150 Years of Workers’ Struggles within Canada and Beyond: Legacies of the Past and Trajectories for the Future

Ryerson University
May 31 – June 2, 2017
As part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

The conference organizing committee invites submissions for participation in the 4th annual conference of the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies (CAWLS). The committee welcomes proposals for single papers, thematic streams, multiple paper panels, roundtables, and workshops. The participation of researchers in union and community settings is encouraged.

The Congress theme, “From Far and Wide: The Next 150” seeks to engage our collective interest reflecting on the past 150 years in Canada as we look to the next 150. Building on this theme, CAWLS 2017 aims to promote discussions of the past, present, and future of work, labour, and labour studies, both within and beyond Canada. This raises a wide range of interdisciplinary themes, including the dynamics and implications of diversity and inclusion/exclusion, the role of institutions, the politics of labour, and strategies for improving and transforming work.

We invite proposals that tackle any of the following questions:

  • Who has counted as a ‘worker’ historically, and who counts now? How have racialization, gender, sexuality, class, age, and ability shaped the politics of labour in Canada, and what are their implications for the future of the labour movement?
  • Has our conception of work changed much over the past 150 years? How does a focus on social reproduction and care work change how we understand both the past and the future of work?
  • A key ideological, political, and cultural reference point is the so-called ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’ from 1945 to 1975 or so. How ‘golden’ was it? And what can be learned from this critical period?
  • Since 1867 working-class movements within Canada have transformed and been transformed by macro-level events. What does this long memory teach us about the prospects for working-class politics and the future role and shape of trade unions in Canada?
  • Has the normalization of precarity as a feature of the labour market forced a sufficient re-thinking of the labour market institutions, working-class politics or labour organizing that have developed over the last 150 years? What can we learn from other struggles around the world?
  • How does the distribution of power between the federal and provincial government affect the construction a coherent labour policy in the 21st century?
  • How does intersectional analysis inform the study of work and of labour movements? How is it informing the contemporary labour movement in ways that build more inclusive working-class communities, organizations, and struggles?
  • What are the dynamics of continuity and change in terms of immigration, migration, and work?
  • How do workers and trade unions engage with environmental movements and issues? What are the links to the historic struggle for occupational and community health and safety protection and regulation? What are the future prospects for labour-environmental justice alliances? What are the implications of de-growth politics for labour?
  • What is the relationship between workers, unions, and Indigenous communities and how might connections be strengthened?
  • How has labour internationalism changed over time, and what kinds of challenges and strategies will shape the future of labour internationalism?

Participants are not required to limit themselves to the above list. We welcome proposals on all topics that highlight the past, present, and future of work and labour studies within Canada and beyond. Our goal is to create a final conference programme reflective of the broadest range of methodological, theoretical, and disciplinary approaches.

New Voices in Work and Labour Studies: New scholars (graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty/researchers in the first five years of their appointment) are encouraged to indicate their status on their proposal in order to be considered for the New Voices in Work and Labour Studies Prize.

Conference Fees

Permanent or full-time faculty or researchersUnion and community membersStudents, the un(der)employed, and retirees
CAWLS members$60$25Free


  • An additional Congress registration fee will also apply.
  • Accepted presenters must be CAWLS members in good standing by April 30, 2017.

Conference Support: Some financial support will be available for travel and accommodation, depending on need and availability of funds, with priority given to graduate student participants. Contributors requesting financial assistance should indicate this when submitting an abstract.

Submission requirements: Proposals should include a 250-word abstract for each panel/paper and a short bio for each presenter. Please email proposals to the conference organizing committee c/o Dr. Bryan Evans, Conference Chair, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University. Please submit your proposal to [email protected].

To facilitate new conversations, we encourage people interested in organizing panels, streams, roundtables and workshops to submit a CFP for inclusion in the CAWLS newsletter by December 1, 2016.

All paper proposals are due by January 31, 2017.

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