Critically, the Act legalized unions, settling earlier uncertainty in the law.
However, uncertainty remained about which activities of unions were legal, and which were not. As the Industrial Revolution marched on, increased specialization of labour diminished the importance of skilled craftspeople.
With twelve or more hours at work being commonplace, the movement campaigned for their namesake: a nine-hour workday.
Nine Hours groups engaged in strikes in early 1872 in order to draw greater attention to the cause, but co-ordinated action was the ultimate goal.
For many years, the law was inhospitable to unions, with the balance tilted in favour of employers and government.
Since the mid-twentieth century, trade unions have notched some legal victories, but also accepted some serious concessions.
A series of general strikes had been planned for May of 1872 in Hamilton, Ontario.
However, deviating from the plans, Toronto printers walked off the job in March.
The growth of labour unions was accompanied by a strong pushback from employers and government.However, there was a general social tolerance for unions in Upper Canada, as there was a sense among employers that these highly skilled craftspeople were respectable and worthy of mutual dealings. Conspiracy charges were laid against a strike of ‘hatters’ in Quebec as early as 1815, and criminal charges were pursued against bakers who attempted to bargain collectively in Ontario in 1837.