Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada

Edited by Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage  

Paperback $32.00

Though the Canadian labour movement’s postwar political, economic and social achievements may have seemed like irrevocable contributions to human progress, they have proven to be anything but. Since the mid-1970s, labour’s political influence and capacity to defend, let alone extend, these gains has been seriously undermined by the strategies of both capitalist interests and the neoliberal state. Electoral de-alignment and the decline of class-based voting, bursts of unsustained extra-parliamentary militancy and a general lack of influence on state ac- tors and policy outcomes all signal that the labour movement is in crisis. Despite much experimentation in an attempt to regain political clout, labour continues to experience deep frustration and stagnation. As such, the labour movement’s future political capacities are in question, and the need for critical appraisal is urgent. Understanding how and why workers were able to exert collective power in the postwar era, how they lost it and how they might re-establish it is the central concern of Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada.

With essays from established and emerging scholars from a wide range of disci- plines, this collection assesses the past, present and uncertain future of labour politics in Canada. Bringing together the traditional electoral-based aspects of la- bour politics with analyses of the newer and rediscovered forms of working-class organization and social movement-influenced strategies, which have become increasingly important in the Canadian labour movement, this book seeks to take stock of these new forms of labour politics, understand their emergence and assess their impact on the future of labour in Canada.

Watch editors Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage speak about the book here.

Watch contributor Bryan Evans deliver a talk called “The NDP in an era of Neoliberalism” here.

Watch contributor Simon Black discuss community unionism and the labour movement here.

“This book brings together a wide range of contributions about labour and politics in Canada, some of them unprecedented. It is much needed: there is nothing like it available and the issues it deals with are becoming ever more important.”

— David Camfield, Labour Studies, University of Manitoba Labour in Canada Series

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  • “Workers in Canada and around the world are under concerted attack”

    — Joseph A. McCartin (Georgetown University), Labour/LeTravail (full review)

  • Review in Our Times

  • Revitalizing the Canadian labour movement

  • What this collection of essays demonstrates is that Canada is not necessarily a kinder version of the United States and that the struggles of both countries are shared territory. This is a valuable book for anyone interested in workplace issues. There is much to be learned from each of these essays in terms of political issues and the processes of responding effectively to these issues.

    — Ellen Dannin, State College, PA (full review)

  • “Workers in Canada and around the world are under concerted attack”

    — Joseph A. McCartin (Georgetown University), Labour/LeTravail (full review)

  • “Workers in Canada and around the world are under concerted attack”

    — Joseph A. McCartin (Georgetown University), Labour/LeTravail


  • Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada: An Introduction (Stephanie Ross & Larry Savage)
  • Part I: Contextualizing Labour and Working-Class Politics
  • Canadian Labour and the Crisis of Solidarity (Donald Swartz & Rosemary Warskett)
  • Business Unionism and Social Unionism in Theory and Practice (Stephanie Ross)
  • Part II: The Challenge of Electoral Politics
  • The New Democratic Party in the Era of Neoliberalism (Bryan Evans)
  • Québec Labour: Days of Glory or the Same Old Story? (Peter Graefe)
  • Organized Labour and the Politics of Strategic Voting (Larry Savage)
  • Labour and the Politics of Voting System Reform in Canada (Dennis Pilon)
  • Part III: The Prospects of Extra-Parliamentary Activism
  • Unions, Gender Equity and Neoconservative Politics (Amanda Coles & Charlotte Yates)
  • Social Unionism, Partnership and Conflict: Union Engagement with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (Suzanne Mills & Tyler McCreary)
  • Canadian Labour and the Environment: Addressing the Value-Action Gap (Dennis Soron)
  • Community Unionism and the Canadian Labour Movement (Simon Black)
  • Anti-Poverty Work: Unions, Poor Workers and Collective Action in Canada (Kendra Coulter)
  • Organizing Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada (Aziz Choudry & Mark Thomas)
  • Labour, Courts and the Erosion of Workers’ Rights in Canada (Charles Smith)
  • Bibliography


  • Stephanie Ross

    STEPHANIE ROSS is an associate professor and coordinator of the Work and Labour Studies Program in the Department of Social Science at York University.

  • Larry Savage

    Larry Savage is Director of the Centre for Labour Studies at Brock University.