Introduction: New Leftism and Inflation Stir the Pot
Author: Romina Campanella, MMSt Candidate
1970s Ontario was a time of bellbottoms, disco, and turbulent labour strikes. The rise of various social movements throughout the previous decades echoed through the province’s workforce, sparking a series of passionate and often violent strikes. New Leftism, a movement closely associated with university and college student activism, was hugely influential in many of these strikes.1 Expanding on the Left’s traditional focus on class struggle, New Leftism brought to light issues such as feminism, environmentalism, immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and student rights.2 Often considered radical, New Leftists were known for mass protests and civil disobedience.3 Second-wave feminism was a particularly popular social movement arising with the New Left, as more women were entering the workforce and questioning the traditional roles expected of them.4
Adding fuel to this fire was a recession in the early 1970s that sparked exceptionally high inflation and increased unemployment. In response, the Pierre Elliot Trudeau government implemented strict wage and price controls from 1975-1978.5 Throughout the decade, cuts to unemployment insurance and welfare benefits were made, along with back to work legislation that forced an end to strikes by imposing a settlement. Many workers throughout Canada were angered by these conditions and fueled by the more radical ideologies of the New Left. In Ontario particularly, several notable strikes occurred during this decade that are important to the history of industrial relations in the province, such as Texpack, Fleck, and Artistic Woodwork.
The Industrial Relations and Human Resources Library carries material that addresses the history and lasting impact of many of these strikes. This limited blog series will explore several significant Ontario strikes throughout the '70s and highlight the various resources available through the IRHR Library and the wider University of Toronto Libraries that will aid researchers looking to learn more.
- Gregory S. Kealey, Lara Campbell, and Dominique Clément, Debating Dissent: Canada and the Sixties, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012). https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST...
- Mason Godden, “That ’70s Strike Support: Labour, Feminism, and the Left in Three Ontario Strikes, 1972–1979,” (master's thesis, Trent University, 2019), 3. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST...
- Godden, “That ‘70s Strike Support”, 23.
- Godden, “That ‘70s Strike Support”, 3.
- Allan M. Maslove, and Gene Swimmer, Wage Controls in Canada, 1975-78: a Study of Public Decision Making, (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1980). https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST...
- Godden, Mason. “That ’70s Strike Support: Labour, Feminism, and the Left in Three Ontario Strikes, 1972–1979.” Master's thesis, Trent University, 2019. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST/...
This thesis explores the influence of feminism and left-wing ideologies on Ontario strikes of the 1970s, with a specific focus on Dare Foods (1972-73), Puretex (1978-79), and Inco (1978-79)
- Kealey, Gregory S., Lara Campbell, and Dominique Clément. Debating Dissent: Canada and the Sixties. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST/...
Debating Dissent examines the “long-sixties” in Canada, including the various social movements involved, many of which influenced labour movements in the 1970s
- MacDowell, Laurel Sefton, and Ian Walter Radforth. Canadian Working-Class History: Selected Readings. 3rd ed. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2006. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST/...
This collection of readings will provide historical context for industrial relations in Canada’s working class
- Maslove, Allan M., and Gene Swimmer. Wage Controls in Canada, 1975-78: a Study of Public Decision Making. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1980. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST/...
This book examines the circumstances surrounding the 1975-1978 wage control legislation in Canada
- White, Julie. Sisters and Solidarity: Women and Unions in Canada. Toronto: Thompson Educational Pub., 1993. https://librarysearch.library.utoronto.ca/permalink/01UTORONTO_INST/...
Sister and Solidarity provides a thorough overview of women’s involvement in Canadian Unions from the 1880s to the 1990s.