he exclusion of all but the most skilled workers from the craft union movement did not mean that others did not organize in the early twentieth century. Miners in British Columbia and Nova Scotia engaged in serious confrontations with mine owners; for example, in 1901 in Rossland, British Columbia and in 1909 in Nova Scotia the militia was used against the strikers. In both cases, the workers had rejected the craft union approach to organizing in favour of industrial unionism (industrial unions organized all workers - from the skilled to the labourer - into a single unit). Mine owners disliked industrial unions because they believed they gave workers too much power. On the other hand, this was precisely why industrial unionism was attractive to a growing number of workers, especially those in the resource industries.

In 1905, a group of socialist labour leaders gathered in Chicago to form the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), otherwise referred to as the Wobblies. The Western Federation of Miners, which had led the Rossland strike, was one of the IWW's first affiliates. IWW organizers travelled through the mining, railway, and other resource industry camps in British Columbia and western Alberta. They rallied the workers to industrial unionism, which made good sense in the large camps of migrant resource workers, many of whom were recent immigrants to Canada. Workers were attracted to the IWW because it was attentive to their needs. IWW literature was published in several languages and its union halls offered friendship and entertainment for these itinerant labourers. The IWW was famous for its songs, collected in the Big Red Song Book. Many, like "Solidarity Forever," became anthems of the labour movement.

The IWW was known for its emphasis on industrial action rather than politics. The union never shied away from strikes and even advocated the use of the general strike to achieve its goals. Business and government leaders strenuously opposed the rise of the IWW. They did everything possible to blunt the union's popularity. This was most obvious in 1912 when the IWW led a massive strike in the construction camps of the Canadian Northern Railway in British Columbia. Demands for improved living conditions in the camps of mostly immigrant workers - some I.W.W. meetings were conducted in up to sixteen languages - met with stern resistance from the company and provincial government. In the face of these combined forces, the workers ultimately lost this struggle. This defeat combined with the continuous harassment the organization faced wherever it went in the West weakened it. In 1913, the Depression, which hurt the craft unions, brought an end to most IWW activity in Canada. Many construction camps closed and their workers were scattered across the continent, robbing the IWW of its main constituency. The union never regained its pre-war prominence.

The IWW's legacy is an important one. Its voice was the only one for the thousands of isolated, itinerant workers suffering in the harsh camps of western Canada's construction and resource industries. The union also served as a reminder that there were alternatives to the craft union model of labour organizing.

The I.W.W. was not the only force behind the rise of industrial unionism in the years leading to World War I. In Quebec, the predominantly French and female workers in the textile industry organized themselves into an industrial union and led a massive strike in 1907. In Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton the largely female, Jewish workers in the clothing trades also attempted to create industrial unions. None, though, found lasting success. In western Canada, industrial unionism did receive an important boost just before World War I. Both the Alberta and British Columbia Federations of Labour endorsed the concept and promised a campaign to convert the Trades and Labor Congress to industrial unionism.

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