The Winnipeg General Strike

May-June 1919
After the end of WWI, workers in Canada
faced a number of challenges:
Spanish Flu
No jobs
No employment insurance
Low wages
Those with jobs wanted unions to fight for:
 Higher wages
 Better working conditions
 Job security
A main conflict between workers and
employers was over the right of unions to
collectively bargain.
Collective bargaining: the ability of unions to
communicate directly with employers on
behalf of workers.
The conflict between workers and employers
reached a peak during the Winnipeg General
Strike of 1919.
On May 1, 1919, building and metalworkers strike in
Winnipeg. They were asking for three things:
 Decent wages
 The right to bargain collectively
 Eight hour work-days
Soon after, 30,000 other workers in Winnipeg went on
sympathy strikes.
Sympathy strikes were also called in Brandon, Saskatoon,
Prince Albert, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver,
New Westminster, Victoria, and in as many as 20 other
The Canadian government was alarmed and very fearful of
a communist revolution, after the recent events in Russia.
Winnipeg employers, manufacturers,
lawyers, bankers, and politicians responded
by forming the Citizen’s Committee of 1,000.
This Committee mounted a campaign to
discredit the strikers as Bolsheviks and "alien
scum," declaring the strike a revolutionary
Fearing the encroachment of Communism in
Canada, governments went on high alert.
The Winnipeg General Strike came to a head on
Bloody Saturday, June 21, 1919, when a large
crowd gathered in downtown Winnipeg to
protest the arrest of their strike leaders as well
as the deadlock in negotiations.
A streetcar was attacked; its windows were
smashed, and it was turned over and set on fire.
Mayor Grey called on the North West Mounted
Police to disperse the crowds. Mounties, on
horseback, waded into the crowd, swinging their
A Ukrainian immigrant named Mike Sokolowski
was shot and killed and another striker later died
in hospital of his wounds. At least 30 others were
injured. More than eighty rioters were arrested.
The Central Strike Committee ordered the
workers back to work.
Initially it looked as though the strikers had achieved
However …
The strike was successful in drawing attention to the social
and economic problems that many people faced.
People were upset and began looking at politics as a future
means of resolution and change.
Workers became conscious of themselves as a class;
unions would become a powerful force in Canada.

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