Book Review: The Canadian labour movement, 1812-1902

The Canadian labour movement, 1812-1902 is a book written by Forsey, Eugene Alfred and published in the Canadian Historical Association in 1974. The document majorly looks at the changes in the Canadian labor movement from 1812 to 1902. The author shows the different changes that have occurred to the unions since their establishment to the current unions that exist in Canada (3-5). The paper tries to answer questions such as; what are the major changes that occurred through the years from 1812 to 1902 to the Canadian labor unions?  Other questions that are answered by the paper include:

  • What were the main functions of the American federation of labor.
  • What were the major aims of the labor unions?
  • What were the methods that were used by the labor o?
  • What exactly were the outcomes of the labor unions during that period of time?

The paper aims at giving the history of the labor unions in detail, the unions that were formed during this time, the people who were involved in these unions, why the unions were formed and the role that the unions played among the employees between 1812 and 1902 (Forsey 3-6).

The paper shows that during this time, the employees had their own types of structures. They formed the unions for different reasons. The unions fought for their rights, ensured that there were good working conditions and ensured that the employees were paid well by their employers (Forsey 11-16). Looking at the history of the labor unions in Canada, the paper has managed to show how the unions evolved, the achievements and the downfalls that they had as well as their roles and the different methods that they used to ensure that their aim is achieved.

The author has divided the paper into different parts to help in supporting his argument in a logical manner. The author talks of the early unions in Canada that existed about 160 years ago under the Canadian Labor History (Forsey 3). During that time there were many unions that were formed by different employees with different skills such as the tailor’s societies. Other smaller unions that existed include the masons, bricklayers, carpenters and even the shoemakers union (3). These unions were however, short-lived. There were unions that lasted for so long that they even exist in the present century.

After talking about the early unions, the author looks at the international unions. It is during the rise of the international unions that the Canadian Unionism Center moved to the central part of Canada (4). Some of the small early unions merged to form the international unions. Of all the international unions that existed, the most important unions were the locomotive engineers, the typos coopers, Crispin’s and the cigar makers. One of the largest and most influential unions was the Toronto assembly (5). It was the reason for starting the first national central body.

The author also looks at the Canadian labor union. This was the national central body which was organized in 1873, during a time that the unions in the country were about 100 (5). The first union however had delegates from only fourteen of the unions. The union was hit by the economic conditioned of Canada during that time. However, some of the unions survived including the branches of the international unions.

The most spectacular feature which is the knights of labor is also discussed in this paper. This was a holy and noble order that was founded in the United States in 1869 and had district assemblies in that country and the other countries such as Australia Britain, Ireland and even the New Zealand (7-10). The knights were the ones responsible for the organization of the men and women who were unskilled and the small town workers. The knights were also the ones who were responsible for coming up with the first Winnipeg and the Montreal trades as well as the labor councils (9-10). It was also responsible for the second central labor union in the nation. Another part was the labor council and the trade unions. The central organizations were revived with the fresh burst of the organizing activities. The local and the central bodies started calling themselves the labor and trade councils. The author documents the changes that took place within the labor unions during the years leading up to 1902 (11).

The paper does not exclude the federal unions that existed during that time. The author notes that federal unions spread into Canada because of different reasons (12). One reason is because the American industry was moving into Canada. The American workers could work across the line if the Canadian workers could not organize themselves. The threat of the dual unions is also a reason why it was a rival.

After giving the history of the labor unions, the author looks at the aims of the unions during the period 1812 to 1902 (6-15).  The main reason according to the article was for the employees to get more of what they needed. First, they needed more money and as a result formed the unions to demand higher payments. Secondly, they needed more leisure and more time for themselves and their families. The unions fought for the employees and ensured that there was collective bargaining, overtime, extra pay and the higher rates (12-13). Lastly the author looks at the methods that were used by the unions to achieve their aims and the achievements that the unions had.

It can be deduced that the author has used different sources of information to deliver his message. First, he uses different articles on the history of Canada. This article contains the social economic as well as political changes where the labor sector is involved. Using this type of information, he gives a detailed account of what happened over the years from 1812 to 1902. Past research papers have also been used to come up with this paper.  There are several research papers such as Canada investigates industrialism that have been used by the writer to support the main argument of the development of the labor unions over time. Books were also used in this study, especially those that have been written on the Canadian history of the labor unions. Socialism books were also used as sources to support the main arguments. This is because labor force is part of socialism.   There were articles that were written by the unions as well as the reports that were written by different people on the Canadian unions over the years. Reviews such as the Canadian historical reviews were also used to support the main historical facts about the labor unions revolution since 1882 to 1902. All the resources that the writer used were very relevant and they effectively supported the main arguments of the article.

The author supports his argument adequately. Just before he gives the aims of the unions and the methods that the unions used to achieve their aim in Canada, he gives the history of the unions in a step by step manner. Through the history, the author shows how the unions moved from simple unions among the workers to the international unions. He highlights the unions that survived to the present unions, the challenges they faced and how they pulled through.

The author argues effectively because of the credible sources and information that he presents. Thus, the information is presented in a logic manner. The detailed information given by the writer convinces the audience that the topic was well researched as the main argument is well presented.

In conclusion, it is worth to note that for this book, the author presents a clear aspect of life in duration of 160 years. The sources used are credible considering the time that they were published and the way he has extracted the information from those sources. The questions that the document raises however, are the questions like, how did the unions solve the problems that they encountered? What were the negative outcomes of the employees getting into the trade unions?  Why did some of unions not reach the current century? Therefore, this is a document that is well researched and presented. The writer uses relevant and up-to-date sources to support his main arguments. Despite the questions that arise, the document is convincing.







Work Cited

Forsey, Eugene Alfred. The Canadian labour movement, 1812-1902. Canadian Historical Association, 1974.


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