Here is the story of how mass production came to Canada and what it meant for Canadian workers. Craig Heron's Working in Steel takes the reader inside the huge new steel plants that were built in Sydney, New Glasgow/Trenton, Hamilton, and Sault Ste. Marie at the turn of the century. Amid massive fire-breathing machines, we meet the steelworkers, many of them migrants from southern and eastern European villages or Newfoundland outports, who braved the smoke, noise, and heat in gruelling twelve-hour days, seven days a week. And we watch the inevitable conflicts that developed when these workers began to make demands on their bosses.
Professor Heron presents a stimulating new analysis of the Canadian working class in the early twentieth century, emphasizing the importance of changes in the work world for the larger patterns of working-class life. He examines the impact of new technology in Canada's Second Industrial Revolution, but challenges the popular notion that mass-production workers lost all skill, power, and pride in the work process. He shifts the explanation of managerial control in these plants from machines to the blunt authoritarianism and shrewd paternalism of corporate management. His discussion of Canada's first steelworkers sheds new light on the uneven, unpredictable, and conflict-ridden process of technological change in industrial capitalist society.