Tag Archives: winnipeg strike

STRIKE- THE MURAL

This mural used to be on the south wall of what is now The Palomino Club on Main Street.  Painted by Tom Andrich in 2006  its illustrations give life to one of the most memorable events in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919.  In May of that year, some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities for World War I veterans. Union organizers had been passionately advocating for an eight-hour workday, collective bargaining and the need for employers to pay a living wage. Mural artist Tom Andrich chose to highlight nine of the strike leaders. The woman right in front is Helen Armstrong. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto and married to a carpenter named George she moved to Winnipeg with him in 1905 where Helen became the leader of the Women’s Labor League. Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. During the Winnipeg Strike Helen organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strikebreakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men who were on strike. She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strikebreakers. 

Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and some were deported. The majority of the strikers, however, were British. toppled street car winnipeg strikeOn June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labour leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labour movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strikebreakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire.  

The federal government had sent out the Royal North-Westz Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the streetcar was overturned. They began to fire their weapons. 

June 21, 1919, became known as Bloody Saturday because the North West Mounties killed two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. Tom Andrich’s mural on Main Street had a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski. Almost nothing is known of Mike Sokolowiski beyond the few often contradictory details recounted by Winnipeg newspapers reporting on his death. After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th. I took these photos of Tom Andrich’s strike mural on September 15, 2012.  I captured the artwork just in time because later that same month a wicked rain and wind storm ripped the vinyl mural from the wall and damaged it beyond repair.  

Note: Tom Andrich the artist of the Winnipeg Strike mural died in 2018.  You can read more about him on The Murals of Winnipeg site. 

Other posts……….

The Winnipeg Strike- Fact and Fiction

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

Celebrating Our Marriage History in a Historical Building

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Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now.

The former Eatons Store on Portage Avenue

When my family was shopping at Eaton’s, we would often rendezvous at Mr Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999.  Later the statue was officially designated a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre. Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr Eaton also had a nationwide mail-order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I.  Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas.  Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. 

Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat sceptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.

The 3,500-pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department.  A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.

I’ve learned recently it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’ll have try that the next time I walk by the statue of Mr Eaton at the MTS Centre. 

 

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Photographed Just in Time

winnipeg strike mural 2On September 15, 2012 I took photos of this Winnipeg Strike Mural on the south wall of the Whiskey Dix night club on Main Street.   I captured the art work just in time because later that same month a wicked rain and wind storm ripped the vinyl mural from the wall and damaged it. winnipeg strike muralThe mural painted by Tom Andrich tells the story of perhaps the most memorable event in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919. In May some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities especially for World War I veterans. Union organizers wanted an eight-hour work day, collective bargaining and demanded employers pay a living wage.  men and women winnipeg strikeThese are the strike leaders who were imprisoned. The woman  is Helen Armstrong. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto she moved to Winnipeg  in 1905 and became the leader of the Women’s Labor League. Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. During the Winnipeg Strike Helen organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strike breakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men on strike. She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strike breakers.britons shall never be slaves

Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and many were deported. The majority of the strikers however were British.toppled street car winnipeg strikeOn June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labor leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labor movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strike breakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire.north west mounted police winnipeg strikeThe federal government had sent out the Royal North West Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the street car was overturned. They began to fire their weapons.mike winnipeg strikeJune 21, 1919 became known as Bloody Saturday, because the North West Mounties killed two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. The mural on Main Street has a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski. After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th.

Other posts……..

1000 Nails A Musical Mural

David Bowie in My Neighbourhood

Discovering Sacagawea

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Filed under Art, History, Winnipeg