

YouTube, June 6, 2016: "Don Crisall's Lakeside Packers strike reports"

The Globe and Mail, October 17, 2005: "Bitter strike divides Alberta town," by Patrick Brethour

Foster, J. (2016). Solidarity on the TransCanada: The role of immigrant activism and innovative union tactics in the 2005 Lakeside Packers Strike. Labour/Le Travail, 78, 197-218.
UTLibraries link to journal: http://go.utlib.ca/cat/7730048

Barnetson, B. (2010). Alberta's 2002 teacher strike: The political economy of labor relations in education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 18(3), 1-23.

Pepsi-Cola Strike 1997

Photo of Pepsi Cola cans

Saskatchewan

Union:  Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Local 558

Employer: Pepsi-Cola Canada

Smith, C. W. (2014). "We didn't want to totally break the law": industrial legality, the Pepsi strike, and workers' collective rights in Canada. Labour/Le Travail, (74), 89-121
Link to journal: http://go.utlib.ca/cat/7730048

Abstract of the article:

"Canada’s system of industrial legality has routinely limited the collective abilities of workers to strike. Under the conditions of neoliberal globalization, those limitations have intensified. Yet, in 1997, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, waged a successful strike against Pepsi-Cola Canada. In addition to defeating the company, the union also expanded workers’ collective rights through a successful constitutional challenge to restrictive common-law rules limiting secondary picketing. This paper examines the history of that strike, exploring the multifaceted strategies that the workers undertook to challenge the company, the state, and the existing law. It argues that workers were successful because they utilized tactics of civil disobedience to defend their abilities to picket. Recognizing that success, the paper is also critical of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and its evolution of common-law torts to limit workers’ collective action. The paper concludes by arguing that the Pepsi conflict highlights the importance of civil disobedience in building workers’ movements while emphasizing the inherent limitations of constitutional challenges to further workers’ collective freedoms in Canada."

 

R.W.D.S.U., Local 558 v. Pepsi-Cola Canada Beverages (West) Ltd., [2002] 1 S.C.R. 156, 2002 SCC 8

"Supreme Court Legalizes Secondary Picketing", CAUT Bulletin

Maple Leaf Foods Strike 1997

Edmonton, Alberta

Union: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). Local 1118.

Employer: Maple Leaf Foods

Triggered by lies made during a previous strike in 1986, where the plant had threatened to close if an agreement was not made, The Maple Leaf foods strike was trying to confront the plant by going on strike again. Workers already felt uncertainty of their future and felt like they were not respected as workers in the plant, which were further reasons as to why they went on strike. Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation from the UFCW, the plant did end up closing and workers lost their jobs. This led to striking workers at other Maple Leaf plants conceding, as they were afraid of plant closure as well (Gunderson, Hebdon, Hyatt 2009).

"On 25 January 1988, more than 11,000 staff nurses who were members of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) directly challenged the province's Labour Relations Act, which prohibits strikes by hospital workers, and began an illegal strike that was to last for 19 days."

"The 1988 strike provides a key entry point for understanding the organization and politics of the United Nurses of Alberta and opens up questions about how a professional women's union positions itself with respect to both the male-dominated union movement and the women's movement in Canada."

"The union now terms the 1988 settlement a "tread water" one. Over a 27-month contract, wage raises of 8 to 10.9 percent, depending on seniority, were won, but vacation entitlements remained unchanged."

Coulter, R. P., (2006). Alberta Nurses and the "Illegal" Strike of 1988. In MacDowell, L. S., & Radforth, I. Canadian Working-Class History (3rd ed.).

The Gainers Strike 1986

Image result for gainers strike

Edmonton, Alberta

Union: United Food and Commercial Workers. Local 280P.

Employer: Gainers

When the agreement between Gainers and United Food and Commercial Workers local 280P’s agreement had expired in 1986, the owner Pocklington claimed that he could not afford to match raises at competing plants, as Pocklington felt that Alberta’s marketing board has set the prices for pigs too high, causing Gainers to have to cut costs – and wages. The workers disagreed and felt as though Pocklington was actually yielding a surplus and the strike began on June 1st. While the workers were on strike, Pocklington brought in strikebreaking replacement workers to take over the striking workers duties. The striking workers tried to scare the replacement workers by attempting to tip over the buses the workers were in as they tried to cross the picket lines. The police were eventually brought in to help allow the replacement workers get on site; at one point 375 uniformed police officers were brought in and they had considered bringing in the army. Eventually a contract was reached after several meetings and deliberations with the premier of Alberta in 1986, Don Getty. The workers did get their jobs back over the replacement workers and the striking workers agreed to a 2 year wage freeze, followed by a raise, and the workers also managed to keep their pension benefits.

Noel, A., & Gardner, K. (1990). The Gainers Strike: Capitalist offensive, militancy, and the politics of industrial relations in Canada. Studies in Political Economy, 31

"United they fell: The Gainers meatpacking strike 25 years later", Alberta Federation of Labour, June 13, 2011.

"Remembering the Gainers strike", Rank and File, June 3, 2016.

"From The Archives | June 9, 1986 a battle rages on the Gainers picket line", CBC News, June 9, 2016.

Grain Handlers Strike 1974

A strike by Local 333 of the Grain Workers union against five West coast grain companies.  Begun on August 24, 1974 by federal legislation. (Not to be confused with the Grain Inspectors strike).

British American Refinery Strike 1965-1966

The CIRHR Library has a file on this strike. Request from Library staff.

Brandon Packers Strike, 1960

Brandon, Manitoba

Union: United Packinghouse Workers of America. Local 255

Employer: Brandon Packers

The Brandon Packers six month strike involved 110 employee under the new management of Mr. Wudel. On the first day of the strike, the strikers were all discharged and permanent employment was guaranteed to the few non-strikers and replacement workers. The strike arose from effects of a new management to shift from a long-established industrywide wage pattern to a much lower community wage level. The union asked for an increase in wage rates to which Mr. Wudel claimed inability to pay. Eventually, the Manitoba government created a judicial committee of inquiry, which held hearings in the fall of 1960. As a result of certain disclosures at those hearings, criminal charges were laid against the owners of the firm, who were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment (MacDowell, 1971). The strike ended in a collective agreement signed at three o'clock in the morning on August 29, 1960.

The CIRHR Library has a file on this strike. Request from Library staff.

MacDowell, G. F. (1971). The Brandon packers strike: A tragedy of errors. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Estevan Strike 1931

Photo of Estevan's strike
Estevan, Sask.

Union: Mine Workers’ Union of Canada

Employer: 22 coal operators

At the end of a long, hot summer mining coal workers got fed up with the long hours and low pay. Living and safety conditions for the miners were also grim. After enlisting the help of the Mine Workers' Union of Canada, coal miners in Estevan hit the picket line on September 7, 1931. The owners of the mines quickly brought in replacement workers, but mass picketing drove those workers out. On September 29, 1931 miners planned a parade on what was to become known as Black Tuesday. Before the miners, along with their wives and children, could get the parade to the centre of town the local police chief reportedly grabbed one of the miners -- sparking a fight. Police, firefighters and the RCMP were called in as things escalated. Black Tuesday ended with three miners being shot dead, and many other injured. Some union leaders were arrested, and ultimately charged and convicted. Despite the deaths the strike wore on. Finally, on October 6, 1931 the mine owners agreed to a number of conditions, including: higher wages, an eight-hour workday and other concessions. One concession the owners wouldn't make? Holding firm on not allowing the workers to join the Mine Workers' Union of Canada. It would take many more years before the coal miners of Estevan to finally unionize after the death of three of their own.

Abella, I. M. (1974). On strike: six key labour struggles in Canada, 1919-1949. Toronto: James Lewis & Samuel Publishers.

Winnipeg General Strike 1919

Winnipeg, Manitoba

On May 1, 1919, Winnipeg's building and metal workers took to the picket lines fighting for higher wages. Many Canadians had returned from war and were dissatisfied with working conditions upon their return to their home and native land. So, as summer approached in 1919, the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council called for a general strike in support of the building and metal workers. The city came to a standstill and political leaders in Ottawa took notice and ordered federal employees back to work immediately, or face dismissal. The government also took a hardline on immigrants, believing them to be behind the strike, and broadened the definition of sedition (incitement to rebellion). At the local level, the mayor of Winnipeg, fired most of the city police force, as many were sympathetic to the strikers' cause. Those police officers were replaced with the "Specials," who were paid for by the business community and given baseball bats and horses. The Royal North-West Mounted Police, a.k.a. The Red Coats, were also on hand when on June 10, 1919, a riot broke out, then a few days later union leaders were arrested. The Red Coats were told to put down any ensuing demonstrations with necessary force. Things culminated in what would become known as "Bloody Saturday." On June 21, 1919, 6,000 people protested while the Red Coats charged with revolvers firing on horseback. Two strikers were killed, 34 injured and 94 people were arrested. The violent strike came to an end on June 25, 1919, with workers returning to work. The labour movement in Canada had effectively been quashed ... at least for the time being.

Books and other resources from UofT Libraries catalogue.

On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919 [film available online]. 1991, Joe MacDonald, Clare Johnstone Gilsig. 19 min 46 s

1919: The Winnipeg General Strike: A Blog

Loading