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The Winnipeg strike of 1919 refers to a leading industrial action by Canadian employees. It is one of the largest strikes recorded in the Canadian history to date. Employees decided to down their tools due to the various changes that were taking place during that time. The strike set the platform for labor reforms in Canada. The strike was caused by poor, working conditions, low wages, and lack of recognition of their trade unions and the principle of collective bargaining in their work places. The workers and unions gained from the strike. For instance, the labor unions were ultimately recognized, employees had an improvement in their wages, and the working conditions were tremendously improved. The strike was the only effective vehicle to achieve their goals because their voices could be listened to due to their unity of action.
This essay explicates Winnipeg strikes and the factors accompanying it
The strike resulted due to the feeling that employees were underpaid. Employees cited that there was a high level of inflation, and yet they were still being paid a lesser amount of the required wages. Naylor (2010) asserts that employees complained that it was so difficult for one to access basic needs such as food with such low wages. Their requests were not addressed. In addition, they asserted that their businesses were making supernormal profits especially after World War 1. They felt that their respective businesses and the government had betrayed them. They needed more earnings as a proof that their efforts were being recognized in the building of the country. According to Chair (1994), employees were angered by the fact that they were dedicated to bringing the best only to take home meager wages. They were tired of working for employers who just wanted to use them as working machines and ultimately dump them. They wanted a compensation that could be measured with the amount of work they had done. Employees were also annoyed because of the fact that wage schemes did not provide them with bonuses for the excellent work done. The continuous refusal by the government to reject employees’ demands for salary increments in the work places led to the big strike.
They were subjected to poor, working conditions at their places of work. Employees complained that their places of work were unfit for human operations, and they were not pleased to continue working in such an environment. For instance, soldiers claimed that they had been subjected to poor living conditions during the world war. They asserted that they had been made to lie in the trenches thus being exposed to many risks. According to News (1919), they were exposed to risks and their employers did not care about the ultimate results that could happen. Employees claimed that they lacked the appropriate tools to assist them in the execution of their duties in the most effective manner. They were thus forced to use their own energy to perform machine jobs. Constructors also felt that the work was heavy, and they worked under dilapidated conditions. Employees held that employers did this intentionally and thus, wanted this inhuman practice to be corrected for good. They wanted an environment that provided cleaner air for them to breath. Employees were tired with the rampant harassments from employers. Employers made the working conditions poor as one did not have the peace of mind because of continued underestimations and intimidations from their employers.
Employees took the action because of the refusal by their employees to recognize their unions and collective bargaining. Employers had totally refused to recognize their respective unions. MacKinnon (2001) reports that the unions played an instrumental role in ensuring that the rights of employees were catered for. They had a feeling that the refusal to recognize unions was a way to more discrimination at the work place. They had been denied a legal right to fight for their rights under the protection and support of unions. They saw this as a means to actions such as unfair treatment and judgment. This meant that they could be sacked at any moment with no place to find assistance. In addition, it was evident to them that actions such as wage increment would not be considered especially if presented individually. They wanted unions in place to avoid intimidation and discrimination from employers. The continued resistance for union and collective bargaining recognition for the employees led them to taking a bold action. They assembled and went out on the famous Winnipeg strike.
Employees and unions gained from the strike. Employees’ salaries were increased. This is one of the main demands that led to the famous strike. Employees were ultimately recognized with a positive consideration, to raise their wage levels. Grant (2009) observes that the government and employers had to discuss the way forward because most businesses had been brought to a standstill. Employees’ demands were responded to, and they were finally compensated a little of what they demanded. This was a tremendous benefit on their part because they could now cope with the harsh conditions relating to inflation. They could get access to the basic needs and satisfy their desires with the achieved goals. The increment in their wages meant that they could also concentrate on their overall performance in the work. They were thus able to work in order to earn the best. This was due to the instruction of compensation schemes such as the peace rate method. They would work more to earn handsomely.
During the elections, some employees who had been front-runners in the strike were elected. The strike was vital to some of the employees because it was a stepping-stone for a political career. Some of the main agitators for the strike automatically won seats to represent their people. The feeling that these employees had tasted the bitter side of life and thus, understood what common citizens were undergoing motivated this. They were automatically elected to go and represent the respective needs of citizens relating to employment, labor, and future employee prospects. Cole (2007) intimates that there was much belief that they were actually going to deliver on their promises because of their past life as employees working under worse employers.
Unions earned recognition, and they formed the basis for a central bargaining power. The action was vital as it led to the recognition of unions by employers. This meant that employees could freely join any union that specifically focused on his area of specialization. Unions were the bases where rights relating to employees were addressed. According to Grant (2009) the recognition meant full employee represented in most matters. In addition, employees could now pick representatives to argue on their behalf instead of facing their employers’ face to face hence risking dismissal. Matters relating to employees could now be formulated at a central place before being addressed to the main employer. Employees acquired a medium for central bargaining. This meant that they would come together and develop proposals on what they needed then use unions to address. Unions were the main bodies that promoted the understandability of employee needs.
The working conditions were improved. Soldiers and other employees from different departments had asserted that they were subjected to poor, working conditions. The strike formed the central point where this issue was addressed. Employee harassment declined to a greater level due to the new, acquired practices. According to Chair (1994) employees could now work in cleaner environments that prevented exposure to cases of diseases and other harms. Employees were given the right, working tools, which ensured that they did not perform the machine jobs. They were also given the correct attire for their jobs. The environment in and outside the organizations was improved hence proving safe for human operations and working. Proper working conditions are vital for the achievement of any desired goals. Under these conditions, they were going to be more dedicated and work towards the required change.
The strike was the best action to take in order to achieve the required change. It ensures that the voice of individuals is listened to and seriously taken into consideration. The unity among most individuals is thoroughly taken because of the dire effects it could leave for the country. The change would come immediately because further delays negatively affect the economy and individual organization. This was the only way to make the change come true because negotiations had failed. Employees had tried to negotiate with the government and employees to no avail. Strikes are authoritative in nature because they assert that a particular individual is serious in pursuing a given action. In addition, the strike meant that all employees had downed their tools hence there were no national operations in progress. This would have opened up Canada to any attack or economic collapse. Naylor (2010) intimates that the strike was the only effective way to make the government realize change were inevitable. The authority asserted in the strike was so serious that the government and employers could not fail to respond. The strike was also effective because of the manner in which it is conducted. People get to the streets and chant slogans that are indicative of their rights. This leads to the required changes.
To effect change, employees alternatively intentionally underperformed in their duties. They produce substandard goods and offered low quality services with an intention of passing a message to their employers. They did this intentionally with a view to address employers that they were tired of working well and ultimately parting with undesirable rewards. According to News (1919) they used this as an excuse for their poor performance. They asserted that the poor performance resulted from the poor wages administered to them. In addition, they wrote banners to describe the issues they wanted addressed and suck them at the entrances of their work places. Employers could easily read them and develop the feeling that it is vital to go for a change. All these actions led to change in poor, working conditions and recognition of workers’ union.
In conclusion, Winnipeg strikes were the most talked about in the history of Canada. Employees in all sectors came out and demanded that they needed wage increments, proper working environment, and union recognition. These issues had not been addressed initially thus leading to the strikes. The strike bore fruit for the employees and unions as the wages were increased. In addition, some famous employees won the elections and joined the government due to the strongest demand for the rights of employees during the strike. The action they took was the best way of bringing change into the working environments. Change is inevitable, and peoples’ pressure ensures that it is made. They joined and demanded their rights in one voice. The employees probably used alternative methods such as performing below their required levels, to ensure that change was brought into the organizations. If negotiations fail, a strike is the best method of bringing change into the organization.