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This month in IAM history: February, 2016

Click on an event in the calendar below for more information.

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February 2016February 9February 10February 11February 13February 14February 15February 17February 20February 25February 27

February's theme
The Avro Arrow

Avro Arrow

The Avro Arrow, a Canadian designed and built prototype jet fighter interceptor, was at the cutting edge of aircraft technology in the 1950s.

At its peak in 1959, A.V. Roe Ltd. (Avro) and its sister company, Orenda, employed more than 15,000 IAM members in Local Lodges 1922, 717, 2030 and 717T. Avro was the third largest corporation in the country and more than 45,000 Canadian workers had a connection to the Arrow project.

Arrow prototypes reached speeds of Mach 1.96 and their newly designed, Canadian engines promised to set new world speed records. But it was not to be.

On February 20, 1959, blaming cost overruns and changing needs, the federal government cancelled the project. In one afternoon, 45,000 Canadians — including 15,000 Machinists — lost their jobs and a dream. A source of national pride was erased, along with Canada’s status as a world leader in aviation.

Since its inception in 1997, the Toronto Aerospace Museum has dreamed of an Arrow replica as its centerpiece exhibit. In 2006, the dream was realized, partly thanks to the experience of Peter Allnutt, a flight-test mechanic on the original Arrow and former shop steward with LL717.

“I was proud to be a part of it then and I’m proud to be part of this one,” he said.

IAM Local Lodges chartered in the month of February:

February 1: LL544, Cornerbrook NL (1956); LL1788, Batawa ON (1944); LL2418, Newcastle NB (1971)
February 2: LL2332, Sault Ste. Marie ON (1968)
February 10: LL741, Winnipeg MB (1941)
February 21: LL771, Fort Frances ON (1947)
February 26: LL922, Sherbrooke QC (1952)
February 27: LL1722, Edmonton AB (1945)


February 9 : Birth of James Bryson McLachlan, champion of the Nova Scotia coal miners, 1869

Labour leader James McLachlan was born in Scotland and died in Glace Bay, NS in 1937. He immigrated to Canada in 1902. McLachlan served as secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America. During the First World War, he secured collective bargaining rights for coal miners in Nova Scotia. McLachlan also participated in numerous Cape Breton mining strikes throughout the 1920’s. He founded the Maritime Labor Herald in 1921, and edited the Nova Scotia Miner from 1929 to 1936. McLachlan was a member of the Socialist Party of Canada, the Independent Labour Party of Nova Scotia and the Communist Party of Canada. From 1933 to 1936 he served as president of the Workers Unity League. For more information please see this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia


February 10 : 39 miners are killed by fire in Timmins ON, 1928

In 1928 the Hollinger Gold Mine outside Timmins was the largest of its kind in North America. On the morning of February 10, over 900 men were at work in the mine. A heap of trash caught fire, which spread throughout the mine, killing 39. The subsequent Royal Commission of presided over by Supreme Court Justice T. E. Godson lead to improvements in safety including proper storage of wastes, as well as a newly established Ontario Mine Rescue Station in 1929. For more information please see this article in the Timmins Times.


February 11 : 11 union members shot, three killed at Reesor Siding strike, Kapuskasing ON, 1963

This three-way conflict involved Fall Power and Paper Company, its employees, and local farmers. The farmers sold fibre to Spruce Falls. When the Spruce Falls workers went on strike, the farmers continued this arrangement. The strikers decided to take action against the farmers whom they believed were interfering with their union. Strikers physically blocked farmers from delivering fibre, and violence ensued. Farmers shot and killed 3 men and wounded 8 more. After the deaths, the provincial Ministry of Labour took over strike negotiations and resolved the dispute. The courts ultimately found one hundred and thirty-eight strikers guilty and they were bailed out by their union. The farmers were arrested and charged with various counts short of murder. For more information please see this article in the Kapuskasing Times.


Kathleen Wynne sworn in as Ontario’s first female and first gay premier, 2013

Kathleen Wynne was born in 1953 in Toronto. She has a background in mediation, education, and community activism. While Conservative Premier Mike Harris was in power, Wynne founded Citizens for Local Democracy to fight the provincially imposed amalgamation of Metro Toronto. She also fought education cuts as part of the Ontario Education Alliance. Wynne was elected school trustee in 2000. She was elected to provincial parliament as a Liberal in 2003, and re-elected in 2007, 2011, and 2014. Wynne has served as Minister of Education, Transportation, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Aboriginal Affairs. In January 2013 she won the Liberal party leadership, and was elected premier that February. After the NDP and the Conservatives voted against the budget, an election was called and Wynne was elected as Premier again with a majority in June 2014. For more information please see this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia


February 13 : Start of Quebec student strike, 2012

Strike at Victoriaville

This strike over tuition fee increases lasted from February to September and is the longest of its kind in both Quebec and Canada. It began when over 60,000 students formed a temporary coalition called CLASSE (Coalition large de l'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, or “Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity”). They were soon joined by the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ). 310,000 out of 400,000 post-secondary students in the province went on the strike. There were demonstrations throughout the province, some of which became violent. In May the National Assembly passed controversial Bill 78, which would ultimately force students back to school and limit their ability to protest legally. On August 1 the Jean Charest government called an election. The student strike was at the forefront. The Parti Québécois ran on the platform of repealing Bill 78 and cancelling the tuition fee increase. They were elected and followed through on their promise. For more information please see this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia.


February 14 : Asbestos workers in Quebec stage wildcat strike lasting four months, 1949

Laurent Bernatchez bloodied by police in the asbestos labour dispute, 1949.

5,000 Quebec miners at mostly American-owned operations went on an illegal strike as members of the Confederation of National Trades Unions (CCCL). The strike was over wages and working conditions. It was part of larger conflicts and a tense political conflict within the province, as the vast majority of the workers were Francophone while management and owners were Anglophone. Conservative Premier Maurice Duplessis was against Unions. The strikers had the support of the Roman Catholic Church. The strike ended with only a few demands met. It is viewed as a precursor to Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. For more information please see this this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia and this article from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.


February 15 : Tailors strike Eaton’s in Toronto, 1912

When male tailors at Eaton’s were asked to perform hat was perceived as unskilled womens’ work for not additional pay they went on strike. For more information please see this this article from the Torontoist.


84 crew die in the sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil-drilling rig on the Grand Banks NL, 1982

Ocean Ranger

The Ocean Ranger, at the time the largest oil rig in the world, capsized and sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a powerful storm. It was under contract to Mobil Oil Canada Ltd and owned by the New Orleans-based Ocean Drilling and Exploration Co (ODECO). After the sinking a Federal-Provincial Royal Commission was established to examine the disaster and the causes behind it. The Commission led to drastic improvements in training and safety. For more information please see this this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia


February 17 : Federal Government recognizes bargaining rights of Canadian workers, 1944

During the Second World War, the Canadian Privy Council developed “the legal obligation for both parties to enter into good-faith collective bargaining, and prohibitions on unfair labour practices.” For more information please see this this article from the CBC.


February 20 : Diefenbaker’s Tories cancel the Avro Arrow project, 1959

Janusz Zurakowski, engineer

Development on the most advanced military aircraft of its time, the Avro Arrow, began in 1949. Fuelled by Cold War sentiment and the need to defend the Canadian north from the Soviets, the government invested millions. 14,000 people lost their jobs when the Conservatives cancelled the project due to cost issues. For more information please see this this article in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Part of our Heritage Minute


February 25 : 500 women dressmakers strike against sweatshop conditions in the needle trades in Toronto, 1931

Over 500 members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) went on strike demanding a 15% wage increase, union recognition, and the right to arbitration. Despite working in extremely difficult conditions, the strikers did not have the support of the general public. The strike lasted two months and the demands of the strikers were not met in the end. For more information please see this this article from the Torontoist:


February 27 : First flight of Bombardier C-Series 300, Montreal, 2015

The first Bombardier CS300 test flight was out of the Montreal airport. At the time the company had received 240 firm orders for the new jets. Although the project initially had delays and budget issues, aircraft are scheduled to take off commercially after the required number of test flights are completed. For more information please see this this article from the CBC