Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Race and Gender: Structural Determinants in the Formation of British Columbia's Salmon Cannery Labour Forces

Document type Article
Author Muszynski, Alicja
Journal The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie
Volume 13
Date 1988
ISSN 0318-6431
Pages 103-120


The industrialization of the fisheries of British Columbia began in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the canning of salmon for export to Great Britain. Since fish was an essential staple in the diet of the native peoples living in the pacific northwest, its capture and processing was a vital part of their economic activity. Salmon canners sought a factory labour force at the cheapest possible wage. To the extent that native peoples continued to meet subsistence needs, at least partially, through the native economy, when employed for wages they did not have to be paid the full costs of the production and reproduction of their labour power. Of all the groups employed, native women and their children received the lowest wages and least secure conditions of employment. The paper explores the use of race and gender by salmon canners as a means of creating a labour force and paying it the lowest wages possible, according to the ability of each group to partially realize subsistence needs through pre-capitalist relations of production. Special attention is given to the place of native women in this process.