Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Carl J. Cuneo
In the early 1980s, during the most severe economic crisis in Canada since the Great Depression, workers in a textile and garment factory in Montreal chose to unionize. This would seem to be a curious initiative to undertake since the industrial relations literature argues that workers tend not to seek unionization during periods of recession. The central purpose of this thesis is to refute this argument and to question the "appropriate time" for organizing so prevalent in the industrial relations literature. Using Richard Edwards' "contested terrain" thesis, I argue that the union drive represents the workers' opposition and resistance to their employer and to the latter's restructuring strategies of the factory and working conditions. Through an investigation of the workers' reasons for seeking a union, combined with an analysis of the labour process in the factory, I challenge the mainstream industrial relations writers' characterization of workers as "passive", and ideologically undifferentiated from that of the employing class. This thesis makes a second argument that the heterogeneity of the workforce in the factory, and the diversified production processes across the six floors of the factory, hindered the successful development of worker solidarity, ultimately resulting in the defeat of the union drive. A well organized anti-union campaign within and outside the factory complicated the union's organizing task. The data for this thesis was gathered through fieldwork observation and a series of interviews with men and women shopfloor workers, union organizers, management personnel, and the owner of the factory. This research project was carried out from June to early September 1988.
Aguiar, Luis, "Struggling on Many Fronts: Gender, Work and Unionization" (1991). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6752.
McMaster University Library