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Copper days of the past at the Trail smelter

In 1917, smelter men were paid $2.75 per day, regardless of how many hours they had to work
Trail smelter #4 copper furnace/copper converter circa 1920. Photo: Trail Historical Society

While many may think of this last long weekend of summer as one last opportunity for a backyard barbeque or cookout at the campground, the Labour Day holiday is really meant to salute workers and the labour union movement in Canada.

Workers at Teck Trail Operations, formerly Teck Cominco, Cominco, and before that, Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada (CM&S) have played an integral role in Canada’s labour movement beginning in the early 1900’s and right up to present day.

From Historical Portraits of Trail

“In 1916, the Western Federation of Miners changed its name to the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, admitting smelter men for the first time. Union organizer Albert “Ginger” Goodwin helped establish Local 105 of Mine-Mill in Trail.

In 1917, Goodwin led a strike demanding enforcement of the Eight Hour Day Act. Smelter men were paid $2.75 per day, regardless of how many hours they had to work. The company fired all 1,200 workers who struck and the strike was broken. Goodwin, whose medical condition had previously exempted him from military duty, was suddenly declared fit and conscripted. He fled to Vancouver Island, where he was tracked down near Cumberland and shot by a special constable.

Around 500 workers were never recalled to the smelter and, in 1918, the Trail local folded. It was replaced by a company union, the Workmen’s Cooperative Committee, controlled by CM&S General Manager, S.G. Blaylock. The Committee had little bargaining power and the Trail smelter workers had no independent union representation until 1944, when Local 480 of Mine-Mill was certified. In 1968, Mine-Mill merged with the United Steelworkers of America.”

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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