On this day in 1919…
Dozens of railway, foundry, and factory workers from the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council (TLC) gather in a meeting room on the second floor of the Labour Temple on James Street.
The TLC’s president, James Winning, a 38-year-old bricklayer and city alderman, silences the people in the crowd. They all eagerly await the results of the vote to a general sympathetic strike in support of the Building Trades Council and Metal Trades Council workers.
Finally, Winning reads out the final ballot – 11,000 in favour of a general strike, 500 against.
The TLC consults with fifteen union representatives which make up the Central Strike Committee, the body responsible for governing the strike. The committee is comprised of several working class labour leaders including Ernest Robinson, Harry Veitch and Reverend William Ivens.
Also among the committeemen is Robert B. Russell, a prominent member of the Socialist Party of Canada.
Earlier that year, on March 13, Russell attended the Western Labour Conference in Calgary, Alberta. There, he became Manitoba’s leading spokesperson for a revolutionary industrial union known as the One Big Union. The union, still in its formative stage, aimed to represent workers throughout western Canada and to challenge the policies of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the American Federation of Labour.
After deliberating as a group, the TLC and Central Strike Committee decide on the official date for the Winnipeg General Strike. Thousands of labour workers prepare to walk off the job in solidarity on May 15 at 11 a.m.
Already anticipating the threat of a strike, many business owners, manufacturers, lawyers, bankers, and politicians throughout Winnipeg band together in opposition of the workers’ demands. In the days leading up to the strike, they form their own organization known as the Citizens’ Committee of 1000.
While the names of committee members are never publicized, Alfred J. Andrews, a former Winnipeg mayor and well-known lawyer, becomes the group’s main spokesperson.