Synopsis of 2014 Conference


Synopsis of Workshops for 2014 PNLHA Conference Cumberland BC

Sat. June 14

8:45- 10:00 AM

OAP Hall

Ginger Goodwin: Facts Matter – Roger Stonebanks believes that facts are sacred because they lay the foundation for informed comment, analysis and interpretation. In the case of Cumberland’s celebrated labour leader Albert ‘Ginger’ Goodwin (1887-1918) facts have often been anything but sacred. In Roger’s presentation he will provide specific examples and sources about Ginger Goodwin and suggest reasons for the mistakes.

Come Back Ginger Goodwin: His Relevance Today – Roger Stonebanks, Neil Vokey, Mark Leir and Marianne Bell will discuss why, almost 100 years after his death, Ginger Goodwin still pushes people’s buttons, the Ginger Goodwin Way highway sign controversy being one example.

The Abbey

Reds in the Union – Mike Keelan and Steve Harvey, through the use of a video interview with Ernie Knott, an IWA organizer on the West Coast and a member of the Communist Party of Canada, will lead a discussion about why some union activists in the period from 1925 to 1950 felt the CP reflected their understanding of the world.

Radical Leaders in the Washington CIO – Tom McCarthy will examine the rise and fall of the Washington CIO’s radical leadership circa 1937-1940. With an alliance with Harry Bridges and the Longshore Union, the radicals gained ascendance but it was short lived. Tom will try to untangle the complex motivations and maneuvers that led to their downfall.

Masons Hall

Teaching the History and Experiences of Working People in BC – Al Cornes, Janet Nicol, Tony Arruda, Marci Toms and Gavin Hainsworth, five BC teachers, will introduce newly developed a/v resources designed to illuminate the work and life experiences of British Columbians from the 1840’s to the present. Though designed for high school students, these resources will be useful for many other groups. Workshop participants will be provided with hard copies of the lessons, available DVDs and information about on-line access to materials.


10:15-11:30 AM

OAP Hall

70 Years of Attacks on the Public Sector – Jim Sinclair and Joey Hartman will provide an overview of the campaign against public sector unions, looking at earlier successes in organizing and what those successes meant for women and other equity seeking groups. They will lead a discussion about why the attack is so intense and what is the way forward for the labour movement.

Cultural Centre

Harvey Murphy of MMSWU 1930-1960 – Ron Verzuh’s examination of the life of the “reddest rose in the garden of labour” Harvey Murphy, extends from the start of the CIO in the 30’s to the Red purges of the 1950’s and looks at some his victories, such as Local 480’s first collective agreement in Trail in 1945.

Joe Hill and the Rossland Miners Hall – Ron Verzuh debuts a short video about the Rossland Miners Hall that was built in 1898 and saw people like Big Bill Haywood, Ginger Goodwin and possibly Joe Hill visit to give an inspiring speech or to hide out.

The Abbey

Labour History in Song – the Diggers (Regina Brennan, Earle Peach and Dan Keaton) use songs to look at Ginger Goodwin, the On to Ottawa Trek, organizing the federal public sector and other relevant labour history. They will also discuss using music in the labour movement.

Stories of the Ginger Goodwin Legacy – Dunc Shields, who uses stories to illuminate labour history, will look at the Ginger Goodwin legacy.

Mason’s Hall

GWG: Piece by Piece – From Story to Song – Oral History and the Video Ballad – Maria Dunn and Don Bouzek team up to examine the idea and practice of the video ballad using their video about the GWG blue jeans plant in Edmonton that was closed down in 2004. They will look at the oral history tradition, their own collaborative processes and the concept of the Community Collection.

Museum in the Morning

8:45  Canada’s Mining Companies: A Very Dirty Business – Mining Justice Alliance will expose the anti-union animus of Canadian mining companies both locally and globally, with specific projects to illustrate their practices. They will also examine how present neo-liberal governments support these practices.

9:15 Rock Reject: The Story of the Cassriar Mines – Jim Williams wrote the novel “Rock Reject” based on his experience in the asbestos mine in Cassiar BC. It won the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature.

10:15 Coos Bay, Centralia and Wesley Everest – Lionel Youst , using family history, will explore the IWW in the Pacific Northwest and particularly the lynching of Wesley Everest and attacks on the Wobblies by the American Legion.

Plenary in OAP Hall


Aboriginal Coalminers on Vancouver Island – John Lutz and Wedlidi Speck will team up to discuss a little recognized aspect of our labour history: the vital role Indigenous workers played in the early BC economy and, in this particular case, the coal mining industry. John will talk about some of the research he has done around the first coal mine in Fort Rupert and later in Nanaimo. Wedlidi, using the history passed down through his family, will illuminate how these new industries affected the First Nations’ economies and cultural traditions.


Sunday June 15

9:00 – 10:30 AM

OAP Hall

Environment and Labour – A History of the Pacific Northwest and BC Barbara Byrd, Joe Johnson, Irene Lanzinger, Will Brucher and Joe Uehlein will not only deal with the labour movement’s awareness and activity around environmental issues going back to the 1950’s but also where we are going today. The question of how we can maintain established alliances during contentious debates will be posed.

Cultural Centre

Diversifying Labour History – The Wilmer H. Gold Photos – John Price, using the Wilmer Gold photos of Hillcrest Lumber in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island and the frame of ‘race’, will re-examine the history of Asian Canadian workers and their relationships with First Nations and white workers in the forest industry.

Cedar and Bamboo – Using this short documentary, a representative of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society will explore the unique relationship shared by early Chinese immigrants and First Nations peoples on Canada’s West Coast. This is highlighted through interviews with four descendants of mixed heritage parents recounting their life experiences.

The Abbey

Bread and Roses – Joey Hartman, through stories and songs, tells the history of women in the BC labour movement. Joey has presented this history at union conferences where it has been enthusiastically received.

Women and Labour Songs – The Re:sisters, a seven woman a cappella group, will discuss and illustrate how history is passed along through culture and song. They will focus on songs written by women about building a better world.

Mason’s Hall

Winning Big in Hard Times – Mark McDermott, using the past 125 years of working class history, will focus on ways to expand our democracy to create a more just, equitable and secure present and future. Mark wants to inspire hope by examining the past, understanding how corporations use divide and conquer tactics, and learning how to overcome them.


10:45 -12:15

OAP Hall

Mayworks Murals, Banners, Flags and Puppets – Bill Friesen and Ed Varney. “What do artists have to do with Labour and workers?” In answering that question Bill and Ed will explore how artists have historically gotten the message out and how their skills can be used to shape and inspire action now.

Rhymes with History – Matt Radar, quoting John Dewey that “art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is,” hopes to show how art can help us recognize power structures and relations from the past. He will use his own work on the Great Strike of 1912-14.

Cultural Centre

The Chinese Labour Corps – Peter Johnson, whose book ‘Quarantined’ has a chapter detailing the history of 84,000 workers from China who passed through Vancouver Island’s William Head Quarantine Station on their way to the trenches of WWI in Europe, will expand on the issues raised by this little known story.

Forced Labour in the Wartime Economy – Kirsten McAllister examines, using newly recovered documents from the Blue River Road Camp that was used for interned Japanese Canadians, the story of the forced labour of the camps and the resistance of the internees.

The Abbey

Miners, Managers, and Magistrates – Ben Isitt, engaging an interdisciplinary literature in the fields of labour law, legal history and labour geography, will explore the deep chasm that existed between sections of BC’s working class and the province’s legal, political and economic elite during the Vancouver Island War 1912-14.

The Impact of WWl on Organizing – Alvin Finkel. Many Alberta urban and industrial workers became disenchanted with the organization of the war effort. Alvin looks at how that disenchantment impacted the politics of Alberta labour.

Mason’s Hall

History of the Postal Bank – Geoff Bickerton and Monica Judd will review the history of the postal bank in Canada, which was closed down in 1968, and will discuss whether the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ proposal for a new postal bank will be beneficial for both Canada Post and for the communities that would be served.