History of Canadian Labour- the Term Paper

  • Length: 9 pages
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #59351269

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Thus, some suggest that the competition between the workers was crucial. More precisely "competition between high-wage white workers and low-wage Asian workers explains racial exclusion (...) labor competition was the central feature of ethnic division in the working class, and exclusion was the only viable strategy under these circumstances." (Creese, 1988, 294)

Despite this possible explanation there were other factors as well that determined the white workers to exclude Asians. However, there was a sense of lack of organization at the level of immigrant workers especially because they were considered to have no desire for such an organization. Even so, in some cases, there was also a fear of the extremist workers who were considered to be capable of radicalism (Creese, 1988, 294). Other opinions suggest that economic factors as well as ideological ones are also viable for offering an explanation. In this sense, there were irreconcilable differences in terms of cultural approaches to work and labor. More precisely, "the key to intra-working-class conflict was immigrants' different expectations before arriving in Canada. Asians were cheap and docile because they faced worse conditions in their countries of origin and expected nothing better than they found in Canada; while European, especially British immigrants expected better conditions and were radicalized" (Creese, 1988, 294).

Regardless of the actual causes of the exclusion of the Chinese workers from being given an equal treatment, the situation in Canada at the turn of the century concerning Asian workers was rather grim especially from the point-of-view of the conditions in which they worked. In this sense, they were disadvantaged in terms of wages, as they "earned from one half to three quarters of the wages of unskilled white men in the same industries," contracts, as "they were typically hired under labor contractors rather than as individuals, a system that added to their lower standard of living and segregation from the white labor force," the area of their employment in which "mostly male Asian workers were largely confined to the least desirable unskilled labor and concentrated in the primary service sectors of the economy" (Creese, 1988, 295). Therefore, these elements point out precisely the way in which Asian workers were treated in a labor market which refused to associate them with the community.

Another important aspect for the exclusion of the Chinese workers in particular was the lack of political rights. In this sense, immigrants, similar to women in that period were not considered as part of the society and were not given rights and were disregarded even as human beings. Thus, "the labor movement's rationale for excluding Asians was based not only on cheap labor competition but also included explicitly racist ideas. Asians were considered inferior social beings: 'Japs', 'Chinks', 'Coolies', Hidoos', 'insidious Orientals'. Just as the Canadian stated distinguished between Asian immigrants without political rights and whites who would become 'real' Canadians with political rights, so too did the labor movement define Asian workers as 'foreigners' and whites as the 'real' working class in Canada" (Creese, 1988, 298). From this point-of-view, it is obvious that the Canadian society not only rejected the immigrant labor force but was also inevitably committed not to accept it in the future.

From the point-of-view of race it is rather hard to determine the nature in which the society could have been divided. On the contrary, it can be said that the general opinion towards the Chinese was one of exclusion rather than inclusion in the community. However, these divergent points also led to a disintegration of the labor force all together because, as stated above, it offered the chance for radical movements.

In terms of skill, it is again visible the fact that women and men were unequally spread in the industry. However, the fact that still women had more or less a work place is important especially considering the depression of the 1915s (Schulze, 1990). However, an important aspect must be pointed out, one which eventually came to influence the way in which political parties would be formed and in which social movements would be organized. In terms of skills it appears obvious that the privileged level of the society was engaged in skilled activities such as manufacturing, construction, and mining "who might be referred to collectively as crafts workers" (Heron, 1984). These types of associations led in turn to movements that would eventually try to change the situation of workers in Canada. From the point-of-view of organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World the idea of organizing workers under a common cause was felt more and more. In this sense laborism appeared as a means to unite workers under common goals and requests (Heron, 1984). This is considered to be one of the first elements to influence a union inside a work system that would in the end result in the 1919 revolt.

The 1919 strike is considered to be one of the most important social movements in the Canadian history. This is not only due to the size of its revolt or the number of people it affected but also from the point-of-view of the statements it made. In this sense, it pointed out the fact that the socialist movement started in Russia had attracted more and more supporters and the flagellum spread across the ocean as well. Secondly, it was an alarm signal for the governments throughout the world in concern for the bad conditions in which workers achieved their jobs. Finally, another crucial aspect, given the magnitude of the revolt, it became obvious the power of the working class. In this sense, the labor parties and the Labor movement in particular gain momentum and they found the working segment power to be important for political reasons. (Heron, 1984)

Overall there are several conclusions that must be drawn. On the one hand, it is important to consider the situation and the status of Canadian workforce from several perspectives. In this sense, it can be concluded that gender, race, skills, and political situation played a major role in the way the worker in general and the workforce in Canada in particular managed to develop and face the challenges of the 20th century and those of two world wars. On the other hand, the way in which the society changed and evolved also as a result of outside factors is essential because it pointed out the connection that exists between events taking place in one corner of the world. In this sense, the revolution in Russia completely changed the way in which labor was viewed particularly because it drew the attention on the need for reconsideration of the power of the proletariat and the political potential it has.

References

Creese, G. (1988) "Exclusion or solidarity? Vancouver Workers confront the 'Oriental Problem." BC Studies, University of British Columbia Press.

Heron, C. (1984) '"Laborism and the Canadian Working Class." Labor / Le Travail. Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Marks, L. (1991) "The Knights of Labor and the Salvation Army: religion and working-class culture in Ontario, 1882-1890." Labor / Le Travail, 28, 89-127.

Phelan, C. (2000) Grand Master Workman: Terence Powderly and the Knights of Labor. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Schulze, D. (1990) "The industrial workers on the World and…

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