On this International Women’s Day, we turn to Peterborough, Ontario in the mid-1960s…
The short film above, created and presented here at ActiveHistory.ca by Matthew Hayes, is the story of women workers in a Peterborough, Ontario plastics factory who unionized and struck in the mid-1960s against management harassment and low wages. The strike also led to an infamous injunction against the strikers, while highlighting the problems of a labour movement dominated by men but with increasing numbers of women in its ranks.
Historian Joan Sangster has written the about the Tilco Strike for Labour/Le Travail, Canada’s premiere labour history journal. Here is the introduction to Sangster’s “We No Longer Respect the Law”: The Tilco Strike, Labour Injunctions, and the State:
“The Tilco affair is the story of this second tier of women workers whose desperate struggle to unionize a factory of just less than 60 employees in a small-town Ontario city sparked a malestrom of wider labour protest, led to the state’s successful criminal court cases against 26 other workers after their support picket, and eventually spawned a Royal Commission on labour disputes, itself a storm of controversy, chaired by Justice Ivan Rand, one of the initial legal architects of the Fordist compromise. This “woman’s” strike, ultimately defeated by a small-town cowboy capitalist employer, provides a fascinating, intricate narrative well worth telling for its own sake. The wider battle over injunctions which emerged from the strike, including the state’s royal commission, serve as a useful prism through which to view labour-capital relations in this period.”