The parade formed at the strikers’ headquarters in the former Brooks Steam Motor Co. plant on Ontario Street and wound its way through the east end of the city, past the furniture factories and then through the downtown section passing the Armouries on two occasions. As they passed the building, loud boos and jeers were hurled at members of the militia units who were leaning out of the upstairs windows and apparently enjoying the demonstrations.
At the end of the parade, the crowd learned that replacement workers had returned to the Swift plant and they rushed over there. Oliver (O.J.) Kerr, a long-serving machinist and chair of the shop committee at the Stratford Chair Company, as well as a city alderman and the de facto leader of all of the striking workers, convinced the crowd not to storm in and arranged for a committee to meet with company executives later. The Swift plant closed indefinitely on Sept. 29. The troops did not leave until Nov. 4.
In the meantime, the strikes continued, with factory owners now refusing to negotiate with the Chesterfield and Furniture Workers’ Union because of its relationship with the Workers’ Unity League.
In early October, some Toronto radio manufacturers sent workers to pick up cabinets and cabinet parts from Preston-Noelting. The striking workers retaliated by scattering lumber piles from a couple of the factories onto railway sidings. The freight car containing the cabinets was set on fire while sitting in the Kitchener rail yard. There wasn’t much damage, but the radio manufacturers declared they would remove the rest of their cabinets from Stratford “if it takes the whole army and navy to do it.” In spite of some more vandalism, they were successful in doing that. Many freight cars and trucks moved inventory from the Stratford factories during the strikes.
As things dragged on, benefit rallies were held in nearby cities to collect money, food and clothing for the workers and their families. Yet, morale was sinking. Winter weather was coming in and the factory owners seemed to be making plans to relocate. More or less identical contracts were signed by early November with all of the furniture factories. The Swift strike also ended on Nov. 3.
Nancy Stunden wrote her master’s thesis on the Stratford Strikes in 1975. She concluded that “the Stratford furniture and food workers ended their strikes because they realized that to continue would be pointless and self-defeating. …The Stratford workers did not win their strikes in 1933. However, they did achieve substantial improvements in their working conditions and they demonstrated their determination and ability to stand up to their employers. …Their triumph came one month later when O.J. Kerr led a slate of labour candidates to victory over the Property Owners’ Association in the most hotly contested municipal election ever witnessed in the city” to become mayor of Stratford along with six labour councillors. Source: Stratford-Perth Archives