Labour Demonstrations: Fraser Mills Strike

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In 1931, the men who worked for Fraser Mills in Maillardville began to strike to protest wage cuts. Between January 1930 and September 1931, workers at the mill were subject to five major wage cuts, resulting in an overall cut of almost one-third. The strike began on September 17, 1931 and lasted two and a half months. The strike was led by the Lumber Worker’s Industrial Union (LWIU). Though management, including Henry Mackin, tried to blame Communist agitators for the strike, the majority of the strikers came from within the community of Maillardville.

Demonstration on King Edward Avenue, 1931.

Demonstration on King Edward Avenue, 1931.

The close-knit community of Maillardville was the reason the strike was able to last so long. The community rallied around the striking workers, providing support to the men and their families. For example, a soup kitchen opened on Cartier Avenue and Chinese farmers in the community donated vegetables. This community spirit and support would continue throughout the Depression.

The outcomes of the strike are mixed. It did not result in significant wage increases nor recognition of the workers’ union. Furthermore, some leaders of the strike were blacklisted and barred from returning to work at Fraser Mills following the strike. One such man was Johnny Dicaire, a prominent member of the community, nicknamed Mr. Maillardville. Nevertheless, the strike did result in an end to the wage cuts, and, on the whole, relations between the company and the employees improved. Furthermore, residents of Maillardville remember the strike of 1931 as a time when the community really came together to support one another and report that antagonisms between people of different ethnicities diminished.

The Second World War broke out in 1939, twenty-one years after fighting ceased in the First World War. WWI left belligerent countries broke and fatigued. The 1920s and 1930s presented their own ups and downs, including extreme global economic booms and busts. Though there were hints at the time, we can see through hindsight the lead up to the beginning of WWII throughout the 1930s. In this blog series, important local, national, and international economic and cultural events and attitudes are discussed as Canada and the world prepares to engage in another massive global conflict.