Summer of strikes: What’s the Jewish role in modern Canadian labour unions?

Strikers outside the TVO building in Toronto. (Alex Rose photo)

In recent months, thousands of Canadian workers—in separate industries—have organized in unions and walked off the job. Port workers in British Columbia, teachers in Nova Scotia, liquor store staff in Manitoba, Metro grocery employees in Ontario—all have hit picket lines this summer, in a significant reversal of a long decline of union power.

Jews have a long history of labour activism in North America, dating back to when their leadership in the shmata business evolved into some of the first organized unions in the United States. But are Jews still deeply embedded in the movement? And what are the economic and political forces behind this recent emboldening of workers?

With Labour Day around the corner, The CJN Daily speaks to Rabbi Shalom Schachter, a former labour lawyer who has worked with the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, to understand the bigger picture around the future of Jews in organized labour—and the future of work.


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our intern is Ashok Lamichhane, and our theme music by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here.