The enactment of PC1001 was seen as a milestone towards the institutionalization of Canada’s labour movement. Justice Ivan Rand was appointed arbitrator to bring to an end the strike involving workers from Ford’s Windsor plant in Canada. He gave the unions the right to use a check off system that would help in the collection of the unions’ dues. This, Justice Ivan saw as a means to give the union financial stability before they could grow themselves into single entities. The Rand Ruling has been used as a template for Canada’s labour relations.
This essay will examine the Ford Windsor strike: the issues, resolve and the influence of the strike to the labor laws of Canada. The first paragraph will provide a historiography of labour in Canada. The second paragraph will discuss the Ford Windsor Strike, key issues to the end of the strike, while the third paragraph will discuss the effect of the stile to the Canadian labour laws, its applicability and shortcomings for present day labour market.
Each period of the Canadian labour history raised genuine concerns specific to the struggles facing workers at the time. Between the 19th and 20th centuries there were no scholarly productions touching on the Canadian workers. Only copied evidences of the workers’ conditions and their attempts to unionize were published by royal commissions. Few advocates representing the workers, provided evaluations on Canadian workers transforming into a political and social force. The realization of the political role played by workers led to the commissioning of studies such as RH Coat’s study of the cost of living relating this to the needs of individuals. Between 1929 and 1945, few Canadians who were associated with the emerging social-democratic environment began advocacy campaigns on public ownership and the respect of civil liberties. Leading these studies was Frank Underhill joined by economists, researchers and social scientists such as;
- Frank Scott,
- Stuart Jamieson who produced Times of trouble (1968), a monograph on strike activities between 1900 and 1966
- Eugene Forsey who produced Trade Unions in Canada (1982) that examines institutional development of Canadian unionism.
Advocates of socialism viewed workers as passive recipients of social reform stimulated by intellectuals. The social democratic school of thought was of the view of labour as a scholarly discourse, thus defining the course of labour studies. Social democrats view labour movements as the force upon which they could rely their studies dealing with unions, labour political activity and the leadership reforms that could be offered. The end of the Second World War prompted numerous studies in universities most of which examined the daily lives of workers. Bernard Ostry, a historian wrote on labour and politics of the 1870 and 1880 while H.C. Pentland(1981) wrote Labour and capital:1650-1860. Harold Logan had in 1948 published Trade unions in Canada, dealing with the struggles of the Canadian labour movements in the 30s and 40s. other issues dealt with the effect of gender in labour, regional stereotypes and the nature and extent of radicalism in particular the “western exceptionalism.” Frager Ruth produced Sweatshop Strife (1992) and Franca Lacovetta produced Such Hardworking People (1992), both of which dealt with the difficulties facing workers in Canada.
The Ford Windsor strike: Key Issues
Fords complex in Windsor was the largest with an employee base of 14000 workers. The workers had joined together in the creation of the United Auto Workers union. The union led the workers win several contracts with the company even with its reluctance to truly accept the union. The ability of the union to operate and exists cropped up as a priority to the union members following the 1500 layoffs and the unsuccessful contract of September 1945. This contract contained union security and economic demands.Union security refers to the ability of the union to operate and exist on a consistent and sustainable basis.
In 1945, the UAW Local 200 made Union security their key demand. The end of war had been the perfect excuse for employers to slip back into the pre-war conditions that discouraged workers from forming unions. However, in an effort to prevent this setback, Local 200 demanded the formation of a union shop and for automatic check off. The Detroit Ford’s River Rouge plant had in 1941 agreed to these terms. UAW officials had to directly collect monthly dues directly from the members; the large number of members made this a difficult function to perform, it being the major function as opposed to other Union functions. For effective representation of members, the union had to ensure union security. On September 12th 1945, negotiations with the company stalled causing the onset of the historic 99 day strike. The principle cause of the strike being the need for union security and that the strides made during the war, for the labor sector would not be reversed. The strike was to ensure that unions would be allowed to take their rightful place and be accepted in the Canadian society. This was a time when thousands of soldiers were expected back into the country and would be re-entering the Canadian workforce. It is for this reason that employers were looking forward to going back to the control pre-war years thus the Ford strike led the way for Canadian workers to gain confidence in their right to fight for the gains made.
The strikers tampered with the company’s powerhouse hence shutting the plants heating system. Police aggression was invited due to the growing need to have the powerhouse reopened as winter was approaching. The local police commission overruled the Windsor’s mayor, Art Reaume, stance of not involving the police. The continued presence and aggression of the police was termed by UAW president Roy England as a bid to walk back the country’s production workers and veterans away from the permanent employment glorious years. As tension mounted in November, 8000 workers from 25 plants led by Local 195 walked away from their work stations in support of the Ford-Windsor workers. The workers stayed out for a month without pay. On November 6th, union members in a bid to avoid bloodshed drove in their cars for the infamous Blockade which stretched 20 blocks round the plant. The UAW director at the time, George Burt described the barricade as a result of cooperation from rich workers with cars, since most of them did not own cars. City buses also helped intensify the barricade as they were organized to drive into the barricade thus helping to tangle the jam.
The only mistake made according to Burt was an invitation to a fish monger whose truck in the middle of the jam and the warm weather motivated them to end the barricade after three days. The police did not intervene in the strike leading to the commencement of negotiations on 23rd November and the reopening of Ford’s powerhouse. The success of the strike, the picketers owed to the Windsor community: soldiers, churches, businesses and family members. The strike gained financial support from unions across the country while food was provided by the Women’s Auxiliary. The strike was a success, achieving union security as well as increased vacations, payable leaves, annual living wage, insurance and medical schemes all of which enabled the workers gain economic security.
The end of the strike was proposed by the federal government on November 29th. The result, an Ottawa led arbitration offer which was turned down by the members. The infamous blockade saw the intervention of the then Sr. Paul Martin cabinet minister who assured the appointment of a sympathetic arbitrator to deal with their case. A vote by the members was made of the 16th December with the effect of allowing a third party to arbitrate on condition that such a party was sympathetic to the union. Justice Ivan Rand was appointed to arbitrate the decision.
The Rand formula has been entrenched in Canada’s labor law receiving approval and condemnations in equal measure. The justice denied union shops but provided for union security in terms of there being compulsory remittance of union dues by members and non-members of the union. This would strengthen the union financials, thus strength in negotiations. In return the judge required, union leaders to discourage direct action by its members requiring that a vote ought to be conducted for a strike to take place. The check-off points would give the union managerial power and independence even with the increased cost of the check-off. This implied that stewards charged with the responsibility of collecting members’ dues would be laid off to cut the costs to the union. According to Pierre Poilievre, the present day unionists only favor the Rand formulae for its financial benefit but have been seen as a burden to employees seeing that union objectives deviated to financing political and social activities. While Rand formulae resolved the Ford Windsor strike, shaping labor relations in Canada, there relevance of the rule is questionable on grounds of freedom not to associate and the balance between benefit and burden. Fordism also led to the creation of a balanced mass market where the workers would be enabled to acquire a middle class sought of lifestyle. The welfare benefits sought would lead to reduced effects to the workers of the volatile business cycles. The effect is that economic stabilization is triggered by the expected increases in the cost of insuring unemployment. This is to mean, the welfare demands by the UAW served to stimulate economic recovery hence increased consumer demand. The Ford Windsor strike was successful in establishing the legitimacy of unions in the country and union security.
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