Winnipeg Meat Packing Workers' Path to Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining
Grover, John Hanley
Grover, John Hanley. Winnipeg Meat Packing Workers' Path to Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining; A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate studies in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Department of History, University of Winnipeg. Winnipeg, 1996.
This thesis explains why in the 1940s, Winnipeg meat packing workers secured sustainable industrial unionism. By tracing the development of the Winnipeg meat packing industry and investigating previously unsuccessful organizational drives, it is suggested that success in the 1940s corresponded to thee broad contributing factors. The most significant factor was changing local conditions. With the gradual introduction of mass production techniques to the Winnipeg meat packing industry beginning in the early 1920s, the reorganization of Winnipeg packinghouse work occurred. The large scale introduction of semi-skilled workers changed the face of meat packing, as packinghouse work became deskilled without any significant degree of automation. During this period, craft unionism in the meat packing industry failed on a national pattern. This failure coincided with the 1930s experiment in industrial unionism by Winnipeg workers at Western Packers workers. Western Packing's workers' introduction to industrial unionism also provided the successful 1940s drive with links to the Communist Party. An overall strengthening in North America of the labour movement beginning in the 1930s provided the second broad contributing factor to success in the 1940s. With the birth of the CIO in the United States and Canada, Winnipeg meat packing workers gained at the very minimum inspiration. The impact of World War II accounted for the final contributing factor for success in the 1940s. With a wartime demand creating full employment and the government's desire to maintain production, organized labour found itself in a position of unparalleled power. In combination, a spirit of militancy arose among Canada's labour movement. From these conditions, meat packing workers in Winnipeg chose and pursued industrial unionism with great success. By the end of World War II, workers in Winnipeg possessed an effective union organization and had won union shops and wage increases. Ultimately however, the union's national success created a centralized, bureaucratic union movement which consequently provided a loss of local autonomy.