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TimeLinks: Thomas R. Deacon

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No IMage Available Thomas Russell Deacon came to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1901 and quickly established himself as a prominent member of the Winnipeg economic and social elite.

Deacon owned the Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works, which together with the Vulcan Iron Works and Dominion Bridge Works, was one of Winnipeg's three large foundries and rolling mills. Deacon was a prominent member of the Board of Trade, and he served as mayor of Winnipeg in 1913-14.

As an employer, Deacon was a staunch opponent of trade unionism. His shops employed many workers, both skilled and unskilled. Much of the work that they did was contracted out from the railways, and his workers were paid much less, worked longer hours, and worked in poorer conditions than their counterparts in the railway shops like those at the Weston Yards.

In 1917 and 1918, the three major metal shops in Winnipeg, The Vulcan Iron Works, Dominion Bridge Works and Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works were the scene of three bitter strikes organized by the Metal Trades Council. Deacon opposed the unions strenuously, and managed to beat the workers on all three occasions by employing replacement workers and a private police force.

In 1919, workers affiliated with the Metal Trades Council struck again. This time, the strike involved not only workers at the three affected shops, but all members of the Metal Trades Council, who struck in sympathy. This sympathetic strike was an early step in the escalation that led to the Winnipeg General Strike in the summer of 1919.

With the city in the embrace of the General Strike, Deacon took a prominent role in the formation of the Citizens' Committee of 1000, the body representing the elite business and industrial leaders and middle class of the city which mobilized to put an end to the strike by discrediting the strikers and running essential services with volunteers.

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: Thomas Russ Deacon (1865-1955)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Vulcan Iron Works (Sutherland Avenue, Winnipeg)

Page revised: 18 April 2011

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