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Divergent paths : Canadian and American labor since the 1930s Primm, Charles Tiffin


The purpose of this thesis is to determine the major causes of the divergence which has occurred between Canadian and American labor during the past three decades. Employing a comparative case study methodology, I examine the history of the two labor movements during three distinct periods: 1) the formative period for modern industrial relations, roughly 1930-1960; 2) the two decades of divergence, 1960-1980, when Canadian union density grew to nearly double the American level; and 3) the 1980s, a period of major economic restructuring that has witnessed the accelerated decline of American labor while Canadian labor continues to maintain its membership base. I conclude that the primary factors for divergence are: 1) the different political cultures of Canada and the United States; 2) the more favorable labor laws in Canada; and 3) the differences in the ideologies and actions of the unions themselves. During the 1980s, the presence of a relatively strong social democratic movement, better labor legislation, and the rejection of American-style "business unionism" by Canadian unions helps to account for why union density in Canada remains over double the American level.

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