Labor History in 2:00

October 14 - A Day of Protest in Canada

October 14, 2021

On this day in labor history, the year was 1976. 

That was the day more than a million Canadian workers walked off the job in a Day of Protest. 

The Canadian Labour Congress called the general strike. 

Workers downed their tools against a three-year wage controls plan implemented by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. 

Trudeau had actually campaigned against wage controls during the 1974 elections.

A year later, the Liberal government introduced the C-73 Anti-Inflation Bill. 

It was considered the worst attack on labor since the 1930s, when bargaining rights were first legalized. 

Trudeau’s wage controls suspended collective bargaining rights for all workers and amounted to deep wage cuts. 

Public sector workers were hit hardest as many hospital, school and municipal workers teetered on the edge of desperation from already low wages made worse. 

But for a day at least, many industries across Canada came to a screeching halt. 

Forestry, mining and auto production all completely shut down. 

Many towns and cities were one hundred percent on strike, even among the non-union workforce. 

Saint John in New Brunswick, Sudbury, Ontario, Sept Iles, Quebec and Thompson in Manitoba were all cities where the strike was most successful. 

But elsewhere, the strike was uneven. 

Many public sector workers stayed on the job, while in cities like Vancouver, pickets successfully shut down bus service and newspaper deliveries. 

Most heralded the Day of Protest as a fierce show of power against a years’ worth of wage controls. 

But others argued that a one-day action was not enough. 

To combat the attacks on labor, any general strike would have to keep the country shut down until the program of wage controls was finally defeated.

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