Smelter workers assembled at Butler Park for a strike rally and vote in November 1917. They were demanding enforcement of the Eight Hour Work Day Act. (Photo courtesy the Trail Historical Society)

Remembering the labour movement in Trail

Smelter workers went on strike - but lost - in 1917

Excerpt 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.”

 

Workers leaving Butler Park, November 1917. (Photo courtesy the Trail Historical Society)

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