Canadian Labour in "The Honest Workingman Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1489 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology

Canadian Labour

In "The Honest Workingman and Workers' Control: The experience of Toronto Skilled Workers, 1860-1892," G.S. Kealey explores the role of skilled workers and craftsmen in the late nineteenth century labour movement. According to Kealey, historians have often underestimated the contributions of skilled labourers to labour politics and also to workplace culture. Kealey also points out the similarities between craftsmen practicing different trades. Specifically, the author treats craftsmen as a specific class of worker who was by the turn of the century caught between the time-honored artisan past and the inevitable pull toward full industrialization. To illustrate his thesis, Kealey focuses on three nineteenth century labour organizations: Coopers International Union, Ontario Number 3; International Typographical Union Number 91; and the Iron Molders International Union Number 28. Coopers, printers, and iron workers used labour unions to mitigate their transition from the artisan labour model to the capitalist one.

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In "Joe Beef of Montreal: Working-Class Culture and the Tavern, 1869-1889," P. DeLottinville explores a far different type of labour scene and a wholly other social class than Kealey does. DeLottinville focuses on "underworld" sociology through the working-class communities of nineteenth century Montreal (p. 190). Focusing on Joe Beef's Canteen allows the author to analyze how social class creates subculture, and how class and community commingle and influence each other. The rowdy, bawdy social environment at Joe Beef's Canteen mirrors the commonly held perceptions of working class individuals. Treated as outcasts by an increasingly bourgeois urban society, the working class struggled to find a collective political voice.

Term Paper on Canadian Labour in "The Honest Workingman and Assignment

John Lutz addresses the role of aboriginal peoples in the economic development of Western Canada in "After the Fur Trade: The Aboriginal Labouring Class of British Columbia 1849-1890." Unlike either Kealey or DeLottinville, Lutz brings ethnicity and racism to the fore as key factors in Canadian labour politics and sociology. Lutz also tacitly comments on labour historiography, which traditionally downplays the part First Nations played in establishing the colonial, and later, the provincial economies. Aboriginal peoples outnumbered white settlers by vast numbers but historians have still ignored the contributions of First Nations to the burgeoning British Columbian economy. As Lutz points out, aboriginal people participated in the labour market in nearly every sector: from agriculture to saw mills to canning to mining.

Skilled craftsmen in Toronto, the working poor in Montreal, and the First Nations of British Columbia would seem to share little in common. Their different geographic focal points also distinguish the three articles from one another. However, geography has little bearing on the core themes of the articles. Issues related to ethnicity, class, and less importantly, gender, are central to all three articles about Canadian labour history. All three authors show that similar labour issues are common to practically every industry. Income disparity, wages, discrimination, urbanization, industrialization, and poor working conditions are some of the issues shared in common by workers from different backgrounds and industries.

The three articles show how ethnicity and gender play more important roles in some geographic regions and in some industries than in others. For example, Lutz shows how ethnicity became a key factor in determining the evolution of labour, labour politics, and economic growth in British Columbia. Ethnicity and diversity were in fact the most important sociological variables impacting industrialization in nineteenth century British Columbia. Capitalism broke down traditional social institutions among indigenous peoples, too. Class conflict grew out of endemic discrimination against aboriginal peoples, who were initially viewed as a cheap labour force easily exploitable by the colonists and readily overlooked by historians.

Kealey does not directly address ethnicity or gender in the exposition on Toronto skilled workers, whereas both DeLottinville and especially Lutz focus on how class and ethnic heritage are related in labour history and politics. None of the authors treat gender as a pressing issue, although Lutz does mention traditional gender roles and labour divisions within the aboriginal community. Kealey also suggests that "manliness" was a shared value among Torontonian artisans (p. 117).

Class and labour politics are the central themes shared in common by the Kealey, DeLottinville, and Lutz articles. In spite of the obvious differences between the Toronto, Montreal, and British Columbian labour subjects, all three groups shared in common a pressing need for political organization, advocacy, and activism. Social, political, and economic oppression is a common experience for working class labourers regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, geographic regions, or industry.

However, the three authors present different views of industrialization. Industrialization and the shift toward… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Canadian Labour in "The Honest Workingman."  Essaytown.com.  August 8, 2008.  Accessed October 22, 2020.
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