Eaton’s Strike and Solidarity 1984-1985

In an effort to get a first contract, employees at six stores in Ontario went out on strike in November 1984. The CLC called for a boycott of Eaton’s; the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) immediately supported it.

After two organizers from the Retail and Wholesale Department Store Union (RWDSU) attended an Organized Working Women conference in early 1985, union women and women’s liberation activists formed a Women’s Strike Support Coalition which met regularly throughout the rest of the strike, organizing strike-support carol singers during the Christmas season, special women’s pickets, and a fund-raising concert at Massey Hall. The striking Eaton’s workers were cheered when they spoke at the Toronto International Women’s Day rally on 9 March 1985, and the march itself detoured through the flagship store at the Eatons’ Centre, plastering “Boycott Eatons'” signs throughout the store.

The striking women and the women organizers from RWDSU were clear that the support from the women’s movement was very important in helping them stick out the long strike throughout the winter. The next year, the Women’s Committee of the Labour Council of Metropolitan Toronto held a labour breakfast to celebrate IWD.

After the strike, one of the strike support organizers Patricia McDermott interviewed Eaton’s strikers, and in 2014, wrote and produced a play, “Life on the Line: Women Strike at Eaton’s 1984-85”, using their words.