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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 3, November/December 2005

Injunctions won’t catch fish nor build bridges

This editorial was written by George North in The Fisherman, June 26, 1959. After the collapse of the 2nd Narrows Bridge, ironworkers were refusing to return to work on the fallen structure until safety conditions were met. The companies went to court to obtain injunctions forcing the ironworkers back on the bridge. North served one month in jail for writing the editorial. Later in his career, George North came to work at the BCTF and was the director of the Bargaining Division when he died in 1990.

"It is almost amazing to see the attempts of the Structural Steel Association and Dominion Bridge to force striking ironworkers back on the job.

The closeness of companies and the courts was never more clearly indicated than in this case where not the slightest justification exists for the swiftly granted injunction which would force the men back on the job in spite of being on a legal strike.

The operators and their spokesman, R.K. Gervin, have used the alleged danger of the new Second Narrows span in its present condition as the lever for forcing the men back to work. But the men are not returning. "A court order instructing men to return to work constitutes slavery," is the way an official of the ironworkers has accurately put the issue.

There are half-a-million unemployed workers in Canada, the direct responsibility of employers and government. Why not an injunction ordering the employers and government to put them to work?

The question may sound silly but it’s a sight more sensible than what the court is proposing to do in the case of ironworkers.

The answer given by the strikers is providing sensible leadership to the rest of the labour movement in the militant tradition that built unions in this province and won the conditions today’s members enjoy.

Support announced Thursday by the Building Trades Council should be affirmed by all sections of organized labour. Struggles like the Battle of the Bridge can be won with trade union solidarity. Bill 43 can be made ineffective and wiped off the books in that manner.

There are big strikes in the offing, in the lumber and fishing industries in particular, both within the next few weeks.

United action by all labour can win these strikes despite the opposition of employers, government, and courts.

Injunctions can’t catch fish, cut logs, nor in the case of the ironworkers’ strike, can they build bridges."

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