On this day in 1919…
While many writers had walked off the job, major newspapers, such as the Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg Telegram and Winnipeg Tribune, still acted as the primary source of news for people throughout the city.
Although the Manitoba Free Press remained relatively objective in their reporting of the strike, the Central Strike Committee felt that the other papers had become biased in their representation of the union movement. They believed some writers were actively trying to hinder their efforts in obtaining a collective bargaining agreement.
Reporters were soon banned from observing the meetings of strikers for fear of misrepresentation in the press. However, this created another issue for the the Central Strike Committee. If they could not connect to the public through the papers, they would have no way to update and inform the labour workers of their goals and progress in negotiations.
To remedy this situation, the Central Strike Committee created the Western Labour News, its own official daily newspaper that reflected the ideas of the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council and helped keep the lines of communication open with the strikers.
On May 17, the committee published its first daily Strike Bulletin in the paper.
In it, Rev. William Ivens, the main editor of the Western Labour News, announced that the Strike Committee had authorized operation permits to essential services like milk and bread delivery wagons, recognizing that the withdrawal of certain services created hardships for families in Winnipeg.
The committee also allowed the Winnipeg General Hospital and various theatres to remain open as well. Permit cards and signs reading “Permitted by Authority of the Strike Committee” appeared on carts and in the front windows of businesses throughout the city.
However, the appearance of the permit cards infuriated the elite members of the Citizens’ Committee of 1000. To these men, the permits were evidence that the labour workers were trying to take over the elected government in Winnipeg by establishing their own authority and laws.
Through articles and propaganda published in the in the Winnipeg Citizen and Winnipeg Telegram, business owners accused the strikers of being “Bolshevik Huns” who were trying to start a revolution in the city. They placed blame on Eastern-European immigrants for bringing radical ideas of socialism with them to Canada, disrupting the predominantly British status quo.
Both the city and province had done little to resolve the situation and Alfred J. Andrews, the leader of the Citizens’ Committee of 1000, feared the Central Strike Committee would continue to gain power.
Writing directly to Ottawa’s federal justice minister, Arthur Meighen, Andrews urged the federal government to intervene with force and put an end to the Winnipeg General Strike.