Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada: An Historical Review 1873-1949

The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada (TLC) was a Canada wide trade union federation that eventually merged with the industrial union federation, the Canadian Congress of Labour, in 1956 to form the Canadian Labour Congress.

This historical overview of its formative period right up to 1949 is a fascinating piece of Canadian social, political and labour history that was produced by the congress itself to give its interpretation of its evolution to that point.

The booklet relates the events around the TLC's formation, talks about its political activities and the reforms it fought for, lists the locations of its conventions, the names of its Executive Officers, delegates to international trade union meetings, etc.

It outlines the important role unions played in fighting child labour and for better working conditions, as well as in the struggle for minimum wage and maximum hour legislation, annual vacations, old age pensions, labour codes, and holidays like Labour Day among other critical reforms.

The TLC's platforms of 1898 and 1935 were ahead of their time in calling for things like proportional representation and equal pay for women. They also had a very radical economic vision that included calls for public ownership of utilities, the nationalization of the banks and the establishment of co-operatives.

The platforms also included, however, racist planks calling in 1898 for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants from Canada -- a plank that in 1935 was amended to call for the "Exclusion of all races that cannot be properly assimilated into the national life of Canada". These stand as examples of how deeply ingrained and widespread racist narratives and views were at the time and as a warning against racist, xenophobic or "nationalist" narratives about immigrants, refugees and foreign workers today -- narratives that cannot be allowed to reassert themselves on the left or in progressive groups or organizations on any level or in any way.

(Click on images to enlarge)

 See also: "Stories about working at the Goodyear Plant in the Lakeshore, as told by workers" -- A union remembrance

See also: BC NDP posts a meme about "foreign" workers -- Xenophobes show up in approval

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