On to Ottawa Trek
In December,1934 the union called a general strike. Between 1200 and 1500 men took part.
A delegation led by Matt Shaw was sent to Victoria, the seat of the provincial government, to enlist its support.
The union's demands included:
- Work with wages of 40 cents an hour, a seven hour day and a five day week.
- The work camps to be taken out of the control of the Department on National Defence.
- Compensation for injuries sustained on the job.
- The right to vote in provincial and federal elections.
The reply of the provincial government was that it could do nothing; the federal government was responsible.
The Department of National Defence retaliated by evicting over 1,000 men from the camps. The evicted men made their way to Vancouver, joining other camp workers who had previously been
Here they engaged in demonstrations and parades and other actions to win public support and bring pressure on both levels of government.
After negotiations and a promise from the provincial government that it would pressure Ottawa to give the blacklisted men meals and shelter, and that it would ask Ottawa to investigate
their conditions, the RCWU decided to call off the strike at the end of December. The December strike was a dress rehearsal for a bigger strike yet to come. The strike showed that neither
the union nor the men were yet ready to successfully carry through a general strike. They went back to the camps to strengthen their ranks for the next struggle.
In April,1935, after much careful planning, preparation and organizing, the union called another general strike. Their central demand was work with wages. They were determined never
to go back to the 20 cents a day "slave camps."
This time they decided to leave the camps and congregate in Vancouver. Some 1800 to 2000 joined the exodus. Here for two months they carried on a struggle that became a model of discipline
and tactical brilliance.
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