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Manitoba History: Workplace Conflict in Winnipeg’s Custom Tailoring Trade, c. 1887-1921

by John Hample

Number 22, Autumn 1991

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Interior of a Winnipeg tailor shop, circa 1910.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Unionized custom tailors in Winnipeg fought seven major strikes between 1887 and 1921. Conflict centred on pay issues. As in other clothing markets, increased supply of mass-market men’s suits forced trade bosses to cut wage costs. [1] Tailoring craftworkers resisted by forming a series of unions. The first, in 1882, was the short-lived, independent Winnipeg Operative Tailors’ Union. Tailors then founded their own Knights of Labor trade assembly in 1886-87. They next coalesced as Local 70 of the American Federation of Labor (AFL)-affiliated Journeymen Tailors’ Union (JTU) in 1892. After the 1919 General Strike, they bolted to become Tailors’ Industrial Unit Number One of the One Big Union (OBU). [2]

Their fitfulness recalls the pragmatic outlook of craft activist Arthur Keep. “What’s a union?” he asked JTU journal readers in 1912. “It’s a tool for raising the wages and bettering the conditions of the men who work ... to talk of the sacredness of a tool is as ludicrous as a tailor to boast of the divinity of a thimble, and to boast of a tool because it was old and used by our grandfathers or the first tool on earth is the acme of insanity.” [3] City tailors viewed their organizations in this instrumental way. After 1886, each of their unions in succession mounted strikes for improved conditions and better pay. [4]

The main purpose of the present discussion is to document this history of struggle. It charts continuities linking the OBU ‘industrial unit’ not only with the Winnipeg Knights of Labor agitation of the 1880s, but with the yet-older craft organization whose gains tailors carried for-ward in modified form when they, in turn, grappled with city trade bosses. There are other reasons to explore the topic. The custom tailors’ role in the North American working-class movement, including its Canadian contingent, has been largely ignored since the 1910s. It is seldom appreciated that during the early 1910s, many unionized custom tailors strongly favoured subordinating the claims of craft exclusiveness to a more generous, class-conscious purpose. This position expressed their awareness of what they shared with other working people. As Keep wrote of clothing workers: “We are all poor.”

Winnipeg is a useful departure-point for renewed attention to the Dominion custom tailors’ history. Shortly before Local 70 broke with JTU headquarters, its numerical strength peaked. The local’s size had varied widely. From 32 charter members, its active strength rose to 150 people in 1910, and fell to just 51 in 1915. Three years later, union strength peaked at the 199-member mark, and momentarily made Local 70 Canada’s largest JTU branch. [5] Yet, almost immediately afterward, this ‘banner local’ disbanded to become an OBU unit.

The custom tailors retained their distinct craft identity, however, within the OBU ‘industrial union’ framework. [6] This is another spur to inquiry. A time-honoured convention of labour history has starkly distinguished the ‘conservative’ craft unionism of ‘native’ North American workers in ‘traditional’ trades, on the one hand, from the radical industrial unionism of largely-immigrant, ‘mass production’ workers on the other. Newer work challenges this. John H. M. Laslett’s case-studies find socialist tendencies among craft unionists of the study-period; “nor was there a necessary correlation between industrial unionism and political and third party militancy.” Larry Peterson makes a parallel point about the international ‘one big unionist’ ferment of c1900-25: “revolutionary industrial unionism was not confined to the unskilled but appealed as well to at least some groups of native, unionized, skilled workers.” [7] The work of such writers warns against equating craft-consciousness with political and institutional conservatism.

The Winnipeg custom tailors are a case in point. By 1913, their trade-union practice fused elements of their work culture with convictions “of the Radical Socialist type.” [8] This sort of convergence, however, is obscured by Charles Stowell’s contemporary portrayal of the JTU as a whole. Stowell too-rigidly counterposed its members’ radical convictions to their persisting “feelings of trade caste.” [9] In fact, a militant minority of JTU members not only retained their craft identity and craft concerns well beyond the period in which others have tended to write them out of the record, but also synthesized these with ‘industrial unionist’ and radical social ideas. Symptomatic was Brother G. Renner’s view that the “science” of socialism “needs as much careful study and observation as a tailor needs to produce an artistic set of clothes.” [10] Equally suggestive, Left-leaning JTU organizer David G. Biggs touted (albeit without success) a new union label made of elegant, durable red silk.

In light of such considerations, then, this paper will suggest that the Winnipeg custom tailors’ OBU-filiation expressed a qualified convergence of tailoring-craft precept and class-consciousness. To anticipate concluding remarks: the OBU offered Winnipeg custom tailors a chance to pursue industrial unionist ends which had been denied them within the JTU proper. They took it.


To sketch the context of the tailors’ major strikes, it is necessary to break with earlier work that has posited a “pre-industrial period” in Winnipeg clothing-sector history (that is, before the onset of local, factory-based garment production around 1900). [11] Rather, the industrial revolution in central Canada’s clothing trades deeply conditioned the trade’s place in Winnipeg’s economy, and indirectly led bosses and productive workers into conflict. It is a mistaken view that after 1900, the trade belatedly and painlessly ‘evolved’ into ‘modern’ garment factories. As Geoffrey Crossick has urged, “... only when we recognize the vitality and complexity of small producers ... and their diverse relation to capitalist industrialization, and stop viewing them as a declining pre-industrial sector, shall we be able to interpret their social and political role.” [12]

Winnipeg’s tailoring trade soldiered on into the new century. [13] What changed was that mass-market and made-to-order clothing produced in Winnipeg factories, and not only in central Canada, now drove them deeper into their beleaguered corner of the market. The important thing, here, is that the main lines of workplace relations in the trade were drawn well before 1900. Already by the mid-1880s, competitive constraints had polarized the interests of master artisans and those they employed. Subsequent experience mainly wrought variations on this theme.

Especially important to the tailors’ fortunes was Winnipeg’s emergence, after 1885, as a regional metropolis where a burgeoning suit-clad population worked, or supervised work, in commercial, administrative, and other offices. Such white-collar consumers, along with others, drew capitalists large and small to profit from city and district sewn-clothing needs. Winnipeg’s transcontinental railway connection in the mid-1880s established her linch-pin position in subsequent western development through 1914. Meanwhile, even the trade’s earliest stirrings demonstrated how dependent its fortunes were to be upon markets in labour power and sewn clothing. [14]

Little more is known about the Winnipeg Operative Tailors Union (WOTU) than that it brought city craft bosses to terms in 1882. These were encoded in the pioneering collective agreement which came to be known as the “Boom Bill.” [15] The pact nominally bound merchants to provide production facilities and sewing machines at no direct cost to jour tailors. [16] The Boom Bill’s very name linked it to a notorious inflationary moment in the city’s past. While factory-made clothing prices fell during the late 1880s and early 1890s, custom-tailored apparel remained costly. [17]

Merchant tailors responded to their competitive situation with a range of stratagems. They lobbied city councillors to regulate business hours, and to impose taxes on central Canadian agents operating in the local market. They won an early closing bylaw in 1893. [18] Merchants also pursued economies in their use of materials, [19] facilities, [20] and labour power, [21] through irregular payroll practices, [22] and by arcane, craft-specific sophistries in the assessment of wages due. The latter imparted a crazy-quilt quality to the way bosses reckoned with wage costs, as an 1893 adumbration of shopboard grievances suggests:

1st. The almost impossibility of getting wages after being hard earned. 2nd. Being paid by checks which were dishonored at the banks. 3rd. Only being able to secure a small portion of wages due at each time of settlement. 4th. The continual reducing of the scale of prices which we were supposed to be working by. 5th. No two shops paying the same price. 6th. Putting on “extras” and not paying for them because they were not specified on the bill of prices. 7th. Discharging men who refused to work at a large reduction on the scale supposed to be paid. 8th. Clerks making up the [job-price] tickets of first and second class garments, and paying for them as second and third class garments, thereby reducing the price one dollar in each case, and this without even consulting the man who made said garments. [23]

Through the turn of the century, the merchants’ assessment of labour costs proceeded within the 1882 Boom Bill’s shadow. Bosses twisted ingenious fingers through the Bill’s nicely-wrought fabric of classifications and piece-rates, or cast it from their shops as if it were a sun-rotted curtain. Their individual and collective machinations during this formative period provoked conflict with the craftworkers they exploited.


The first of Winnipeg’s major tailoring trade strikes began 1 April 1887 and was called off 25 April. It secured neither a new bill of prices for Harmony LA of the Knights of Labor, nor union recognition. [24] Rather, this dispute brought home to tailors the stern imperatives of the Dominion clothing sector’s increasingly-integrated labour and commodity markets.

A new bill proposed to increase jour tailors’ average weekly earnings from $12 to $15 - par with St. Paul, Minnesota. However, the fourteen members of the Winnipeg Merchant Tailors’ Association, willing only to tinker with the 1882 Bill, would not even discuss it. The bosses’ high-handedness and threat to hire scabs make it moot whether they seriously wished to avoid conflict. [25]

MTA-recruited scab tailors arrived from central Canada in several groups. Bosses met the first contingent of three potential strikebreakers from Toronto at the rail-way station before the strike was a week old. These travellers quickly left town when they learned of local troubles. Fourteen tailors from St. Thomas, Ontario arrived at mid-month “to take the place of the strikers.” Another lot from Toronto soon joined them in the shops. [26] Harmony LA bitterly folded the strike.

... [I]t was considered, owing to the arrival in this city of a number of scabs, runaway apprentices, and other refuse from the eastern cities, to be useless to continue the struggle. These beings, if they have any sense of feeling, must in the course of time, reproach themselves for having come here to take the bread away from honest men. As they are well known, a sharp eye will be kept on them, and as long as they remain here a slime will cling to them which will make them loathsome before the people of Winnipeg. [27]

During the strike, prominent dry goods wholesaler R. J. Whitla tried to mediate. His intervention, driven perhaps by his stake in the new trade season, was welcomed in the Knights’ newspaper, which also encouraged Harmony LA to establish a co-operative workshop. Jours heeded this counsel belatedly, after scab-herding had shunted aside Whitla’s efforts, and merchants pledged that “the first ... to pay an advance on the old scale will forfeit $500.” [28]

The jours set up their co-operative workshop, but a suppliers’ boycott by local dry-goods wholesalers likely crippled this effort. Co-operating craftworkers sought textile goods in central Canada. They awaited these materials until May, by which time the tactical moment had passed. The co-operative shop was a weak expedient. When launched, it supported only two craftworkers. Others found respite by tramping to St. Paul. [29]

Winnipeg’s custom tailoring trade was but one of many industrial settings where the 1880s saw both the flowering and the “last stand” of “a host of purely local unions, most of them short-lived,” and tied to local labour markets. [30] Both the Winnipeg Operative Tailors Union and, in effect, Harmony LA, were of this stripe. New forms of business enterprise, which tapped emerging national and continental markets, led working-class activists to contemplate organizations of corresponding scope and jurisdictional competence. In North America’s custom clothing trade, the Journeymen Tailors Union (est. 1883) rose to the challenge. [31]

Harmony Local Assembly, on whose behalf the Industrial News had pledged vigilance against the strikebreakers, fell away within a few trade seasons of its defeat. By 1891, tailors in other trade centres were alarmed that Winnipeg jour tailors had no union. John D. Simpson of the Owen Sound, Ontario JTU branch. He urged action:

If we want to control the trade ... it will be no use ... getting detached sections into the union, with large spaces separating us, for the parts separated cannot control those between, and they force us to accept terms that would not be accepted if we had these towns ... between us ... in union with us and working for the same ends. [32]

In the event, the JTU’s entry into Winnipeg, which gave jours and tailoresses a coherent presence within the North American labour movement for 30 years, was a push-pull measure. Central Canadian craft activists had valid reasons to urge organizing Winnipeg, and the westerners had urgent cause to look to the JTU. For there were signs that the prairie metropolis otherwise promised to become just the sort of cut-rate, nonunion sinkhole Simpson feared would drain away work from JTU trade bastions.

Winnipeg merchant tailors, having bested the Knights, were free to confound Boom Bill measures. The number of firms in the Winnipeg market increased dramatically during the period 1886-91. But by the latter date, these firms on average were smaller, less-intensively capitalized, and reaped smaller returns per dollar invested in wages and capital. [33] Retail and other clothing-sector interests now crowding the local market encouraged the bosses’ flight from the ten year-old wage standard. One aggrieved craftworker charged: “The scale of prices agreed to by the employers in March, 1882, is not adhered to in any of the tailoring establishments in the city, some of them not acknowledging the scale at all, and others only partially.” Economic depression further darkened the scene. The city limped through a time of low wheat prices, reduced railway traffic, and lay-offs. [34]

In this dismal situation, thirty men and two women employed in Winnipeg shops secured their charter as JTU Local 70 on 11 May 1892. [35] The mettle of the new organization was tried the very next winter. Merchants made a joint bid to cut wages due for making the cheaper-grade suits which were most in demand. Strike action ensued in February 1893. Local 70’s strike force was more than twice the size of its charter membership. The strike lasted about nine weeks. Bosses again prevailed. [36]

This second major dispute resembled the first. Again, union tailors enjoyed support from other sections of Winnipeg’s organized working class; again, merchants tapped central Canada’s reserves of scab labour-power. This time, however, merchants could not go the further length of dislodging the journeymen’s union from city shops. The 1893 conflict’s longer duration registered Local 70’s greater staying power, buttressed by parent-body strike benefits which Harmony LA had not enjoyed. Even so, another decade elapsed before the craftworkers won a new contract.

Table 1.
Major strikes: Winnipeg custom tailors, 1887-1921.








4 weeks

Harmony LA (KofL)


wages, recognition



9 weeks

Local 70 (JTU)


wages, recognition



16 weeks

Local 70 (JTU)


shop rules



6 days

Local 70 (JTU)



won 8%


3 weeks

Local 70 (JTU)



won 10%


2 weeks

Local 70 (JTU)



won 15%


9 weeks

Tailors No. 1 (OBU)


wages, recognition

lost 5%

Sources: Free Press, Daily Sun, Industrial News, Voice, Tailor, Labour Gazette, Strikes & Lockouts.

Both sides zealously courted community support in 1893. This issued in public exchanges between Local 70 President George McCord, Secretary John Warwick, and MTA Secretary William Clarkson. It also proceeded along the social-class lines which divided trade clientele. Hinting baldly at boycott action, for instance, McCord reminded merchant tailors they depended “chiefly” upon the trade of railway workers and other “mechanics of all kinds.” He might have been close to the mark. Merchants were concerned enough about plebeian customers to post bills at city railway shops, falsely declaring the strike was over. [37] Meanwhile, bricklayers, carpenters, and other union tradespeople publicized resolutions of solidarity with the JTU’s struggle. [38] It appears railwaymen tore down the untruthful placards. [39]

The bosses’ skullduggery also took the form of pseudonymous letters. These variously portrayed Local 70 as the creature of a high-handed outfit headquartered in distant New York, and claimed that tailors were more than well-paid relative to other city workers. The letters patently appealed to Depression-bitten balefulness of spirit. One sneered, for instance, that the tailors’ privilege of indoor work spared them exposure to inclement weather. [40] Yet another attempt to sway potential customers arose from central Canadian quarters, and underscores the importance of the recent structural changes that had occurred in the clothing sector. In 1887, merchant tailors themselves had boasted that Harmony LA’s strike could not affect their business in the least. An identical advertisement appeared during Local 70’s strike, but it was not the merchants’ work; Smith’s Clothing Manufactory of Hamilton placed the ad, battening on the distress in Winnipeg as a chance to capture mail orders. [41]

Overtures to end the strike revealed further change in city trade affairs. [42] On 4 April, the two sides attended a meeting chaired by Mayor Thomas Taylor. His intervention recalls Whitla’s 1887 efforts. But Taylor’s authority derived from public office. He did not enter trade counsels as a private-sector agent. Tailors well might have wanted it that way, after their earlier experience with the dry goods wholesalers. But Taylor’s efforts failed. The strike ended as a “a doubtful victory for the masters.” [43]


Local 70 was stricken by its 1893 defeat. It did not recover for several years. Through 1894-95, the union admitted few new members. The organization even drew sharp words from the labour press about its willingness to allow some members to work at wages which were lower in one shop than in others—a stinging rebuke when wage uniformity had been a secondary aim of the strike. [44] However, in 1897, the local began a renewed push. Recovery derived partly from the onset of the Wheat Boom. Associated growth in consumer demand for custom-made suits outstripped local shop capacity. Shop-space pressures and label agitation became rallying points for Local 70. [45] Craft activists also built upon public awareness of ‘sweated’ homework in the clothing trades, itself newly heightened by the social investigation of government contracting practices by which the young Mackenzie King would make his first mark upon Canadian public life. [46]

The union first had stirred again in 1896, when JTU general organizer E. Christopherson visited, won applause for a ‘buy local’ pitch to his Labour Day audience, and initiated eleven new members who were among the first to join since the rout of 1893. [47] Local 70 continued to regroup. In 1897, members elected as president John T. Mortimer, who two years later became the first and only JTU member to serve as Winnipeg labour council president, and filed an unprecedented report dealing with the union’s post-strike affairs. [48]

Local 70’s rally built upon and carried forward earlier aspects of city trade experience and workplace struggle. As the mayor’s mediation in the 1893 strike presaged, the local made a vigorous effort to persuade city council to impose the union label in municipal clothing-contract awards. [49] Favoured by a quickened economy, too, union officers, harboured in several new shops run by Local 70 alumni, tackled trade issues afresh. They attempted an end run around the Boom Bill. Instead of pushing directly for a comprehensive new agreement, Local 70 began in 1899 to focus on control issues in four shops run by ostensibly sympathetic bosses.

Tailor shop in Manitoba, circa 1912.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Local 70 kept in sight issues which had engaged its shadowy predecessor, the WOTU, in 1882. Just as the WOTU had secured pioneering concessions which bound city merchants to provide production facilities and equipment, the local recast these as shop rules that had the same intent. [50] The rules hit at the bosses’ interests as master artisans for whom the “individuality” of firms and products were an important marketing consideration. It was one thing—and a familiar thing in tailoring craft practice—to send work home with a journeyman. It was quite another to send surplus work to a competitor’s shop, as the rules demanded of employers who would not adopt a proposed new overtime rate. The rules thus could have been a bulwark against homework and sweating. Merchants instead opted to expand facilities, and negotiated a year’s grace-time in which to do so. But when their year was up, in 1900, they reneged on the rules. In the ensuing breach, bosses faced down the union’s job control bid. [51]

The control strike began in the four targeted shops in May 1900, when merchants broke their promise to honour the work rules. In late September, strikers conceded defeat. Their struggle had faltered early, when conflict spilled over into the ‘apolitical’ realm of popular leisure on the weekend of 23-24 June 1900. City lacrosse fans massed at Fort Garry park for a Saturday afternoon game looked on as Winnipeg’s “latest class struggle” flared up from tailor shops. Union printer J. Sheppard, employed by the city labour council newspaper, refused to tend goal unless teammate Joseph M. Armstrong, a jour tailor scabbing on Local 70, were barred from play. By this time, city jours had favours to call in from other unions. They had cancelled subscriptions to a Winnipeg daily newspaper, at the behest of Sheppard’s own organization, during a recent printers’ strike. Lacrosse officials appealed urgently to John Mortimer, in his capacity as Winnipeg labour council president, to persuade or permit Sheppard to play. What transpired upon Mortimer’s arrival is unclear. The popular press alleged (and Mortimer flatly denied) that he threatened Sheppard with dismissal if he went on side with a scab. Such reports further claimed that the printer’s gesture issued not from union scruples, but “the loquatious” [sic] Mortimer’s sinister authority as labour council president. This Sheppard himself denied. [52]

The control strike’s collapse had more momentous results. Several Local 70 activists quit the Winnipeg trade, including Mortimer himself, who was fired and then blacklisted. James Watt, who joined the local shortly be-fore the strike, and whose efforts as “one of the hustlers” of Winnipeg’s labour movement were remembered (but unfortunately not specified) years later when he revisited Winnipeg as the JTU’s Canadian general organizer, migrated to Toronto. [53] The control strike gave a fillip to Local 70’s pragmatic turning away from the practice of bargaining in public, with all that it implied about tailors’ awareness that they lived and worked in a socially divided city. Disaffection must have sprung in part from the notes of levity, innuendo and ridicule which attended the 1887 and 1893 strikes, as well from consumer fickleness when conflict curbed trade activity. No such levity attended the 1900 strike, when striking tailors appealed ambitiously to community sentiment, and were rebuffed. Even so, scabbing and merchant obduracy likely decided the contest as in the past.

The local subsequently charted new directions which consolidated the lessons of earlier defeats. After 1900, members would look for sustenance in times of trouble only to other sections of the working-class movement. Other reasons for disaffection, which ultimately issued in the shift in strike tactics after 1900, are to be found in the jeers which greeted Local 70’s allegorical ‘Song of the Shirt’ float as it was drawn along the 1898 Labour Day parade route, and in city council’s 1899 decision to “bow to Baal” by awarding firemen’s clothing contract work to the HBC’s non-label tailoring shop, rather than heed repeated appeals from working-class activists. [54] The union’s wounds stung so sharply that for one of the few times in its known history, it formally punished waywardmembers. Local 70 expelled one jour, and fined five others and a tailoress, probably for scabbing. [55]

In summary, then, the city’s unionized tailors had been bested, by 1900, in several hard-fought but ineffectual contests. The most recent defeat left Local 70 divided, striving to cauterize its wounds. But this defeat also led activists to rethink how such struggles best were conducted. They would cut a different figure thereafter.


During 1900-14, Local 70 maintained a wary reticence distinct from the union tailors’ earlier way of waging workplace struggle. This leaner, more laconic style was no trivial matter. It incorporated, in part, chastened judgements about the potential merit of seeking broad public support for their struggles. The blustering public ex-changes which former president McCord, for example, had pursued during the 1893 strike, now became a thing of the past. Nor would a figure of John Mortimer’s stature emerge again from Local 70 ranks to promote Labour Partyism, or plead the cause of tailoring craftworkers to consumers, city councillors, and amateur-sport officials. Toward the end of this middle period, one observer would characterize incommunicative union tailors as being “of the Radical Socialist type.” Meanwhile, Local 70 would register strong support for an abortive, Socialist-led effort to amalgamate with the ‘renegade’ faction which Sidney Hillman led out of the moribund United Garment Workers. More concretely, these departures were alloyed with Local 70’s first collective agreements, secured in 1903, 1910, and 1913.

In 1903 pact, won without open conflict, provided for a shop-meeting mechanism to adjudicate disputes about the classification of work, and stipulated that prices for special garments not stated in the bill were “to be subject to special contract between the parties hereto.” [56] Another clause, reminiscent of complaints that had issued in the very establishment of Local 70 and the 1893 strike, provided that “Tickets giving starting price [as distinct from ‘extras’ were] to be given by employer with every garment.”

Such provisions sought to limit employer prerogatives. Others were a hedge against individual opportunism. One stipulated that “[i]n the slack season every employee shall have his turn.” Also, the new pact specified that “all work [was] to be done on premises furnished free by employer.” The JTU here revised the old WOTU clause confining work to provided shops. The 1903 agreement stipulated, too, that ten hours were to constitute one days’ work, that employees were to be paid weekly, and—most evocative of the union’s anti-sweating agitation during the 1890s—that no discount was to be allowed “on civic or government contracts.”

These gains coincided with a burst of JTU Canadian membership strength, and with inclusivist concerns which favoured reducing dues. The union’s cresting membership levels as a Canadian labour organization, and a quickening of radical social ideas amid Wheat Boom conditions, helped secure further wage concessions in 1910. That year, Local 70’s tightly-marshalled, six-day city-wide strike won an across-the-board wage increase of eight per cent. [57] But the most important labour-relations flashpoint in the course of pre-war city trade experience came three years later.

Local 70’s successful, two-week strike in April 1913 backed union demands to bring wages into line with living costs which had increased during the city’s surge in economic development, soon to be curbed by the pre-war recession. This strike by about 150 men and women shut down union shops throughout the city, and won a 10 per-cent wage increase. As in 1882, Winnipeg’s organized tailoring craftworkers once again pegged their wage scales at levels which an expansive local economy momentarily favoured. Even as the recession took hold in western Canada, and graver troubles loomed, collective action se-cured eleventh-hour gains for tailors. [58]

Unlike earlier strikes, the 1913 dispute was a model of collective discipline which highlighted the tailors’ new style of waging economic struggle. These strengths were most apparent in the reportedly “tight tie-up of the custom houses in the city,” which left the trade “completely paralyzed ... [with] all work at a stand-still.” Strike leaders ensured this by organizing “well-attended” daily general meetings. [59] This not only precluded the drift back to work by less-militant workers, but also strengthened Local 70’s sense of shared purpose. There were other signs of a break with the past.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the strikers’ public reticence about their struggle. The union shunned the ritualistic venting of trade differences which earlier conflicts witnessed. When bosses issued provocative rumours about wage demands, strike leaders said only that these were “too absurd to take notice of,” and “absolutely unwarranted.” Even the Voice, quasi-official organ of the city labour council, found Local 70 “very reserved about permitting [strike] news to be given out for publication. [60] Local 70 also stonewalled federal labour department bids for information about trade matters. When the department wrote directly to the union on 10 April, Local 70 secretary G.G. Watt ignored the request. Ottawa then detailed one Lawrence Pickup to get this material. [61] Pickup did obtain some information from union president-turned-proprietor George McCord. [62] But he struck out with Local 70’s current executive.

I regret to say that the local Tailors’ Union have decided ... that they do not see the object in furnishing the information. They are of the Radical Socialist type, and I do not see much prospect of getting any information from the Union in future. I have been unable to secure a copy of the last agreement between the Union and the employers, which ended the strike last May [sic]. The secretary of the union has destroyed the correspondence sent him in regard to this matter. [63]

In summary, then, the 1913 strike was conducted differently from the earliest ones. Local 70’s discipline shut down the trade so completely as to win concessions without protracted struggle. By 1913, the tailors at least tacitly judged that relations with third-party interests, including the general public and the state, were incidental to their aspirations as working people. Instead, Local 70 took a hard, pragmatic line.

This, not incidentally, was in keeping with the precepts of General Secretary Brais, whose harshness toward such costly traditions of craft organization as sickness and death benefits went together with a stress on streamlined “fighting organization.” [64] Brais had wrenched the JTU international helm from John Brown Lennon, a confederate of AFL president Samuel Gompers, in late 1909. Under Brais’ ebulliently socialist stewardship, tailors in Winnipeg and elsewhere soon were bombarded with polemics and caustic lampoons against craft separatism. “In the Garment Workers Trade,” needled ‘Pipon,’ “there are sixty [task] divisions to a coat, fifty-six to trousers, and twenty to a vest, with a foreman for each division. Here is a chance to add 136 new craft divisions to the AFL.” [65]

JTU Local 70 registered strong support for the Braisled attempt during 1912-15 to amalgamate with Sidney Hillman’s breakaway faction of the United Garment Workers, whereby socialists and other craft-activist elements within the JTU hoped to incarnate ‘One Big Union’ of clothing producers. [66] In concert with this move, the JTU even renamed itself for a short time the “Tailors’ Industrial Union - International.” But these initiatives, along with Brais’ socialist secretaryship, foundered on in-house reaction and AFL protocol regarding name changes and ‘secession’ from the House of Labour. [67] John Mortimer’s return c1905 from the West Coast as a Socialist Party of Canada activist and working tailor unquestionably had helped pave the way for the support Brais’ leadership enjoyed at the Winnipeg JTU branch-level. Before Mortimer drowned in late 1908, he proved a generative figure who tirelessly encouraged tailors and other working-class westerners to examine and set about changing their conditions of life. [68]

But even as Brais’ star was on the wane by 1915, so too would Local 70 members’ collective resolve dissipate amid the wrenching social dislocations which shook war-time Canada, while the 1913 gains evaporated. Soon enough, however, the members’ enthusiasm for Brais’ ephemeral ‘Tailors Industrial Union - Internation would flow toward the creation of Winnipeg’s ‘Tailors Industrial Unit Number One’ (OBU).


Merchants chafed against the 1913 bill of prices as war-time brought worsening trade conditions, and a rash of circumscribed conflicts broke out. Local 70 was sustained in its skirmish to resist a one-shop wage cut in autumn 1914, before World War I was two months underway. Similarly, as the imperial conflict deepened and the city market for men’s civilian clothing softened, Local 70 meetings heard disturbing news of wage and price cuts of 10 and 25 per cent. Such reports did not bode well for the integrity of the city scale. Indeed, a few merchants dispensed not only with the scale, but with the people who otherwise might insist upon it. Local 70 failed to win JTU victimization benefits for these displaced workers. [69]

The union’s ability to confront these challenges was vexed by internal difficulties. Perhaps foremost was some members’ inability or neglect to honour material and other obligations to the local. The membership actually de-creased. Some 150 members had taken part in the 1913 strike, but the roster dwindled to just 51 members by the end of 1915. Secretary W. J. Riddolls now called for an organizer to be posted to Winnipeg “as soon as the spring season opens up.” [70] That the call could not be heeded, at least for the moment, was cold comfort. Brother J. Raskin’s contemporary poem is emblematic of Local 70’s dog-days.

What’s the use to work and slave,
You cannot take it to the grave;
And what’s the use to run and hurry
It only makes you misery and worry.

Table 2.
Manitoba clothing production, 1881-1921




Capital ($)

Production ($)

Wages ($)




































































a Category: Tailors & Clothiers; excludes Winnipeg
b Category: Tailors & Clothiers
c Category: Tailors & Clothiers
d Categories: Clothing, mens (13 establishments); Clothing, womens (7 establishments); excludes firms employing less than five people.
e Categories: Clothing, mens factory (7 establishments); Clothing, womens custom (4 establishments); excludes firms employing less than six people.
f Categories: Tailors (92 men); tailoresses (61 women); clothing factory employees (149 men, 254 women); dressmakers, seamstresses (129 women); apprentices (21 dressmakers, 5 tailoresses - all women); 5 tailors - all men); managers and superintendents (19 men), and foreladies (6 women); Winnipeg only

Source: Canada census, 1881-1921.

During the latter half of 1916, James Watt of Toronto - a well-regarded former member of Local 70 - made two passes through the city during his western Canadian tour of duty. He found that the JTU’s city branch, despite its problems, favourably contrasted with its counterpart in Hamilton, where the cheap trade’s inroads were “such a nightmare that they cannot think of anything else but the extinction of the Jour tailor.” In late summer, Watt returned to Winnipeg on his way back east. He managed to bring another shop into the union fold, but the special meeting he and local secretary D. Egan tried to organize was badly attended. He tartly observed that “[h]ow some of our strong union members of years standing can expect new members to join a union when the meetings are not attended is, to say the least, inconsistent. An abundance of empty chairs is not particularly attractive to new members.” He likely had this experience in mind when he remarked upon his rekindled acquaintance with many “old friends from the east and ex-members....some still members (others very still).” The jibe was apt. Watt’s attempt to start an organizing drive failed. Members of the special committee to which he entrusted Local 70’s prospects “were unable to put in the amount of time required to show any results.” [72]

During February-June 1917, however, Local 70 launched an unprecedented organizing drive. This achieved such impressive results that members seriously considered pressing demands that same spring. The big push began with a series of open meetings in February “for the purpose of discussing trade unionism and other questions relative to the labor movement having as its object the strengthening of our local and improving conditions.” [73]

Local 70 realistically judged that its fate was in its own hands. The general organizer’s flying tour was no panacea for local trade ills. In any event, Watt’s failure made it unlikely that the international parent body would underwrite another such visit in the foreseeable future. The union now explored the possibilities of allocating its own resources and personnel, and sought General Secretary Thomas Sweeney’s advice. “Our local is not strong enough to pay a business agent who could look after [organizing] work; but what we want in the meantime is a man who can devote some of his time to organizing purposes and who will receive some remuneration for the amount of time spent in organizing,” secretary Egan explained. Sweeney referred Egan to constitutional measures for such contingencies. The local’s recently-elected vice-president, W. Rosen, took up duties as the union’s first local organizer. [74]

By May, Rosen’s manoeuvres on the contested terrain of city shops consolidated the local’s bargaining strength. Reports from Winnipeg were more encouraging than at any point since the 1913 strike, as when Rosen wrote of his “capture of eight recruits who were duly initiated into the mysteries of our order.” Another sign of renewal was the apotheosis of Local 70’s poet, Brother J. Raskin. Members elected him to the executive as their warden in mid-June. [75] The evidence does not reveal whether or not he now found a reason ‘to run and hurry,’ but subsequent events suggest he did. It was in the air, as JTU General Secretary Sweeney might have surmised when Local 70 secretary G. Wildeman hailed him in March 1918:

It does one good to notice that the [General] Secretary ... understands our class position, and that we have nothing in common with the employing class and that we are entitled to all that we socially produce. [76]

Wildeman breezily reported on the continued commitment to the organizing drive evident at Local 70’s “largest meeting of many a long day.” There was a new twist, too: “everybody has promised to bring a new member in at our special meeting ... on the 19th [March] for the organization of new members.” [77]

Local 70 presented demands to nineteen shops. It sought a 15 per-cent increase in piecework rates, and a minimum weekly wage of $23—a 10 per cent pay hike—or time work. Merchants first judged these demands “very moderate and up to date.” Perhaps they suspected the organizing drive had well equipped Local 70 to back up its demands. Some bosses balked at a clause to permit time workers to quit work at noon Saturdays. [78] When the anticipated, favourable reply was not forthcoming by 1 April, Local 70 struck.

Winnipeg General Strike leaders, circa 1920.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

[April 2011: Archival references that place this photo at Stony Mountain Penitentiary are incorrect if William Pritchard (top row, far right) is to be believed. In commenting on the image as it appeared in Norman Penner’s Workers Own History of the Strike, Pritchard reported that it was taken “outside the walls of the County jail, Winnipeg, not Stony Mt., 18 miles west.” See Archives of Manitoba, Jack Walker Collection, Bill Pritchard to Jack Walker, 10 November 1973, P5623, file #14. We thank Tom Mitchell for bringing Pritchard’s correction to our attention.]

Tailoring craftworkers again achieved “a complete tie-up in the shops where union workers were employed,” although some trade activity continued in open shops, and some scabbing occurred. The merchants were unable or disinclined to match the union’s carefully-prepared collective effort, as was apparent before the strike was a week old. By 12 April, the strike was “only half as extensive” as it had been a week earlier. Local 70 “decided to release the members for work” in shops that had signed. Three days later, the strike was conceded in all but three shops. Employers were “anxious that no more time be lost.” [79]

After the strike, activists tried to maintain the local’s momentum. Even as Local 70 announced victory, it planned “educational debating meetings.” [80] The labour press intimated, too, that the increased number of union shops promised “a union label boom, which will start in just as soon as the bosses find that the organized workers have an unalterable desire to have the label on the clothes they wear in order that they may know that so far as they are concerned they employ union tailors.” [81] The label drive did not materialize, but the meetings certainly did. These helped align Local 70’s identifications with the broader aims of the city’s increasingly militant working class.

Through membership meetings and other related initiatives, Local 70 leaders deliberately directed energies galvanized by the strike into dissident channels. This effort reached its climax with the turbulent events of spring and summer 1919. Wildeman was instrumental in affirming reciprocities between the trade militancy which secured Local 70’s victory in 1918 and other contemporary expressions of Winnipeg working-class activism. He called for ongoing commitment to underscore Local 70’s enhanced presence within the city’s house of labour. His call for further struggle linked the tailors’ persisting challenges to concerns shared with other working people.

... keep unity in mind, because the cost of living has not ceased to rise; neither have the profits ceased to roll into the pockets of the capitalist. [82]

Some membership meetings did pertain only to cur-rent trade issues. For example, in early January 1919, Local 70 officers “initiated a very vital and interesting discussion” on the contrasting merits of piece work and weekly work. Pieceworkers, true to craft-form of long standing, argued that they enjoyed better wages and more freedom. Week workers counterposed to this their own deeply-felt advantages of “regular hours, time and one half overtime.”

... regular time meant better health in the tailoring industry and with a half holiday on Saturday the workers had a chance to go out with their families into the parks during the summer and fix the furnace or chop wood...etc. in the winter, even go skating or snowshoeing if they felt that way inclined...One member mentioned that whether we worked weekly or piece a man of 45 could get his ticket for the scrap heap any old time. A special committee was appointed to...bring in a recommendation on new wages and hours ... [83]

Even such shoptalk was meant to help maintain Local 70’s fighting resolve. Craft activists reiterated the lessons of the organizing campaign by novel, more direct means. When membership fell back from 200 to 135 by early January 1919, Wildeman penned a lengthy circular headed “Dear Sister or Brother,” and appealed to each member’s sense of responsibility. [84]

Table 3.
Winnipeg tailoring firms, 1880-1925


































Source: Henderson's Directory, North-West Territories Directory and Gazeteer for Winnipeg; selected years, 1880-1925.

However, Local 70 officers also promoted a corresponding estrangement from other interests. Four years of war-time social dislocation had not warmed the union to the federal state, as Ottawa’s labour department discovered.

Some time ago I sent you a copy of the Tailors schedule which I had considerable difficulty to obtain. The Tailors Union have always [sic] refused to give out any information ... I have tried to get them to fill out the regular forms, but cannot get them to do so, the only information that they would let me have was a copy of their demands, although I think I will be able to break down their prejudice and that the department will be able to get all the information needed in the near future. [85]

Such material recalls the 1913 evidence, but its context differed. Far from being open to such overtures, Local 70’s officers fomented ‘prejudice’ against the state to cement bonds with other sections of the city’s working class. Local 70 sponsored a lecture series in autumn 1918 as a forum for some of the Winnipeg radical community’s “deepest thinkers and [most] fearless men.” Among them was Western Labor News editor William Ivens, presiding spirit of the Winnipeg Labour Church, who lectured Local 70 on the topic of ‘Secret Treaties and Diplomacy.’ Wildeman also touted an Ivens Labour Temple talk on ‘Fundamental Problems of the State.’ He even offered to collect subscriptions to the News, in addition to acting as point man distributing the JTU’s own journal.

William Ivens, editor of the Western Labor News, circa 1921.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Clearly, such activities were not the kind to ‘break down’ union ‘prejudice’ against the state. Nor were federal moves to suspend the right to strike. JTU members were among those poised to resist this contemplated war measure, which the November Armistice made academic. [86] Subsequently, the union tailors demonstrated their solidarity with the individuals [87] and the social ideas that collided with the state during the following spring. Even in autumn 1918, perhaps remembering their own recent lesson about the importance of preparedness and timing, Wildeman indicated that “the General Strike” also was a matter of current concern, but had been set aside for the moment.

These anti-government sentiments were expressed in other ways as well. Local 70 members elected Socialist leader Max Tessler to office as their vice-president on 3 September 1918, and then named him president in mid-winter, replacing W. J. Riddolls. [88] Tessler, like other JTU leaders, probably maintained the practice of non-cooperation with the state. But the security state was very interested in Tessler. He, along with Jacob Penner and wife Rose Penner, enjoyed surveillance “re possible disturbances by Bolsehviks.” [89]

In summary, then, the 1918 strike was Local 70’s main response to war-time trade conditions. This discussion has stressed the sustained collective effort which made that victory possible, and which briefly made this organization one of the JTU’s Canadian ‘banner’ branches. But it bears stressing, too, that Local 70’s recovery from its post-1913 doldrums was a relatively isolated effort with respect to the international parent body’s priorities. Winnipeg’s unionized tailoring craftworkers took matters into their own hands to rebuild the local. Yet at the same time, this rally de-emphasized ties with JTU headquarters. In turn, Local 70’s consciousness of itself as a Winnipeg labour organization decisively counterbalanced its isolation from headquarters, where rearguard action had scuttled Eugene Brais’ Socialist and ‘Tailors’ Industrial Union’ secretaryship. Local 70’s intensified local orientation perhaps best explains the local’s flight from the parent body to the One Big Union in August 1919. [90]


JTU Local 70’s 168 active members voted by more than 92 per cent in support of the 1919 General Strike. [91] They telephoned General Secretary Sweeney to seek material aid for this effort. But the state crushed the strike before JTU headquarters responded. Sweeney reported that Local 70 officials had promised a further communique to bring him abreast of developments. For unspecified reasons, this did not materialize. [92] During the weeks following the strike, Local 70 joined other works who flocked to the OBU banner. Former Local Secretary D. Egan, recently named JTU Canadian general organizer, could do little to stem the swell of OBU support. [93]

Local 70 disbanded in August 1919, and soon after-ward reconstituted itself as Tailors’ Industrial Unit Number One of the OBU. Evidence for this transition is frustratingly sparse. But some continuity is suggested by the fact that at least one of the new Unit’s officers, Secretary J.A. Dick, had held a parallel position in Local 70 c1918, and served the OBU Unit in this capacity through 1923. [94]

As an OBU Unit, and at the level of day-to-day workplace relations, continuity amid change lay in retention of the 1918 pact. Such continuity was encoded in a contractual self-renewal clause pertaining to wages and conditions. The clause itself was pivotal in the subsequent 1921 strike, which the OBU Unit lost, the last of the seven major trade conflicts under consideration. The widespread shedding of khaki by demobilizing soldiers stimulated demand for civilian clothing. However, post-war recession led merchant tailors to re-evaluate closely the wage and other concessions to which they had assented since the Armistice. [95] MTA President Alex Sandison and Secretary W. Cameron explained the employers’ plight.

The scale of wages which has been in effect in Winnipeg was as high, if not higher than that which existed in the other cities ... where reductions as high as 25 per cent have been accepted ... The merchant tailors are of the opinion that their request of a 10 per cent reduction is most reasonable and have no intention of receding from the present position. Unlike other trades the tailors have been employed constantly and have lost practically no time through unemployment. [96]

In late June, the Association approached the OBU Tailors’ Unit and asked that a committee be delegated to meet with them to discuss unspecified matters of ‘mutual benefit.’ At the meeting, the OBU committee learned that “the matter of ‘mutual benefit’ consisted of a proposition to reduce wages 15 to 25 per cent.” [97] Unit representatives refused to discuss the matter, pleading that they had no mandate, and pointing to the self-renewal clause. The OBU Unit thus harked directly back to this legacy of JTU Local 70’s 1918 victory. The OBU Unit rejected the wage cut at its 14 July meeting, and was locked out except in a few shops where employers “abstained” from imposing it. By early September, all but 70 of the 175-200 unit members had trickled back to work when the Unit con-ceded defeat late in the month. [98]

The self-renewal clause, at the centre of the strike, had been a fixture of JTU international policy since c1905, when the executive commended it to help avert ‘open shop’-drive tactics. [99] Local 70 adopted this clause only in 1918, as a by-product of Winnipeg’s great rally that year. [100] In the 1921 strike, this clause was the very measure the tailors looked to as they strove to sustain previous gains, and their new organization. Just as the Tailors retained their distinctness from the Garment Workers Unit within the OBU structure, so did they insist upon continuance of their wage levels and other entitlements, regardless of the institutional tool to which these craftworkers now looked as an instrument for enforcing prior gains, prior understandings. In the event, the revitalized Merchant Tailors Association managed to abrogate a crucial legacy of ‘old Local 70.’


The tailors’ major strikes were sharply articulated, dynamic occasions in a complex continuum of workplace negotiation—formal and informal, individual and collective. They arose directly from everyday work-life in city shops. The strikes successively texted and redefined relations with bosses, with other working-class activists, and with the community at large.

The strikes were a measure of the custom tailors’ ability to co-ordinate their resources, and to conceive of their interests and commitments in broader terms than those which their individualistic, atomizing work otherwise implied. It might well be that further study of the Dominion custom tailors’ work culture and their trade-union engagements will help carry forward and refine one of Herbert Gutman’s suggestive insights on a closely-related point. He discerned “a constant if shifting tension inside and outside the workplace between individualist and collective ways of achieving autonomy ... [which] calls attention to the diverse and competing traditions” that shape working-class experience. [101] The tailors’ strikes were a rallying point for union members in organizations which could drift or become somnolent in the absence of a rekindling of interest and conviction. They were preceded by a distinct collective determination to consolidate group energies and other resources so as to maximize union representation in the city’s shops. [102]

In pursuing their interests collectively, the union tailors’ identifications with other working-class activists in the city eventually superseded ties to their own international craft organization, which had retreated in 1915 from the socialist and ‘renegade’ industrial unionist initiatives associated with the Brais secretaryship. Local 70 had affiliated early with the city’s Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council, and by 1918, had shared for a whole generation in this centre organization’s economic and political struggles, while looking to its sister affiliates for like support. Such solidarity was not confined to the Winnipeg market; Local 70 members also contributed to the aid its parent body extended to people beset by personal, political, and other emergencies. But the fact is that when, in August 1919, members had a choice to make between remaining within the JTU fold, or wedding their fortunes to the emerging OBU, they chose the latter of the two options.

The evidence suggests that this was because the OBU offered city tailors a chance to pursue ends which had been denied them within the JTU proper, as we’ve seen, at the outset of World War I. Here, the important thing was that ‘One Big Union in the clothing trades’ lapsed as a JTU slogan even as war-time conditions locked in to isolate Local 70 from the international parent body’s centres of initiative. This was counterbalanced by Winnipeg’s high degree of social conflict during World War I and its aftermath. The emergence of the Winnipeg OBU Tailors’ Unit expressed these craftworkers’ solidarity with other women and men of the city’s working class, at the expense of a twenty year-old institutional tie. [103]

Table 4.
Local 70 membership activity, 1892-1919: New and reinstated members.





























































































































Source: The Tailor, 1892-1919.

Yet continuity marks the tailors’ history as well. This continuity concerns negotiated accommodations which throw into relief how Winnipeg’s jours and tailoresses selectively codified and revised crucial elements of their work culture. As our discussion has indicated earlier, continuity is traced from the 1882 Boom Bill. One of its clauses read: “Sewing machines to be in shops for use of men at these prices.” It is a sharp piece of craft’ legislating’ work. The clause set limits to exploitation on three counts. It reaffirmed the integrity of the wage-scale Cat these prices’). It prohibited charges for the use of equipment (‘machines to be provided’). And it stipulated that machines were to be available in shops. Moreover, if, as some have suggested, Winnipeg was never sweated’ as an apparel centre (a highly debatable claim), surely we may find, here, a partial explanation.

For this pioneering accommodation was carried for-ward along several pathways and in several modified forms by Winnipeg’s union tailors. Stowell’s 1911 survey found Winnipeg to be one of very few exceptional larger cities where the free shop predominated. (Just ten of the Winnipeg JTU’s 100 active members provided their own production facilities “in Rented Shops or at Home.”) [104] Local 70’s ill-starred 1899-1900 Shop Rules sought to reaffirm this craft caveat by pressuring merchants to expand their shop facilities; union members hoped this would curb homework and unregulated extensions of the working day. In 1903, the JTU finally pressed home a new version of the old clause, which expressly recapitulated that ‘all work [was] to be done on premises furnished free by employer.’ This was carried across all of the other contracts Local 70 negotiated through 1918. As such, it was bequeathed to OBU Tailors’ Unit Number One.


I thank Henry Trachtenberg, Nolan Reilly, Dave Burley, Greg Kealey, Danny Vickers, Carolyn Hample, Gerry Berkowski, Zenon Gawron, Chris Kotecki, and Frank Yeo for contributions to the work. I gratefully acknowledge, too, support provided by the Robert Painchaud Memorial Scholarship Fund, the University of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

1. For example, see Christopher H. Johnson, “Economic Change and Artisan Discontent: The Tailors’ History, 1800-48,” in Roger Price, ed., Revolution and Reaction: 1848 and the Second French Republic (London: Croom Helm, 1975), pp. 87-114; James A. Schmiechen, Sweated Industries and Sweated Labour: The London Clothing Trades, 1860-1914, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 1-44; Margaret Stewart and Leslie Hunter, The Needle is Threaded: The History of an Industry (London: Heinemann, 1964), pp. 109-16; Jese Eliphalet Pope, The Clothing Industry in New York (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri, 1905; rpt. 1970), pp. 1-60; Charles Jacob Stowell, Studies in Trade Unionism in the Custom Tailoring Trade (Bloomington: Journeymen Tailors’ Union, 1912), pp. 11-37, 111-28; Stowell, “The Journeymen Tailors of America,” University of Illinois Studies in the Social Sciences, 7,4 (December 1918), pp. 20-61, 82-83.

2. Stowell (1912), p. 143; corroborated by “Winnipeg Operative Tailors Union: Prices Mutually Agreed to By the Employers and Employees to Take Effect on March 20th 1882,” typescript facsim. in Canada, Department of Labour, Strikes and Lockouts National Archives of Canada (NAC) RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913); Frank Yeo, “An Army of the Discontented: The Knights of Labor in Winnipeg,” unpublished paper, 1984, pp. 16, 24-26; Tailor, May 1892, June 1892, 23 August 1921; One Big Union Bulletin, 23 July 1921. See also Doug Smith, Let Us Rise! An Illustrated History of the Manitoba Labour Movement (Vancouver: New Star, 1985), p. 16.

3. Tailor, May 1912.

4. Appendix, Table 1.

5. Labour Gazette, (May 1901), I:477; Tailor, May 1882, June 1892, 23 August 1921.

6. David J. Bercuson, Fools and Wise Men: The Rise and Fall of the One Big Union (Toronto: McGraw Hill, 1978), p. 153.

7. Laslett, Labor and the Left: A Study of Socialist and Radical Influences in the American Labor Movement, 1881-1924 (New York: Basic Books, 1970), pp. 145, 159-60, 291, 296-97; Larry Peterson, “The One Big Union in International Perspective: Revolutionary Industrial Unionism 1900-1925,” Labour/Le Travailleur, 7 (Spring 1981), p. 60. See also: Ian McKay, The Craft Transformed: An Essay on the Carpenters of Halifax, 1885-1985 (Halifax: Holdfast Press, 1985), Chs. 2, 3; David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The workplace, the state, and American labor activism, 1865-1925 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 425-38; 449-53.

8. Lawrence Pickup to R. H. Coats, “Copy...rec. 13 December 1913,” Strikes and Lockouts, NAC RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913).

9. Stowell (1918), pp. 86, 91, but see also pp. 106-07, 110. This reduction of craft precept to the categories of ‘caste’ and sentiment nonetheless might be nearer to the tailors’ own sense of their craft identity and social purposes than Laslett’s whiggish subsumption of these craftways within the sociology of ‘achievement orientation,’ whereby, with S. M. Lipset, he imputes an “absence of class consciousness” to U.S. workers. Laslett, Labor, pp. 296-97.

10. Tailor, June 1911.

11. For a fuller discussion, see John Erwin Hample, “In the Buzzard’s Shadow: Craft Subculture, Working-Class Activism, and Winnipeg’s Custom Tailoring Trade, c1882-1921,” MA Thesis, University of Winnipeg, 1989. For the earlier interpretation, see Ronald T. Hastie, “Development of the Apparel Industry in Winnipeg,” Tony Kuz, ed., Winnipeg 1874-1974, (Winnipeg: Manitoba Department of Industry and Commerce, 1974), pp. 129-45.

12. “The petite bourgeoisie in nineteenth century Britain,” Crossick and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, eds., Shopkeepers and Master Artisans in 19th-Century Europe (London: Croom Helm, 1984), p. 71.

13. Appendix, Table 3.

14. See Hample, “Buzzard,” pp. 67-103; this view of the tailoring trade and its context is indebted to: Alan F. J. Artibise, Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth: 1874-1914, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s, 1975), Ruben Bellan, Winnipeg’s First Century: An Economic History (Winnipeg: Queenston House, 1978); Harry Cobrin, The Men’s Clothing Industry: Colonial Through Modern Times (New York: Fairchild, 1970); Crossick and Haupt, eds., Shopkeepers; Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982); Steven Fraser, “Combined and Uneven Development in the Men’s Clothing Industry,” Business History Review, p. 57 (Winter, 1983), pp. 522-47; Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984); Hastie, “Apparel Industry in Winnipeg”; Gregory S. Kealey, Toronto Workers Respond to Industrial Capitalism, 1867-1892 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), Gerald Tulchinsky, “Aspects of the Clothing Manufacturing Industry in Canada: 1850s to 1914,” unpublished paper, nd.

15. Hample, “Buzzard,” pp. 60-62.

16. The terminology ‘jour tailor’ and ‘jour’ follows contemporary custom-tailoring craft usage, a self-ascriptive contraction of the word ‘journeyman.’

17. E.g., see Industrial News, 9 April 1887: “It is generally thought that [custom] made suits in Winnipeg are higher than they ought to be ...”; Free Press, 6 March 1893: “There is a great change from 1882; everything is cheaper today in Winnipeg, (except tailor-made clothing)

18. “By-Law No. 818: A By-Law to provide for the early closing of merchant Tailor shops” (25 June 1894), Bylaws, City of Winnipeg; Minutes, City Council, 25 June 1894, items 1056-57. See also Voice, 22 June 1894; 11 August 1894; 3 November 1895; 15 June 1895; Commercial, February 1893, pp. 705-06: “Winnipeg merchant tailors have asked the city council to take place a license tax of $200 upon travellers who come here to take orders for eastern tailoring houses.”

19. E.g., George Clements’ handbill to customers, c1893, crowed to customers that his spring and summer woollen suitings were more various than ever, and that: “My Scotch Tweed Suitings are imported direct from Glasgow, and I will be able to make suits at the lowest possible prices, owing to the fact that I am now importing direct and have no middle men to pay a profit to.” [Greenway Papers, Public Archives of Manitoba (PAM) MG13 El 2818/1.]

20. See below, IV.

21. E.g., the city tailors’ union complained that Clements was importing men from central Canada “when there were more than enough men in the city to do the work,” and “intimated that this was done for the purpose of lowering wages.” Voice, 7 August 1897. An earlier dodge battened on the labour of tailoresses, whose worked at a wage-rate below the jour’s scale. Industrial News, 3 July 1886.

22. Voice, 30 June 1894: “There appears to be a very pernicious practice pertaining among the union tailors of this city in allowing their wages to go unpaid for several weeks at a time ... curtailing their independence and crippling the unions in dealing with any irregularities they may become cognizant of.”

23. JTU Local 70 president George McCord to the Editor, Free Press, 13 April 1893.

24. Free Press, 2 April 1887, 28 April 1887; Yeo, “Army,” pp. 24-25.

25. Free Press, 2 April 1887; Industrial News, 9 April 1887. Note contradictory statements about specific wage demands, Free Press, 4 April 1887, 5 April 1887, and the MTA’s inflammatory boast of strikeproofness, Sun, 9 April 1887.

26. Industrial News, 9 April 1887, 14 April 1887; Sun, 14 April 1887; Free Press, 15 April 1887, 25 April 1887.

27. Industrial News, 28 April 1887. An interesting comparison is with T. Phillips Thompson The Politics of Labor [1887] (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975), pp. 144-45.

28. Sun, 7 April 1887; Industrial News, 14 April 1887; Free Press, 18 April 1887.

29. Industrial News, 12 May 1887, 28 April 1887; Free Press, 28 April 1887; Yeo, “Army,” p. 25; Smith, Rise, p. 16.

30. Bryan Palmer, “Labour Protest and Organization in Nineteenth-Century Canada,” Labour/Le Travail, 20 (Fall 1987), p. 82; Eugene Forsey, Trade Unions in Canada, 1912-1902 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 138.

31. Robert H. Babcock, Gompers in Canada: A Study in American Continentalism Before the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974); Alfred Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1977); Stowell (1913); Stowell (1918).

32. Tailor, May 1891.

33. Table Two; see also Table Three.

34. Local 70 Recording Secretary John Warwick, Free Press, 2 March 1893; Bellan, First Century, p. 56.

35. Tailor, May 1892, June 1892; Free Press, 13 April, 1893; Alan F. J. Artibise, ed., Gateway City: Documents on the City of Winnipeg, 1873-1919 (Winnipeg: Manitoba Record Society, 1979), p. 114.

36. Free Press, 6 March 1893, 16 March 1893, 22 March 1893, 3 April 1893; Tailor, July 1893.

37. Free Press, 4 March 1893, 17 March 1893.

38. Free Press, 23 February 1893 [bricklayers], 25 March 1893 [carpenters], 27 March 1893 [railway trainmen and conductors]; cf. 28 March 1893.

39. Free Press, 17 March 1893.

40. E.g., Free Press 23 February 1893 [“A Journeyman’; “Another Journeyman”], 6 March 1893 [“Hayseed”; “Gaspard Valdez”]; for McCord’s suspicions as to the authenticity of such missives, see Ibid., 23 February 1893.

41. Sun, 9 April 1887; Free Press, 29 March 1893.

42. Free Press, 4 April 1893.

43. Artibise, Gateway, p. 114; Tailor, August 1893; Stowell (1912), p. 122.

44. Voice, 30 June 1894, 24 November 1894; Appendix, Table 4.

45. Voice, 21 August 1897: tailors were “beginning to boom their label.”

46. Paul Craven, ‘An Impartial Umpire’: Industrial Relations and the Canadian State, 1900-1911, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), pp. 68-72.

47. Voice, 12 September 1896; Tailor, October 1896.

48. Voice, 19 June 1897, 7 August 1897; 11 September 1897.

49. E.g., see Mortimer and George Dales to City Council, 28 May 1898, Correspondence (Clerks Office ref. no. 3841); Council Minutes, 6 June 1898; Voice, 13 May 1898, 15 April 1898, 24 March 1899, 31 March 1899, 14 April 1899, 21 April 1899, 28 April 1899.

50. Voice, 1 June 1900.

51. Labour Gazette (October 1900), I:49-50.

52. Voice, 8 June 1900, 29 June 1900, 28 September 1900; Labour Gazette, October 1900,1:49-50; Free Press, 25 June 1900; Telegram, 25 June 1900.

53. Voice, 8 June 1900; Western Socialist, 11 October 1902; Tailor, December 1899; 20 June 1916.

54. Note 50, above.

55. Tailor, September 1900.

56. Strikes and Lockouts, RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913).

57. Labour Gazette (May 1910), 1327; Harold A. Logan, Trade Unions in Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1948), p. 209.

58. Voice, 28 March 1913,18 April 1913; Bellan, First Century, pp. 94-129.

59. Voice, 3 April 1913, 11 April 1913.

60. Voice, 28 March 1913, 3 April 1913.

61. Gazette editor R. H. Coats to Watt, 10 May 1913; Coats to Pickup, 21 May 1913; 28 October 1913; 11 December 1913; Strikes and Lockouts, RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913).

62. Pickup to Coats, 10 April1913; 7 January 1914; cf. Coats to Pickup, 14 April 1914;11 December 1913; 17 January 1914; Strikes and Lockouts, RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913).

63. Pickup to Coats, Transcript “Copy”; “rec Dec 11 [1913]”, Strikes and Lockouts, RG 27 Vol. 301 (1913).

64. Tailor, August 1913.

65. Tailor, December 1910.

66. E.g., see Local 70’s unanimous, 109-vote endorsement of the amalgamationist leadership of General Secretary Eugene Brais in Tailor, January 1914.

67. Stowell (1918) remains the authoritative account of the JTU’s Prufrockian decisions and revisions, beginning in the 1890s, about wedding its fortunes with those who organized workers in North American men’s clothing factories. The JTU at last resolved in the mid-1930s, entering Hillman’s Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America as a special department. Joel Seidman, The Needle Trades (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1942), p. 219. A parallel experience is recorded for the JTU’s ‘cognate” organization in Great Britain’s bespoke trade, in Stewart and Hunter, The Needle is Threaded.

68. On Mortimer and radicalism, see Hample, “Buzzard,” pp. 142-53, 157-61.

69. Tailor, 6 October 1914, 8 June 1915, 20 December 1915.

70. Tailor, 28 December 1915, 23 August 1921.

71. Tailor, 18 July 1916.

72. Tailor, 5 September 1916, 23 February 1917, 27 February 1917.

73. Tailor, 30 January 1917, 20 February 1917, 22 May 1917.

74. Tailor, 30 January 1917, 27 February 1917.

75. Tailor, 26 June 1917.

76. Tailor, 19 March 1918.

77. Ibid.

78. Tailor, 2 April 1918; Voice, 5 April 1918.

79. Voice, 5 April 1918,12 April 1918,19 April 1918; Tailor, 30 Apri11918.

80. Tailor, 21 May 1918.

81. Voice, 19 April 1918, p. 8.

82. Tailor, 21 May 1918.

83. Tailor, 4 February 1919.

84. Ibid.

85. [Illeg.] to Deputy Minister F. C. Acland, 1 April 1918, Strikes and Lockouts, NAC RG 27 Vol. 308, Foie 18 [54] (1918).

86. Tailor, 12 November 1918.

87. One of the final appeals for material aid to which Local 70 members contributed was a Defense Fund for several JTU activists who were being railroaded by New York authorities on trumped-up murder charges, which later were dropped. Tailor, 28 January 1919, 4 February 1919, 4 March 1919.

88. Tailor, 17 September 1918, 4 February 1919.

89. RNWMP records cit. in Mary V. Jordan, Survival: Labour’s Trials and Tribulations in Canada (Toronto: McDonald House, 1975), p. 71.

90. “Locals Disbanded,” Tailor, 23 August 1921.

91. Norman Penner, ed., Winnipeg 1919: The Strikers’ Own History of the Winnipeg General Strike, 2nd end. (Toronto: Lorimer, 1975), pp. 43-44.

92. Tailor, 15 July 1919.

93. Tailor, 14 May 1919, 12 August 1919, 7 February 1922.

94. Tailor, 30 April 1919; One Big Union Bulletin, as late as autumn 1923.

95. Strikes and Lockouts, RG 27, Vol. 327, File 21 [175]; One Big Union Bulletin, 23 July 1921. These appear to have included a shortening of the work-week from the 50 hours won by Local 70 in 1918 to the 44-hour term reported for 1921; wages, as mentioned earlier, had crept upward during the same period from about $23 to at least $30.

96. Tailor, 20 September 1921.

97. One Big Union Bulletin, 23 July 1921.

98. Strikes and Lockouts RG 27 Vol. 327, File 21 [175] (1921); Tailor, 20 September 1921; One Big Union Bulletin, 23 July 1921.

99. Stowell (1918), pp. 19-20.

100. This clause can be traced back, as such, to the Local 70 draft agreement collected by the federal labour department in 1918; before then, yearly extension of prevailing wage rates likely was an informal practice subject to craft precept and market conditions.

101. Gutman, “Labor History and the ‘Sartre Question’,” (1980) and “Historical Consciousness in Contemporary America” (1982), in Herbert G. Gutman [Ira-Berlin, ed.], Power & Culture: Essays on the American Working Class (New York: Pantheon, 1987), pp. 326-28, 395-412.

102. Compare Table 1 and Table 4.



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