The Fall & Rise of Mackenzie King, 1911-1919

By F. A. McGregor | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 11
The Plan and Trade Unionism

If there was one criticism of the Industrial Representation Plan that troubled Mackenzie King more than any other, it was the suggestion that the plan was designed as a substitute for trade unionism. That question had arisen even before the plan had been introduced, and he was on the defensive for years, charged with sponsoring 'company unions'. One answer to the charge is to be found in the record of his whole career: his sympathies had always been strongly with labour unions, even though he had not given them undeviating support. Something of his philosophy had been put on record when he testified before the Walsh commission:

I have a very strong feeling -- I may be wrong in this -- that Labor makes a mistake some times in these long strikes for union recognition. . . I think, if emphasis were laid upon conditions and injustice that Labor is trying to remedy, rather than upon that abstract term 'union recognition', the unions would receive more support and understanding support from the general public than they sometimes do. I think to carry a fight for four or five years simply on the question of recognition, and leave the actual conditions out of account altogether, is leaving the substance while you are chasing the shadow. . . . My feeling is that true unionism is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. It is a means of obtaining and improving standards for the working classes.

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