Seventy-five years ago today a dramatic display of solidarity turned into a fiery one when a Vancouver streetcar sent sparks onto the pages of newspapers that had been scattered from a delivery truck by union protestors.
The small riot was the product of a long-standing rivalry between the Daily Province and Sun newspapers, a summer filled with labour unrest and weak management. As described in Marc Edge’s book Pacific Press, Daily Province employees and members of the International Typographical Union began to strike on June 5, 1946, but four replacement printers from a different union were brought in on July 12.
Then, on July 22 just as trucks were leaving to deliver the papers they were beset by ITU union members on Pender Street as they crossed the picket lines.
The following passage from Edge’s book describes what followed.
“The van drove across Pender [Street] with angry sympathizers scrambling aboard. There were insufficient police to cope with the trouble. Bundles of papers were thrown out of the van and scattered across the street. The van was brought to a stop and overturned. As a streetcar crossed the scattered papers, a spark set fire to them, and firemen had to be called.
Of the seventeen rioters arrested, none were printers, instead numbering seamen, machinists, and foundry workers. Following the riot, a police convoy allowed trucks manned by Province office workers to deliver 75,000 copies of the next day’s edition. Union truckers returned, despite ITU picketing under restrictions imposed by the court injunction.”
As legal action continued, eventually the Daily Province employees and truckers returned to work. Three picketers were fined, and nine of the seventeen charged in the riot were convicted and given jail terms or fined.