n the 1890s, many of Canada's most skilled workers sought protection from low wages and deteriorating working conditions in the craft union movement. Indeed, during the first decade of the twentieth century, craft unions won hard-fought struggles for union recognition and improved wages. These victories, as well as the increasing threat of the Second Industrial Revolution to the craft workers' control over their workplaces attracted thousands of new recruits to the craft unions. Machinists, moulders, bricklayers, carpenters, boiler makers, engineers, conductors, trainmen, and upholsters were some of the crafts organized at this time.

The successes of the craft unions were not easily won; indeed, the unions experienced as many defeats as victories. Employers hostile to the unions used a variety of tactics to slow the growth of the union movement. Employers intimidated union sympathizers with firings and blacklisting. Some companies hired private security agents to intimidate union activists physically, especially during union organizing drives. Governments often aided the companies in their assaults on the union workers. Police and sometimes the militia arrested strikers and broke up picket lines. The government called troops to the aid of business in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Employers also turned to the court system to further browbeat unions. Many courts willingly accepted the arrests of strikers, granted injunctions against picketing, and entertained lawsuits designed to financially cripple unions.

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