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2006 03 25
Picket Line

For the past 3 weeks we have been involved in the Ontario college faculty strike that ended yesterday with an agreement to arbitrate a resolution.

Most days as we walked the picket line in less than perfect weather, it seemed that the two sides would never find common ground. But now that it is over and we can contextualize our experience within a broader historical context, our collective experience appears as a mere blip. Take for instance, the longest strike on record registered by the Danish barber’s assistants which lasted 33 years and ended on January 4, 1961. In terms of educational strikes consider the Burston village school strike which began in Norfolk, England in 1914 and continued for 25 years. Initiated by the students and supported by the parents, all but 6 of the 72 students walked out of the classroom to protest the dismissal of two beloved teachers. It finally ended in 1939.

Closer to home the first organized Canadian labour dispute got off the ground in the mid 19th century. Arising out of an initial Hamilton-based strike in 1872, promoting a nine-hour workday and the legalization of trade unions, supportive strikes quickly organized in cities across Southwestern and Eastern Ontario reaching as far east as Montréal and Halifax. But it was in Toronto, during this period, that the largest labour ‘demonstration’ took place. Ten thousand people attended a massive demonstration in support of the nine-hour workday movement. A later demonstration of four thousand arose after the arrest of 26 members of the Toronto Typographical Union, employees of George Brown, the then publisher of the “Globe” newspaper. They had been arrested for “seditious conspiracy” in striking for the nine-hour hour workday.

Gaining in strength and momentum, the combined effect of strike and demonstration resulted in the creation of the Trades Union Act in 1872 by Sir John A. Macdonald. This Act, removing any association of illegal conspiracy with organized labour protests, has enabled Canadians to collectively define what it means to live in a democratic society. Next time when you see people striking, view it as a continuation of 134 years of democratic appeal.
[email this story] Posted by moimoi design on 03/25 at 05:55 PM

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