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1919 Winnipeg General Strike 100th Anniversary

May 23, 2019

RNWMP operations in Winnipeg General Strike, 1919. Canadian government / Royal North West Mounted Police; declared to be in the Public Domain, http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&lang=eng&rec_nbr=3615118 [Public domain]

He was one of two people fatally shot in a crowd of thousands. However, the ambiguity surrounding his death seems to outweigh the death itself. Did he antagonize his aggressors or was he a passive victim? Hit by a stray bullet, perhaps? Even the spelling of his name is up for debate. Mike Sokolowski, a Ukrainian working class immigrant who was shot by North-West Mounted Police while protesting, was one of several notable people involved in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 who are now buried at the Brookside Cemetery, which neighbours Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus.

As part of the Winnipeg General Strike’s 100th anniversary activities, former CUPE president Paul Moist has organized walking tours at the Brookside Cemetery. Information regarding the official tours can be found here. For those interested in doing a daytime tour during the week, Paul is offering a lunch hour tour on two weekdays for the RRC community specifically. Attendees are welcome to attend one or both days—a different section of the cemetery will be explored each day.

Anyone planning to attend should email the Library at circndc@rrc.ca indicating which day(s) they will be attending. Attendance is limited to 20 participants for each day.

  • When: 12:00-1:00 PM, Wednesday, June 12. 12:00-1:00 PM, Thursday, June 13.
  • Where: Meet in front of the Administration Building at the Brookside Cemetery.

*All participants must read the Safety Guidelines.

For other exciting community events and opportunities to commemorate the Winnipeg General Strike’s 100th anniversary, be sure to check out the Manitoba Federation of Labour website and the display at the library entrance.

While the strike began as a means to improve workers’ rights, it revealed other societal issues and influenced more than just the world of organized labour. Underlying issues in politics, women’s rights, and immigration were all brought to light by the strike. If you want to learn more about the strike itself, or are interested by some of these surrounding issues, consider checking out some of the following physical and online resources that are offered at the library. Many of them will be out in the library’s main display case.

Print resources:

The Bolshevik’s Revenge (A Sam Klein mystery) – Allan Levine

The “war to end all wars” has just ended, the Bolsheviks have seized power in Russia and most of the Western world is convinced that a widespread workers’ revolt is imminent. Winnipeg is no exception as sector after sector of the city is shut down by a massive General Strike, and when one of the city’s most prominent capitalists is murdered, detective Sam Klein is called in to solve the case before the city erupts in chaos.

 

Negotiating Sex Work: Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism – Edited by Carisa Renae Showden and Samantha Majic

Attitudes on sex work are primarily divided between those who consider that selling sexual acts is legitimate work and those who consider it a form of exploitation. Organized into three parts, Negotiating Sex Work rejects this either/or framework and offers instead-diverse and compelling contributions that aim to reframe these viewpoints.

 

We’re Going to Run This City: Winnipeg’s Political Left After the General Strike – Stefan Epp-Koop

We’re Going to Run This City explores the dynamic political movement that came out of the largest labour protest in Canadian history and the ramifications for Winnipeg throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

 

 

Working People: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Labour Movement – Desmond Morton

Working People tells the story of the men and women in the labour movement in Canada and their struggle for security, dignity, and influence in our society. Highlighting some of the great events of labour history, Desmond Morton explores the clash between idealists, who fought for socialism, industrial democracy, and equality for women and men, and the realists who wrestled with the human realities of self-interest, prejudice, and fear.

 

E-resources:

Bloody Saturday: The Winnipeg General Strike – CBC documentary by Andy Blicq

Was the strike a legitimate protest against low wages, poor working conditions and a lack of bargaining rights, or was it an attempt by immigrants to import “Bolshevism” and a new political order? Bloody Saturday takes a contemporary look at the key moments of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and how lives were lost and changed.

 

Transforming Labour: Women and Work in Post-War Canada – Joan Sangster

Transforming Labour offers one of the first critical assessments of women’s paid labour during the quarter century after the close of the Second World War, a period when more and more women, particularly those with families, were going ‘out to work’. Using case studies from across Canada, Joan Sangster explores a range of themes, including women’s experiences within unions, Aboriginal women’s changing patterns of work, and the challenges faced by immigrant women. By charting women’s own efforts to ameliorate their work lives as well as factors that re-shaped the labour force, Sangster challenges the commonplace perception of this era as one of conformity, domesticity for women, and feminist inactivity.

 

Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers are Disrupting the Digital Economy – Trebor Scholz

One of network culture’s toughest critics, Trebor Scholz chronicles the work of workers in the “sharing economy,” and the free labor on sites like Facebook, to take these myths apart. In this rich, accessible, and provocative book, Scholz exposes the uncaring reality of contingent digital work, which is thriving at the expense of employment and worker rights. The book is meant to inspire readers to join the growing number of worker-owned “platform cooperatives,” rethink unions, and build a better future of work. A call to action, loud and clear, Uberworked and Underpaid shows that it is time to stop wage theft and “crowd fleecing,” rethink wealth distribution, and address the urgent question of how digital labor should be regulated and how workers from Berlin, Barcelona, and Seattle can act in solidarity to defend their rights.

 

Blog author: Jordan Zimmerly