Hamilton Labor Temple

110 Catherine Street North (Studholme Memorial Building)

Hamilton Labor Temple, Dec. 1948

The Studholme Memorial Labor Temple was named in honour of Allan Studholme, Hamilton’s first working-class parliamentarian. By the time the new labor Temple was opened in 1923, Hamilton unions had been working together in one form or another for almost 60 years.

In 1864, the Iron Molders International Union No. 26 led other local unions into the Hamilton Trades Assembly — the first local labor council in Canada. The Trades Assembly and its member unions kept a low profile for the rest of the 1860s. It became active during the Nine-Hour Movement and helped elect a former Great Western Railway paint shop foreman, H.B. Witton, to Parliament in 1872. It expired during the depression of the 1870s.

Delegates from city unions met in March 1882 to breathe new life into a “trades and labor assembly, whereby all branches of labor could act unitedly on all questions which affected any one branch of labor in this or any other locality.” Two years later, this assembly grew and was named the Central labor Union (CLU). Its membership included both trade unions and Knights of labor assemblies. The CLU boasted that “all our labor Organizations are combined more solid than ever before.” It had reason to be proud. By 1885, its membership had shot up to 3,000 men and women. It played a key role in the labor struggles of the mid-1880s. In 1888, local unionists voted unanimously to transform the CLU into the new Hamilton Trades and labor Council.

The CLU had a broad membership base — men and women, skilled and unskilled. The main focus of the new council was craft unions. It respected craft jurisdiction and offered a forum for discussion. The council worked to help member unions. It voted assistance to plumbers and railroad engineers. In 1891, it helped firefighters win more time off, before this, they only had 42 hours off a month.

The Trades and labor Council pushed many progressive measures in its first few years. It campaigned for the city’s first free library. It agitated against the sponsored immigration of “European waifs and strays by so-called philanthropists whose only object is [to] make a living out of the trafficking of human beings.” It spoke out in favour of income and land taxes. It lent support to local merchants in their campaigns for early closing. It pressured city council to take control of the Hamilton Street Railway. It helped get Allan Studholme elected.

The Studholme Memorial Building gave Hamilton unionists a secure and comfortable meeting space. Most unions had rented space until then. By 1900, only the city’s most financially secure unions, such as the iron moulders, could afford their own union halls. The present day Hamilton and District labor Council continues the traditions developed over its 100-year history.