The Honest Workingman" And Workers' Control: The Experience Of Toronto Skilled Workers, 1860-1892 Article Reviews Examples
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The article is about exploring how power was used in trade unions in Canada. The author, Dr. Greg Kinsley, has ventured into the field of history and has sufficient experience in writing on issues of history about the working class. Critical to the discussion is the three main trade unions, which include Coopers International Union, International Typographical Union No. 91, and Iron Molders International Union No. 28. In the review, how these Unions managed to exert influence in the control of operations of the industries is elaborated with examples. The strength of unions is in the unions’ strong organizational resolve and members’ ability to apply their craft and knowledge amidst the mechanization changes.
Workers under the Coopers International Union enjoyed a sense of control in the work they did, as expressed in the article
“workers who possess some degree of control over quantity and quality of the product; choice and maintenance of equipment; methods of wage payment”
Consequently, the unions who dictated the terms to the industries set issues such as prices of the labor. Furthermore, they set up maximum working hours for a whole province to reach up to ten hours a day. In cases where production levels were low, the union restricted production so that it could be distributed evenly and reduce any speed-ups. Such a restriction was clearly disadvantageous to the manufacturer. Manufacturers that acted contrary to the terms of the union would normally face its wrath. The level of control of the Cooper International Union is also evident in the sense that the individual working in a particular craft were controlled in terms of numbers. This was done to ensure that there was less competition from non-members. If a member, discussed agenda in the union meetings with the work bosses repercussions amounted to be thrown out of the union.
However, the Coopers Union took a fall attributed to several reasons. Critical reasons included the depression of the 1870s and the resolve of the employers to put a fight against the trade. Employers embraced mechanization, which replaced work done by the laborers. The increased need for better standards in the manufacturing industry necessitated the incorporation of machines in the industries. However, the effect on the skilled worker was only to some level. Skill and technical know were still very significant in some of the crafts the different industries. Introduction of machinery played a significant role in undermining the power of dictatorship of the unions coupled with non-union members taking jobs at reduced rates. As noted
“However one base of their power was disappearing rapidly in the 1870s as technological innovation stripped them of their monopoly of particular technical and managerial skills.”
The Iron Molders Union No. 28 asserted power through several avenues. One of the most vital areas of the power of their strength was based on the control over prices relating to molders’ labor. These prices were established in conjunction with supervisors or the bosses and once set they were non-negotiable. Furthermore, the Union has allocated the number of pieces a worker was to produce in a day. Consequently, this meant that the unions controlled production. Furthermore, the union controlled the hiring of laborers. In cases where members applied to the supervisors, fines were charged to them. The union also controlled the number of laborers in each shop. Employers and manufacturers efforts to introduce changes were met by constant struggle and strikes from the unions. Despite the struggles faced by the Iron Molders Union No. 28, they still managed to maintain control into the 20th century, their strict level of organization was key for them in maintaining control at the workplace.
Core to the strength of the International Typographical Union No. 91 was the control over production. All job applications were done through the foreman who was also a member of the union. The control of the hiring process gave the union most of the power of the bosses. The political leadership influence of the union was also significant in ensuring that they gained much power in the most of the decisions that were made on issues of labor. Their target on certain political aspirants linked to certain papers ensured their effectiveness on their boycotts. The union also managed to control operation of machines.
The power of the unions reviewed seemed to involve mainly the control of operations of the manufacturers or bosses. Once this is established, the union has the power to control the production both in terms of what is paid to the workers and the production output. A major challenge to all the unions described has been the introduction of technology through mechanization. Once the union managed to augment its operation based on the new machines, almost control was certain. Furthermore, cooperation between union and non-members was significant to the unions maintaining their power of control over the manufacturers. As such, the strength of unions is in the unions’ strong organizational resolve and members’ ability to apply their craft and knowledge amidst the mechanization changes.
Kealey, Gregory S. "The Honest Workingman" and Workers' Control: The Experience of Toronto Skilled Workers, 1860-1892." Labour / Le Travail 1 (1976): 32-68. Print.
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