Labour Struggle in the United States and Canada, 1876 - 1878: Reflections on Connected Histories
(Conferences / Seminars / Lectures)
Jean-Philip Mathieu, History Department, University of Quebec, speaker
In late December 1876, railway workers affiliated with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers go on strike and succeed in paralyzing and defeating the Grand Trunk Railway, the largest and most powerful corporation in Canada. In the summer of 1877, the Great Labour Uprising erupts in the United States, one of the most intense and bloody confrontations between capital and labour in North American history. In June 1878, thousands of desperate men living on the razor's edge of public works force a general strike in Québec City with the goal of creating a minimum wage of one dollar a day. These three confrontations, all taking place during the nadir of the Great Depression, are usually viewed as isolated events in standard national labour histories. However, as this paper will demonstrate, events such as these were rarely confined by the porous borders of the nineteenth-century. By reflecting on the connections linking these three clashes, we will argue that labourers in Québec City or Toronto had more in common with workers in Chicago or Saint-Louis than they had with their own employers, and that the North American working class shared a common historical trajectory that transcended national boundaries.
Cosponsored by the Canadian Studies Center and Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives.