he world was again changing rapidly for workers as Canada entered the twentieth century. Canada was experiencing what many historians refer to as the Second Industrial Revolution. Work became more standardized and regulated. Factories were becoming ever larger, some now employing thousands of workers. The assembly line became the symbol of this new era of mass production. Henry Ford's huge automobile plants in Windsor and Detroit showed the way to the future for many industrialists. These changes in the way work was organized brought profound changes in the lives of thousands of Canadian working people over the next century.

The increasing use of machines that accompanied the Second Industrial Revolution created demands for workers with new types of skills. Semi-skilled machine operatives were in great demand. Growing corporate offices and service companies created thousands of clerical and retail jobs. Women filled many of these positions. And the number of labouring jobs available continued to rise to help build two new continental railways, expand the resource industries, and construct private and commercial buildings in the booming cities. Many people wondered where all the needed workers were to be found. Canada's answer was to search for immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe.

In the first decade of the century, hundreds of thousands of immigrants made their way to Canada. In these few short years, they changed the face of the Canadian working class. Semi-skilled workers and labourers flooded into Canada from Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. Ukrainians, Poles, and Italians migrated to Canada to take up many of the labour-intensive and difficult jobs in construction and industry. The huge railway and other infrastructure projects of the time employed large numbers of immigrants. On these sites in Western Canada, Europeans were joined by thousands more workers from Asia, especially from China.

Immigrants from the more industrial countries of Northern and Western Europe also joined the wave of immigration to Canada. Many Germans and Scandinavians, for example, were skilled and semi-skilled workers who found employment beside the thousands of English and Scottish workers taking up most of the newly created jobs in industry for machine operatives. While the lives of these workers were difficult, their factory positions tended to bring a little more stability to their lives than to those of other immigrants forced to tramp across the country in search of short-term employment as labourers.

As Canada entered the twentieth century, the rise of mass production and the waves of new immigrants did not bode well for the union movement. Employers and government openly displayed their antagonism to labour. The wave of immigration meant that ethnic and racial differences had to be tackled before a solid union organizational base could be established.

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