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Gompers in Canada

Gompers in Canada: A Study in American Continentalism Before the First World War

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Gompers in Canada
    Book Description:

    The story of Gompers in Canada has never been properly treated: this book is a significant addition to Canadian and American labour history and to the study of American expansion.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5643-7
    Subjects: History, Law, Management & Organizational Behavior, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    For many years Canadians have debated whether their country should have its own trade-union movement. One of the earliest and most dramatic rehearsals of the perennial arguments on both sides of that question reverberated from the crimson and gold furnishings of the Canadian Senate on 29 April 1903. The chamber’s brilliant decor offered plush quarters for a group of men whose presence there climaxed successful years in politics or business. It contrasted sharply with the dingy union halls and sooty factory stairways where Canadian workers debated the same questions. The senators gathered on that day to take up the second...

  6. 2 First encounter
    (pp. 16-27)

    Though Samuel Gompers paid little attention to Canadian labour in the early years of the American Federation of Labor, he busied himself with international labour issues from the very start. Three years after the afl was founded, he issued invitations to the ‘organized wage workers of the world’ to meet at an international congress in Chicago in 1893 during the World’s Fair. The British Trades Union Congress responded favourably. But when the International Socialist Congress, an organization supported by many European labour unions, refused to accept the invitation, Gompers was forced to cancel his plans. Humiliated, he quickly blamed the...

  7. 3 The rise of branch plants
    (pp. 28-37)

    The first encounters between the American Federation of Labor and the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada had been made in response to Gompers’ scheme to create an international fraternity of craft unions and to Canadian desires for more money for organizing and legislative efforts. After 1898 the whole rationale for the afl’s relationship with the Canadian labour movement changed, responding to new developments within the American business community. In a word, branch-plant factories begat ‘branch-plant’ unionism.

    America’s commercial expansion into Canada had roots deep in the nineteenth century. The similarity of the two cultures, the ease with which capital,...

  8. 4 Organizing boom
    (pp. 38-54)

    Before the arrival of Gompers, labour in Canada was predominantly regional in organization and outlook. Handfuls of Canadian industrial workers were strung out along 3000 miles of Canadian-American border and cut off from each other by mountains, muskeg, and vast empty space. Industrialization exerted an uneven impact upon Canadian regions, and there was scarcely a ‘national’ economy. Ontario became the nearest Canadian counterpart to the burgeoning American industrial community. East of Ontario, manufacturing was limited largely to textiles, cigars, and shoes in Quebec, and in the Maritimes to activities connected with shipping, fishing, and construction, along with the coal mining...

  9. 5 Labour politics in Canada
    (pp. 55-71)

    There is an old tradition of independent labour political action in the Canadian trade-union movement. In the 1870s the Canadian Labor Union entertained motions calling for working men’s platforms and candidates. Out of this effort came the successful election of Daniel O’Donoghue to the Ontario legislature. In the next decade the Knights of Labor in Canada offered candidates for provincial and federal legislatures in several Ontario cities and in Montreal. The Toronto Trades Council nominated or endorsed labour men in various elections. Resolutions for independent political action were frequently adopted by the Trades and Labor Congress in the last two...

  10. 6 Dual unions
    (pp. 72-84)

    As exchanges between the Trades and Labor Congress and the American Federation of Labor on political as well as other matters grew more frenetic, a new and ambitious secretary took over the job of guiding the Congress’s destiny. The retiring officer, George Dower, had initiated the correspondence with the aflin 1896, and those missives had led first to the exchange of fraternal delegates, and later to the afl legislative grant. But Dower apparently did not understand French and was unable to supervise the publication of the French edition of the CongressProceedings. In 1900 a special committee of the Trades...

  11. 7 Berlin victory
    (pp. 85-97)

    About 150 delegates gathered at Saengerbund Hall in Berlin, Ontario, on 15 September 1902 to take part in the opening ceremonies of the Trades and Labor Congress convention. Labour representatives from every province in Canada listened to the greeting extended by the acting mayor of this city in German-speaking Ontario. After president Ralph Smith of the Trades Congress had delivered brief welcoming remarks, the delegates got down to business. Smith directed the credentials committee to make its report.¹

    Much of the controversy related to dual unionism was embedded in the problems faced by this Trades Congress committee. They had to...

  12. 8 A ‘state’ federation
    (pp. 98-110)

    The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada charted a long-range course at Berlin, but it did not settle all of its differences with the American Federation of Labor. In effect the convention went on record in favour of international craft unionism, expelled nearly a fifth of its membership, reversed its policy on arbitration, kept labour parties off the convention floor, and elected the afl organizer to the Congress’s highest office. Having thus declared itself, the Trades Congress dumped the unsettled issues over chartering rights and the per-capita tax payments into the laps of its officers. Since concessions had already been...

  13. 9 External enemies
    (pp. 111-142)

    The Berlin decisions represented a tactical victory in the afl’s strategy of selfaggrandizement. Dual-unionist enemies in Canada were thwarted for the moment. But no trumpet blast signalled the final triumph of international unionism in the country. The amendments to the constitution of the Trades and Labor Congress only promised that the Congress would not succor the Federation’s enemies; they did not guarantee that international unionism would forever remain unchallenged in Canada. Similarly, the Berlin decisions did not foreshadow a re-ordering of priorities by the afl and its affiliates. Whatever the Federation did in America was likely to influence its course...

  14. 10 Jurisdictional disputes and secessions
    (pp. 143-154)

    The accession of thousands of new members at the turn of the century presented a mixed blessing for international trade-union leaders. The new unionists were anxious to reap the benefits of affiliation. They expected unconditional support from union headquarters in all their grievances against employers, but were less willing to pay the relatively high dues assessed them. Workers in some factories resisted separation into different craft locals and could not understand why the American Federation of Labor refused to mix them all into one federal labour union. Technological changes forced locals to merge or reorganize after the men had grown...

  15. 11 Political action
    (pp. 155-182)

    ‘What we desire for ourselves — we wish for all,’ James Woodsworth was fond of saying.¹ The statement captures an element that sets Canadian labour politics apart from the interest-group lobbying of American craft unions. More often in Canada the object of political activity was to create a just social order as well as to expand labour’s slice of the national wealth. Broad political objectives advocated by many Canadian unions were not always coupled with traditional American laissez-faire concepts. In this respect many Canadians differed from Samuel Gompers, who bitterly opposed most forms of governmental intervention in the American economy....

  16. 12 Master and servant
    (pp. 183-209)

    At Berlin and Toronto in 1902-3, the Trades and Labor Congress had been reduced to something akin to a state federation. But it was difficult for Gompers and Morrison to keep the Congress confined to that rank; contrary to the Americans’ annual declarations, the forty-ninth parallel kept getting in the way. Canadian labour leaders still aspired to lead a truly national trade-union centre some day. They toiled to preserve the last vestiges of chartering rights assumed back in the 1890s when there had been talk of creating a Canadian federation of labour, and struggled with Gompers for control over Canadian...

  17. 13 Labour continentalism
    (pp. 210-216)

    American craft unions first invaded British North America during the middle of the nineteenth century. Older, larger, and richer than their Canadian counterparts, they were welcomed by Canadian workers who sought strike support and insurance benefits of a kind unavailable to them elsewhere. American unions willingly lent such help in order to organize the Canadian segment of a new continental product and labour market which developed at mid-century. The unions wanted to protect generally superior American wage levels and working conditions from the deteriorating effects of cheaper labour. Their penetration into Canada was facilitated by the widely held conviction that...

    (pp. 217-227)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 228-265)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 266-275)
  21. Index
    (pp. 276-292)