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From the American Scene: May Day in Toronto

- Abstract

Spadina Avenue, the main street of the needle trades in Toronto, looks very much the same as it did ten, twenty, thirty years ago. The same kind of old-fashioned haggling still goes on between the employers and the handful of tense harassed business agents—former pressers, operators, and finishers—who guard the interests of Toronto’s twelve thousand needle workers. And there is the same vigorous thumping on the cutting table when union agreements come up for renewal—to such good effect that wages and working conditions have been maintained despite the flooding of the labor market by the tide of job-hungry post-World War II refugees. There has been one change, however.

May day, which before World War II was a mandatory holiday in every needle-trade union contract, has disappeared together with the parades that used to tie up Toronto’s downtown traffic for an entire morning. This was no idle fanfare, but a demonstration of real militancy, and any needle-trade worker caught in a factory on the first day of May was fined by the union fifteen dollars on the spot.

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