More than the history of a union, Smelter Wars is a cultural study of a community shaped by the dominance of a world-leading industrial juggernaut set on keeping the union drive at bay. Smelter Wars is available for purchase in paperback at the Crockett Book Company store, located in the Trail mall. The book can also be ordered via Crockett’s website: CrockettBookCo.com. Photo: Sheri Regnier

More than the history of a union, Smelter Wars is a cultural study of a community shaped by the dominance of a world-leading industrial juggernaut set on keeping the union drive at bay. Smelter Wars is available for purchase in paperback at the Crockett Book Company store, located in the Trail mall. The book can also be ordered via Crockett’s website: CrockettBookCo.com. Photo: Sheri Regnier

‘Smelter Wars’ tells the story of the labour-union legacy in Trail

Smelter Wars is available at The Crockett Book Company, located in Waneta Plaza, Trail.

History buffs take note.

Especially the many Times bibliophiles who are drawn to the intricately woven history between Trail and the giant on the hill — make room on your book shelf for an outstanding new read.

The book is called “Smelter Wars,” and copies are now available at The Crockett Book Company, located in Waneta Plaza, Trail.

Writer, historian, and documentary filmmaker Ron Verzuh tells the story of the social, political and cultural history of Trail starting with the labour movement in the late 1930s through the war-torn 40’s, and into Cold War years of the 1950s.

Verzuh revisits his birthplace to write about the labourers’ struggle to form a smelter-trade union, while tracing lives of the people of Trail as they struggle through woes during the depression years and later come to terms with wartime losses, then continue the quest for worker representation in the past-war era.

The book begins in 1938 when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sent communist union organizer Arthur “Slim” Evans to the smelter city to establish Local 480 of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.

Six years later the local was recognized as the legal representative of more than 5,000 workers at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada’s huge complex. But the union’s fight for survival had only just begun.

Smelter Wars unfolds that historic struggle, revealing how Local 480 faced fierce corporate, media, and religious opposition while many of its members fought for democracy overseas.

Verzuh draws upon archival and periodical sources, including the mainstream and labour press, secret police records, and oral histories, to explore the CIO’s complicated legacy in Trail as it battled a wide range of antagonism.

As a former CUPE national communications director, Verzuh has synthesized an astonishing amount of detail, prompting one reader to say “it’s not often a history like this is a page-turner, but this one definitely is.”

The book also depicts the social milieu during those years, with references to popular songs, movies, sports happenings and the labour press.

Author of Smelter Wars, Ron Verzuh.

Author of Smelter Wars, Ron Verzuh.

About the author

Trail-born Ron Verzuh earned his PhD at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. He is the author of three previous books, Radical Rag: The Pioneer Labour Press in Canada, Underground Times: Canada’s Flower-Child Revolutionaries, and Working Oregon: A Labor History Chronology. His work has appeared in BC Studies, The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Labour/Le Travail, The British Columbia Review, and Canada’s History. Verzuh has also produced three documentary films, including Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout, Codename Project 9, and Remembering Salt.

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