Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

The First Canadian Bank Strike: Labour Relations and White-Collar Union Organizing during the Second World War

Document type Article
Author Smith, Julia Maureen
Journal Canadian Historical Review
Volume 99
Date 2018 Winter
Pages 623-646


When members of the Office and Professional Workers Organizing Committee (opwoc), employed by the Banque Canadienne Nationale (bcn), set up picket lines at branches in Montreal on 30 April 1942, they began the first strike in the Canadian banking industry. This article analyzes the four-week strike, and the organizing drive that preceded it, as a way of exploring how changes in the relationship between labour, capital, and the state during the Second World War helped or hindered unionization in unorganized industries – areas with limited or non-existent levels of union representation and often predominantly female and racialized workforces. By examining this failed white-collar strike in relation to the substantial increase in labour organizing that occurred in the 1940s and the concomitant changes to the labour relations system, we can consider the effect that these changes had for different types of workers. A closer look at the first Canadian bank strike shows that the changes made to the labour relati...