"The whole surroundings were fitter for the stabling of cattle than the abode of men; at a whiff therefrom a well-reared pig would grunt disapproval."
--Excerpt from: Edmund W. Bradwin, The Bunkhouse Man: A Study of Work and Pay in the Camps of Canada 1903-1914 (New York : Columbia University, 1928).

While factory work was often tedious and physically demanding, it did not compare to life in the labour camps and mines across Western Canada and Northern Ontario. The men in these camps, many of whom were from Southern and Eastern Europe, were often subject to inhuman conditions, were packed into poorly ventilated shacks, and worked for meager wages. The great distance between camps, the transient nature of the work and the different languages of the workers made it difficult to unite these men. Still, industrial unions, like the Industrial Workers of the World (the "Wobblies"), did make inroads in the camps at the beginning of the century. Their songs provided, and continue to provide, inspiration for the labour movement.

by Ralph Chaplin

When the Union's inspiration through the worker's blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?
But the Union makes us strong.


Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For the Union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left for us but to organize and fight?

For the Union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops; endless miles of railroad laid.
Now we stand outcasts and starving, 'mid the wonders we have made;

But the Union makes us strong.

All the world that's owned by idle drones, is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own,

While the Union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn.
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power; gain our freedom when we learn

That the Union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth the new world from the ashes of the old,

For the Union makes us strong.

Listen to other wobbly songs
Solidarity Forever
Solidarité, mes frères et mes sœurs
Which Side are You On?

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