Man injured in Post Office sit down strike, Vancouver, 1938
Source: Vancouver Library
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Post Office sit down Strike
The Relief Project Workers’ Union (RCPU) was the successor to the Relief Camp Workers’ Union, which had led the 1935 strike that culminated in the On-to-Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. After the earlier strike, the maligned federal relief camps run by the Department of National Defence were replaced by “relief projects” operated by the provinces and funded by both levels of government. The work was primarily seasonal work on farms. As in 1935, unemployed men from across the country drifted to British Columbia because of the milder climate, but also because relief projects in forestry camps paid as much as three times that of equivalent farm placements.
In early 1938, the Prime Minister cut grants-in-aid to the provinces, effectively killing the relief project scheme. Premier Thomas Dufferin Pattullo closed the projects in April, claiming that British Columbia could not shoulder the burden alone. Unemployed men again flocked to Vancouver to protest government insensitivity and intransigence to their plight. The RCPU organized demonstrations and tin-canning (organized begging) in the city. Under the guidance of twenty-six-year-old Steve Brodie, the leader of the Youth Division who had cut his activist teeth during the 1935 relief camp strike, protesters occupied Hotel Georgia, the Vancouver Art Gallery (then located at 1145 West Georgia Street), and the main post office (now the Sinclair Centre).