May 15th, 2019
May 15th, 2019
One hundred years ago today, tens of thousands of workers in Winnipeg walked off the job and took to the streets to demand free collective bargaining and better working conditions.
The Winnipeg General strike lasted several weeks and ended in “Bloody Saturday”, a mass confrontation between for-hire ex-soldiers on horseback and striking workers in the middle of Main Street. When the smoke cleared, two people had died, bringing a violent end to the first of many general strikes that followed across the continent.
Several strike leaders were jailed. But these labour activists knew that real change required doing more than taking to the streets – they had to get involved in politics. Many were elected to the House of Commons, provincial Legislature, and City Council – some while they were still in jail.
One of the leaders, J.S. Woodsworth – whose charges were dropped – was elected as a Member of Parliament. He went on to become a founder of the CCF, which became the NDP.
As a labour activist, he understood that becoming an elected politician, who could side with workers, meant that he could fight for them at the highest level.
This is still true today.
As New Democrats remember the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and how it changed Canada, we re-commit ourselves to ensuring that the voice of labour is heard in the House of Commons.
As history keeps showing us, the NDP is the voice of change. Together, it is possible to change the course of history for the better.