Essay argumented in her thesis, black railroaders resisted

                                                                       Essay 1

Canadian Labour Movement ‘Approach

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                            To Blacks and the Chinese

In the article North of the Colour Line: Sleeping Car
Porters and the  Battle  Against Jim  
Crow  on Canadian  Rails,1880-1920 by Sarah- Jane Mathieu, arguments
about the pattern of Jim Cow employment in the
Canadian railway industry from the 1880s to World War I. Jim Crow Law-practices
or policy of segregating or discriminating against blacks, as in public places,
public vehicle and in employment. Sarah-Jane connects social, political, labour
immigration and black dispersion history during Jim Crow times. There was a presence
of race as an principle in employers’ decision to hire black railwaymen for
their sleeping and dining car departments. Canadian railway managers clearly believed
that African American, West Indian, and African Canadian labour, can be easily
manipulated and controlled. Whereas White railroaders fought against black
employees, arguing that they damaging white manhood and railway unionism. Sarah- Jane Mathieu stated that the trade union leaders commanded and pushed,
won a racialized division of the workforce, whereas black labours where forced into
low-waged service position when they had initially enjoyed a variety or broader
range of employment options. In order, white railway trade union and their
employers brings segregation as a rational model for peaceful working
conditions. Whereas Sarah-Jane, argumented in her thesis, black railroaders resisted
the encroachment of segregationist policies by forming their own union, named
it as the Order of Sleeping Car Porters. They pressured for change by exposing
the scope of Jim Crow practices in the railway industry and trade unionism. , Mathieu
historicizes Canadian racial attitudes, and explores how black migrants brought
their own sensibilities about race to Canada, participating in and changing
political discourse there.

In the article Drawing Different Lines of Color: The Mainstream English Canadian Labour Movement’s Approach to Blacks and the Chinese, 1880 –1914 by David Goutor the main argument was the Canadian labours view on
Chinese workers within disrespect or arrogance because they feared those workers, saw them as just the sort of “low
quality” employees greedy capitalists sought for their factories, and
because there was a sense that their first loyalty was to somewhere other than
Canada. Conversely, African-Canadians were viewed as the heroic survivors of
slavery – and many labour militants at the turn of the twentieth century equated
the black struggle of only a few decades earlier with their own struggle for
dignity in the workplace.

the article David stated that the origin of organised labour’s approach to different minority groups is complex that
requires us to explore labour’s relations with immigrant and minority workers. Factors
like broader economic and political context, and labour leaders’ anxieties,
ambitions, ideologies, and worldviews led unionists to challenge racist
constructions of blacks while consistently vilifying Chinese immigrants. Competition
from the Chinese in the labour market was one of the most important factors—but
that alone does not sufficiently explain labour’s contrasting views of these
two groups. Indeed, labour’s perception of the extent of the threat to white
workers from the Chinese and blacks can hardly be taken at face value. David stated
in his thesis, Canadian labour presented the Chinese as a “danger” not only to
the economic promise of the Dominion but to its social, moral, and physical vitality,
and indeed to the future of “any country having free and popular institutions.”
Hence labour leaders did not simply debate Chinese immigration but rather agitated
ferociously for exclusion. Labour leaders’ discourse on blacks was entirely
different than their discourse on the Chinese. Constructions of blacks as
threats to the jobs or standards of living of white workers, On the contrary,
Canadian unionists consistently portrayed blacks as people who had suffered centuries
of oppression and able discrimination. Whereas unionists claimed that the
“miserable” living and working conditions of the Chinese reflected their
“inherently degraded” character, the exploitation and suffering of blacks reflected
a failure on the part of societies to live up to their ideals. According to
many labour historians, the ferocity of trade unionists’ antipathy to the
Chinese stemmed from competition in the labour market. Unlike blacks, the
Chinese were seen as a “menace” because they were competing with white workers
in industries like railroads, mining, and fruit farming, mostly in the Pacific west.

 The Canadian labour leaders where having a
different view for the Chinese and blacks. They claimed the Chinese were
“without manhood, without ambition, and without self-respect.” The article also
mentioned the alleged “uncivilized standards” and low wages were only part of
what made Chinese migrants “not consumers.” On the other hand, the sympathetic
portrayal of blacks by labour leaders buttressed their claims that the “chains
and shackles” of oppression, be it “corporate bondage” or “chattel slavery,” were
destined to be broken by the “spirit of freedom.” The association of blacks
with past struggles, and the Chinese with Canada’s future problems, was
strengthened by unionists’ awareness of both the replacement of emancipated
slaves with indentured Asian workers in the British West Indies and the f erce
anti-Chinese campaigns by white labour across the Empire. The fact that the
Canadian labour movement emerged and the Chinese began to arrive on a large
scale during the post-bellum period, a unique one in the history of race and
labour relations, gave even greater strength to these constructions of blacks
and the Chinese.

To conclude both the article state the
issue of working labour in Canada who they were treated and seen in the eyes of
Canadian labour union. And also mention who the Canadian approach to the
immigrants particularly Chinese and black, the way they blacks where seen was similar
in both the article and The association of blacks with past struggles, and the
Chinese with Canada’s future problems, was strengthened by unionists in the
articles. We were able to seen the power and changes during the years.


Sarah-Jane (Saje) Mathieu, “North
of the Colour Line; Sleeping Car Porters and the Baule
Against ;im Crow on Canadian Rails, 1880-1920,” Labour/Le Travail, 47
(Spring 2001),

Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas,Volume 2,Issue1

Copyright © 2005 by David Gout