On this day in 1919…
Members of the Metal Trades Council decided to walk off the job, protesting inadequate working conditions and wages.
Like the building trades workers, they too had been planning to mobilize for a long time. The metal trades workers tried for years to negotiate with their employers about fairer wages and more reasonable work schedules.
Specifically, workers demanded an eight-hour work day, opposed to the 10-hour day which was enforced by many trades employers in Winnipeg at the time.
The metal trades workers also fought for the recognition of their own effective labour union, to advocate for the interests and safe working conditions of all employees.
Owners and ironmasters, who made up the Metal Trades Employers, would not agree to participate in collective bargaining. They refused to recognize the workers’ organization as a union or to recognize their affiliation with the Trades and Labour Council.
Some businesses were willing to meet with small internal committees under the condition that they were not part of the Trades Union Movement. Other businesses dismissed employees immediately if they were discovered to have formed or joined a union.
But, once again, on May 2, the demands of the workers were met with outright refusal by the three largest contractors in Winnipeg: Vulcan Iron Works, Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works, and The Dominion Bridge Company.
In retaliation, the workers went on strike. The members of the Metal Trades Council would not return to work until the end of the Winnipeg General Strike.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919 by the Allied forces, would later be the first international document to acknowledge the need for an eight-hour work day.