As a result of this process of being a junior partner in the economy and having an official role in labour relations, unions were transformed from these fighting organizations into bureaucracies. There were very sharp limits placed on what they could do [by the government] and it also had an impact internally on how union officials viewed their roles, and the roles different union leaders thought they should play and rather than be a source of militancy. Rather than inspiring a fighting spirit among rank-and-file workers, union leaders came more and more to [be] policemen and policing the workplace to control elements of working class dissent that may bubble up or bubble over from time to time. And that’s sort of the situation we find ourselves in today.
–Ben Isitt, PhD (Historian, legal scholar, and Victoria City Councillor)
On the program, The City speaks with historian, legal scholar, and Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt about the rise of BC’s labour movement from an urban perspective.
We discuss the (radical) history of labour activism in Vancouver and Victoria, the issues facing unions and working people today, the challenge of bringing a progressive, working-class agenda to city hall, and affordable housing and the police budget in Victoria.
Ben is the author of Militant Minority: British Columbia Workers and the Rise of the New Left, 1948-72, among other books and journal articles. You can find more information about his books, research, and political activities as a Victoria City Councillor and Regional Director at www.isitt.ca.