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What Kind of Unionism: Struggles among Sydney Steel Workers in the SWOC Years, 1936-1942

Ron Crawley
Labour / Le Travail
Vol. 39 (Spring, 1997), pp. 99-123
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25144108
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
What Kind of Unionism: Struggles among Sydney Steel Workers in the SWOC Years, 1936-1942
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Abstract

In late 1936 steel worker activists in Sydney launched a new organizing drive at the plant under the auspices of the CIO's Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC). This effort drew the support of steel workers in a way that previous organizing attempts had not. However, the militant and self-reliant traditions of the steel workers collided with the cautious strategies and bureaucratic practices of the appointed SWOC leadership in the United States and Canada. As steel workers at Sydney showed great solidarity in their struggle with DOSCO, they also resisted what they saw as undemocratic and highly accommodationist practices by the union's national and international leadership. The struggles within the union embraced the issues of Canadian autonomy and nationalism as well as rank-and-file union control and the democratic rights of union members. It amounted to a struggle over what type of unionism was to be established within the Canadian steel industry. /// Vers la fin de 1936, des ouvriers de la sidérurgie lancèrent aux usines de Sydney une nouvelle campagne de syndicalisation sous le patronage du Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), affilié au CIO. Cette campagne de recrutement s'attira l'appui des travailleurs de la sidérurgie, comme aucune autre auparavant. Toutefois, les traditions de militantisme et d'affirmation des ouvriers se heurtèrent aux stratégies prudentes et aux pratiques bureaucratiques des dirigeants attitrés du SWOC aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. En plus de témoigner d'une grande solidarité durant leur conflit avec la compagnie DOSCO, les ouvriers de Sydney s'opposaient à ce qu'ils percevaient comme des pratiques antidémocratiques et conciliantes de la part de direction nationale et interna-tionale de l'union. Cette lutte intra-syndicale touchait autant à des questions reliées au nationalisme et à l'autonomie des sections canadiennes, qu'à des questions reliées au contrôle hiérarchique des militants de la base et aux droits démocratiques des membres de l'union. Au fil des événements, on en vint même à se demander quel type de syndicalisme était le plus approprié à l'industrie canadienne de la sidérurgie.

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