Toronto's Labour Day Parade and Labour History
It's the Labour Day long weekend and one's thoughts naturally turn to:
- Visiting The Canadian National Exhibition (Or, as we usually think of it, the CNE or The Ex).
- Going back to school (supplies and new corduroys!)
- Getting stuck in traffic jams to and from a cottage.
- Marching in or watching a parade.
So here are some books and items from our Digital Archive about the Labour Day Parade in Toronto.
This interesting and old banner was used in 1921 to lead the Labourers Union during the annual Labour Day Parade.
"In The Workers' Festival, Craig Heron and Steve Penfold examine the complicated history of Labour Day from its origins as a spectacle of skilled workers in the 1880s through its declaration as a national statutory holiday in 1894 to its reinvention through the twentieth century. The holiday's inventors hoped to blend labour solidarity, community celebration, and increased leisure time by organizing parades, picnics, speeches, and other forms of respectable leisure."
The origins of Canada's Labour Day as a holiday can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada's first significant demonstration for worker's rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. Later a second demonstration happened in Ottawa leading to the change in labour laws and the repealing of bans on trade unions. Celebration of the labour movement moved from spring to autumn in 1894 to match up with the United States. Elsewhere in the world, especially Europe, May 1 is generally considered Labour Day.
If you want to know about the origins of Labour Day, my colleague John P. has written a wonderful blog: Remembering the First Labour Day in Toronto: September 3: Snapshots in History. We've got some quirky pictures and ephemera relating to Labour Day and the marches including images from the 1970s when labour relations were a bit fraught. We also have quite a bit written on labour history.
You can also see the more contemporary:
- Building a Better World: An Introduction to Trade Unionism in Canada.
- From Consent to Coercion: The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms
"An integrated labor history that incorporates detailed studies of working people's experiences in 19th-century Ontario in areas previously neglected or deserving of reconsideration, such as farm labor, housework, lumbering, and industrial labor in factories or on the railroads."
"Canadian Working-Class History: Selected Readings, Third Edition, is an updated version of the bestselling reader that brings together recent and classic scholarship on the history, politics, and social groups of the working class in Canada. Some of the changes readers will find in the new edition include better representation of women scholars and nine provocative and ground-breaking new articles on racism and human rights; women's equality; gender history; Quebec sovereignty; and the environment."
"Tells the story of Canada's workers from the mid-nineteenth century through to today. Describes the rise of globalization and the restructuring of the private sector that began in the nineties and continues today. The results have been catastrophic for Canadian working people as plants closed and union activities were curtailed."
There are many different unions and local represented in the parade over the years but some of the quirkier floats and political images can be seen below.
"Canadian labour history and working-class struggles are brought to life in this anthology of nine short comics, each one accompanied by an informative preface. Each comic showcases the inspiring efforts and determination of working people who banded together with others to fight to change the world."
"From the dock workers of Saint John in 1812 to teenage "crews" at McDonald's today, Canada's trade union movement has a long, exciting history. Working People tells the story of the men and women in the labour movement in Canada and their struggle for security, dignity, and influence in our society."
"The Graphic History Collective has created an illustrated chronicle of the strike--the organized withdrawal of labour power--in Canada. For centuries, workers in Canada--Indigenous and non-Indigenous, union and non-union, men and women--have used the strike as a powerful tool, not just for better wages, but also for growing working-class power."
"This text is a collection of classic and contemporary articles exploring the nature of work in Canadian history from the late eighteenth century to the current day. Class relations and labour form the core of the volume, but attention will also be paid to the state and its relations withworkers both formal and informal."
Lastly, if you're watching the Labour Day parade in Toronto, keep an eye out for the Toronto Public Library Workers Union TPLWU 4948 CUPE as we march and celebrate our 10th anniversary this year.
You may also be interested in some of these other blogs TPL staff have written:
- 10 Vintage Photos of Toronto's Working Women: Celebrating International Women's Day, March 8, 2019
- In Memoriam: Bromley Armstrong, Black Civil Rights and Trade Union Activist
- A Visual History of the Canadian National Exhibition
- Remembering the First Labour Day in Toronto: September 3: Snapshots in History