In the buzzard's shadow : craft subculture, working-class activism, and Winnipeg's custom tailoring trade, c1882-1921

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Hample, John Erwin
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Winnipeg tailoring craftworkers formed four unions during 1882-1921. This master's thesis in Canadian labour history finds that their institutionally-differentiated practice of labour organization expressed a sustained remedial effort to codify, enforce and reformulate elements of their craft subculture. They mounted this effort in response to the competitive constraints of clothing sector capitalism as these conditioned workplace experience in the city trade as well as the tailors' identifications with other working-class Winnipeggers. The study first discusses the reproduction of tailoring craft subculture in the energing city market, and offers a periodized sketch of the 'double jeopardy' which merchant tailors faced as master artisans and as clothing sector capitalists. The remaining chapters employ this periodization to organize discussion of the course of working-class activism pursued by the tailors. During c1882-1900, the integration of national markets in sewn clothing and in tailoring craft labour power exhausted the jour tailors' earliest attempts - the 'Winnipeg Operative Tailors Union' (fl. 1882) and Harmony Local Assembly 9036 of the Knights of Labor (fl. 1886-87) - to devise a viable labour organization. Only with the chartering of Journeymen Tailors' Union Local 70 (fl. 1892- 1919) was this achieved. During c1901-13, Local 70 secured significant wage and other concessions from boss tailors. Wheat Boom-era economic development, coupled with a persisting city-market skills scarcity, broadly favoured such gains. Meanwhile, JTU Local 70 inbibed ideas about industrial unionism and social radicalisn which were encouraged by such figures as John T. Mortimer (d1908), a Socialist Party of Canada activist. During c1914-21, the custom tailors' experience was overshadowed by the exigencies of war-making, the labour revolt, and of the post-war recession. Paradoxically, Local 70 momentarily became in 1918 the largest JTU local in Canada, yet soon bolted from the international parent body to reconstitute itself as Tailors' Industrial Unit Number One of the One Big Union. The study interprets this development in terms of Local 70's war-time isolations from the south and the east, which were counterbalanced by an epochal quickening of working-class activist identifications and social conflict in the city itself. But the new OBU Unit retained the jour tailors' craft-bounded distinctiveness within the OBU's organizational structure, and was blooded in 1921 attempting to enforce a contractual measure inherited from Local 70. The study's major primary sources include the local labour press, as well as an intensive reading of the JTU's journal, The Tailor, 1887-1921. The study's general approach is indebted chiefly to perspectives suggested by the work of Gregory S. Kealey, Herbert Gutman, Eric Hobsbawm, David Montgomery, Geoffrey Crossick, and David H. Bensman.