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Monday, December 8, 2014

Smith, "We didn't want to totally break the law": Industrial Legality, the Pepsi Strike, and Workers' Collective Rights in Canada"

New in the fall 2014 issue of Labour/Le Travail, "We didn't want to totally break the law": Industrial Legality, the Pepsi Strike, and Workers' Collective Rights in Canada" by political scientist Charles W. Smith of the University of Saskatchewan.

Abstract (English)

Canada’s system of industrial legality has routinely limited the collective abilities of workers to strike. Under the conditions of neoliberal globalization, those limitations have intensified. Yet, in 1997, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, waged a successful strike against Pepsi-Cola Canada. In addition to defeating the company, the union also expanded workers’ collective rights through a successful constitutional challenge to restrictive common-law rules limiting secondary picketing. This paper examines the history of that strike, exploring the multifaceted strategies that the workers undertook to challenge the company, the state, and the existing law. It argues that workers were successful because they utilized tactics of civil disobedience to defend their abilities to picket. Recognizing that success, the paper is also critical of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and its evolution of common-law torts to limit workers’ collective action. The paper concludes by arguing that the Pepsi conflict highlights the importance of civil disobedience in building workers’ movements while emphasizing the inherent limitations of constitutional challenges to further workers’ collective freedoms in Canada. 
Abstract (French):

Le système légal industriel au C anada a systématiquement limité la capacité collective des travailleurs à faire la grève. Dans un contexte de mondialisation néolibérale, ces restrictions se sont intensifiées. Pourtant, en 1997, le Syndicat des employés de gros, de détail et de magasins à rayons (RWDSU) à Saskatoon, en Saskatchewan, a mené une grève couronnée de succès contre Pepsi-Cola Canada. Outre cette défaite de l’entreprise, le syndicat a réussi à modifier le droit commun limitant le piquetage secondaire, grace à une contestation constitutionnelle. Outre la défaite de l’entreprise, le syndicat a également élargi les droits collectifs des travailleurs grâce à une contestation constitutionnelle réussie des règles de droit commun restrictives limitant le piquetage secondaire. Cet article examine l’historique de cette grève, en explorant les stratégies à multiples volets que les travailleurs ont mises en œuvre pour contester l’entreprise, l’état et la loi existante. Il soutient que les travailleurs ont réussi parce qu’ils ont eu recours à des tactiques de désobéissance civile pour défendre leur capacité de faire du piquetage. Reconnaissant ce succès, l’article critique également la décision de la Cour suprême du Canada et la façon dont elle a fait évoluer des délits de droit commun en vue de limiter l’action collective des travailleurs. L’article conclut en affirmant que le conflit Pepsi-Cola fait ressortir l’importance de la désobéissance civile dans l’édification des mouvements de travailleurs, tout en soulignant les limites inhérentes aux contestations constitutionnelles pour faire avancer les libertés collectives des travailleurs et des travailleuses au Canada.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Call for legal history syllabi

Via Joanna Grisinger, LawandHistoryCRN:

At a “Teaching Legal History” session at the Denver meeting of the ASLH last month, someone suggested that we compile an updated bank of legal history syllabi, to make available to our community of teachers and scholars.  I’m following through on that request.  If you teach a legal history course, please send me a copy of your syllabus.  All fields (U.S., non-U.S., ancient, modern) all levels (graduate, undergraduate, law school), and all sorts of courses (introductory surveys, upper-level seminars) happily accepted.   Please send syllabi as e-mail attachments to: John Wertheimer, Davidson College:  When the collection reaches critical mass, I’ll make it available and explain where to find it. 
John Wertheimer
Professor and Interim Chair of History
Davidson College
Davidson, NC 28035-7053
(704) 894-2039

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chris Moore interview on UTP Author Blog about writing "The Court of Appeal for Ontario"

Chris Moore, author of The Court of Appeal for Ontario: Defining the Right of Appeal 1792-2013, recently published by U of T Press and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, is the subject of a post on the U of T Publishing Blog "Behind the Book with Christopher Moore" by Elizabeth Glenn.

Chris talks about the writing and research process, the role of former Chief Justice Warren Winkler in initiating the project, assistance from the Law Foundation and the hurdles involved in an admistrative history with inconsistent sources. The post can be accessed here.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Praise for Philip Girard from Constance Backhouse

Constance Backhouse wrote me this morning asking me to circulate this. I am thrilled that although I had to miss Philip giving his speech in Denver, the legal history group has the written version, and Philip will be presenting it to us on Wednesday.

From Constance:

Hi Mary,
I am at the American Society for Legal History’s annual meeting in Denver.  I wanted to share with you, and with the Canadian legal history folks, the news about the wonderful “Plenary” speech last night.  The top spot on the program is reserved every year for one of the giants of legal history.  All of the conference goers, even the ones who typically do not attend the sessions, show up and listen intently.  It is considered the marking of a rite of passage.

Last night, Philip Girard was the honoured speaker.  His lecture was titled “Disorienting: Towards a Legal History of North America.”  

Doug Hay and Rosalie Abella have given wonderful speeches at ASLH plenaries some years back when the ASLH met in Canada.  This was the first time that a Canadian had ever been selected to speak at a meeting in the US, and the new ASLH President, Michael Grossberg, made a point of stressing that “you don’t need to be in Canada to learn about Canadian legal history.”

Philip was simply outstanding.  All of us have heard him give awesome presentations in the past, but last night he hit a pinnacle that is rarely met.  He was brilliant, erudite, witty, thoughtful, and wise.  He was terribly funny.  He presented ideas that few people in the audience had considered before, and he did so in a way that was accessible and riveting.  It’s something we all know already about Philip’s talents.  But there was something about watching him display his incredible range and depth, in this venue, that was extraordinary.  And he opened by stressing that Canadian legal history thrives because it is a collective, a community that shares, is supportive of its participants, and builds on our collectively diverse research and knowledge.  

It was a proud moment to be a Canadian legal historian.  I wish you had all been there to hear it.  It was simply wonderful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tunnicliffe, "Canada and the Human Rights Framework: Historiographical Trends"

In the latest issue of the online journal History Compass, Jennifer Tunnicliffe has an article on the historigraphy of human rights in Canada, "Canada and the Human Rights Framework: Historiographical Trends"

Here's the abstract:

This article examines trends in Canadian human rights history, with a focus on three major themes that have guided the scholarship: challenges to the characterization of Canada as a historically tolerant nation; a study of how, when, and through what mechanisms human rights became an important project for Canadians; and a critical assessment of the historical effectiveness of the human rights movement in promoting equality within Canadian society. In assessing where this vibrant and growing field of study could expand in the future, the article also contextualizes the Canadian historiography in the international literature on the development of the global human rights framework.

Osgoode Society 2014 Books launched...

Yesterday at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

Our 2014 books are:

  • The Court of Appeal for Ontario: Defining the Right of Appeal, 1792-2013, by Christopher Moore
  • Equality Deferred: Sex Discrimination and British Columbia’s Human Rights State, 1953-84, by Dominique Clément
  • Petty Justice: Low Law and the Sessions System in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, 1785-1867, by Paul Craven
  • Ruin and Redemption: The Struggle for a Canadian Bankruptcy Law, 1867-1919, by Thomas Telfer

And they're all great. (Yes, I'm biased, but it's true. I haven't read every page of each of them yet, but I've been very impressed with what I've seen.)

To join the Osgoode Society and get the members' book for this year, Chris Moore's The Court of Appeal for Ontario, (included in the membership fee,) or to inquire about purchasing one or more of the others, please visit the Society website.