HDLC 1130 Barton Street East, Suite 210, Hamilton, Ontario L8H 7P9 • 905 547-2944 FAX 905 547-2865


A Timeline of the Regional Hamilton Labour Movement

                          1860 - Present

1860 – 1914 – Height of the Industrial Revolution. Hamilton Ontario serves as a trademark for the transformation of craft-skill to mechanization. Hamilton becomes one of several evidential sites of Industrial capitalistic growth. Greater division in class structure – skilled workers fight to maintain social equality.

1863 – Hamilton's first Labour Council

1871 – Cigar workers of Brantford and Hamilton strike to enforce work regulations and more apprentices

1872 – Hamilton General Strike - Hamilton workers strike for a 9 hour work day, this movement catches on in many other Canadian cities

1875 – The Knights of Labor enter the province of Ontario; insert themselves into the elections at the local and provincial levels. Promote the organization of all workers to bring social alternatives to the growth of capitalism.

1881 – Knights of Labor become a key role in the labour movement in Ontario, and especially in the city of Hamilton. The Knights of Labor were the American supporters of equality in the American labor force. They encouraged the struggle between worker and employer to achieve equality.

1882 – The Hamilton Bricklayers strike against the growing mechanization of the workforce. Workers were paid $2 per day. While on strike, they were replaced with ‘scabs' working for $2.50 - $3.00 per day. Bitter feuds erupt in response between employer and workers.

1888 - A meeting of Hamilton unions in Toronto Ontario establishes the Hamilton Trades and Labour Council, affiliated with the American Federation of Labour

1902 - The Knights of Labour are expelled from the Trades and Labour Council

1906 - Members of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America Division 107 strike against the Cataract Power Company - owners of the Hamilton Street Railway. Fought for better wages and working conditions as well as the recognition as a united organization representing all transit workers in Hamilton.

1912 – The Hamilton Trades and Labour Council officially become chartered by the Canadian Congress of Labour. The Trades and Labour Council involves all unions - trades and industrial unions – in the Hamilton area

1914 - Workers Compensation Act receives third reading in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Becomes Canada's first source of compensation

1912 – 1916 – The International Association of Machinists in Hamilton strike against their employer's refusal to follow government legislation for equal wages. By 1916, 1500 to 2000 workers protest against their employers to follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

1918 - City of Hamilton employees were chartered as a union under the American Federation of Labour. Organized under the banner of the Civic Employees Union Local 16208

1919 - CEU 16208 strikes for an 8 hour work day for 9 hour wages.

1928 – Female knitters in Hamilton strike in protest of poor and unhygienic working conditions and unequal wages

1934 – Steelworkers in Hamilton's Stelco organize their first independent Steelworkers Union of Sheet Mill Workers – Lodge 1005

1936 – The Steelworkers Union becomes affiliated with the Steelworkers Organization Committee (SWOC).

1939 – All industrial unions affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the Hamilton Trades and Labour Council are expelled. The expelled industrial unions formed the second Labour Council in the Hamilton area – The Hamilton Labour Council and included several international union affiliates and the United Steelworkers.

1942 – United Steelworkers of America Local 1005 becomes officially chartered, but not recognized by Stelco

1946 – Strikes held to break Federal government economic controls of the Second World War.

- Militant strike at Stelco in Hamilton Ontario – USWA Canada Local 1005 strikes for union recognition at Stelco, forty hour work week, and a 19.5 cent wage increase with the company's increased profits from wartime production. Bitter clashes commence as Stelco management uses ‘scabs' to fill the voids left by strikers. Strikers prevent scab movement into steel mills with “The Whisper” on the Harbour, and dropping pamphlets from airplanes encouraging remaining workers to join the strike

- Electrical workers of Westinghouse and Rubberworkers of Firestone also strike and join in sympathy with Stelco Strikers

- Steelworkers strike also at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, and at Dosco Steel in Sydney Nova Scotia

1948 – Studebaker Corporation establishes an automotive assembly plant in Hamilton, creating jobs and adds further to the union movement in Hamilton. CAW Local 525 is formed in response and represents the workers of Studebaker Corporation

1950 - CUPE Local 5 negotiates with the City of Hamilton for wage increases and a 40 hour week. A bitter strike ensues lasting 39 days.

1956 – The merger of the Hamilton Labour Council and the Hamilton Trades and Labour Council reunites the CIO and AFL unions and exists to this day under the Hamilton and District Labour Council

1956 – 1957 – “The Labour Digest” – a briefly run newspaper published by the Hamilton and District Labour Council which advertised and advocated local trades and industry. It became the voice of over 30,000 local unionists with opinions and reports on democracy, unemployment, Canadian politics (NDP/CCF focus), farmer's boards' reports, and economic and global affairs.

1966 – Studebaker Corporation ceases operations in Hamilton and permanently becomes out of business. All workers were left without work and demanding better government assistance for support for all workers laid off at Studebaker.

1975 - The Civil Service Association of Ontario takes the presently familiar name of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union

1975 - 1980 - CAW Local 525 affiliates number grows with 14 workplaces organized with over 2,200 member

1980 - USW 1005 passes a motion to establish the first worker run occupational health and safety clinic, first of its kind in North America.

1981 - USW 1005 strikes at Stelco in Hamilton, and subsequently USW 2251 at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Debate rose for wage increases but specifically Local 1005 fought for joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees and language changes in their contract to recognize female labour.

1984 - April 28th, designated by the Canadian Labour Congress as the National Day of Mourning for those workers who have been injured or killed while on the job. It is a day not only for remembrance for the fallen, but for advocacy and promotion for Health and Safety Awareness and for better laws to protect workers and their families.

1984 - Allen Industries Ltd. closes its Hamilton/Stoney Creek plant. Allen became one of the first firms in Canada to close down its operations and reopen to take advantage of low cost labour in Mexico. Allen would reopen its shop in Chihuahua, Mexico paying its employees 1/10 the wage it payed its Hamilton and Stoney Creek workers. CAW Local 525 plays significant role in negotiating severence and compensation packages for its members at Allen.

1985- 1986 - Inglis appliance company plans on shutting its doors at its Stoney Creek plant due to Health and Safety issues with its employees reacting terribly to the isocyanates used in production. Their plant is closed late 1985/early 1986 and moved to Cambridge and Port Credit Ontario.

April 28th, 1986 - First Day of Mourning Commemoration takes place in Hamilton at the City Hall Council Chambers.

1989 - the first of five Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers is established funded by the provincial government.

April 28th, 1990 - Hamilton's Day of Mourning Monument is unveiled. It currently stands at the corner of Main Street West, and Bay Street at City Hall.

1996 - The Ontario Workers' Custom House re-opened as an interpretive centre for workers' history and culture. Moves into the building located presently at 51 Stuart St. Hamilton Ontario.

2006 - The Hamilton and District Labour Council celebrates its 50th Anniversary

- If any interested organizations have any labour related memorabilia or information about the history of the Hamilton Labour Movement that they wish to donate to the Hamilton and District Labour Council, then you are greatly encouraged to contact us for the appropriate arrangements.

Thank you

Sean Galvin and Rob Morden 

Works Cited 

Baptism of a Union: Stelco Strike of 1946. Wayne Roberts. Hamilton Ontario: McMaster University,

DesRoches,Ben F.. The Union that Changed My Life: Local 1005 United Steelworkers of America Hamilton, Ontario. John C. Adams. Hamilton Ontario: USWA Local 1005, 2000.  

Lewchuck,Wayne and the CAW Local 525 Retirees. Working and Motoring in a Steeltown. The History of CAW Local 525: 1948 - 1998. First ed. Hamilton Ontario: Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, 1998.

Thomas ,Ed. The Crest of the Mountain: The Rise of Cupe Local 5 in Hamilton. Joanne Keenan. Hamilton Ontario: Canadian Union of Public Employees, 1998.

Internet Referencing

Canadian Auto Workers History http://www.caw.ca/whoweare/ourhistory/cawhistory/index.html 

Ontario Public Service Employees Union History - http://www.opseu.org/organizing/history_/index.htm

United Steelworkers History in Ontario - http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/labourstudies/onlinelearningcentre/uswacda/uswahistory/

Cradle of Collective Bargaining: The History of Labour and Technology in Hamilton and District

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