Cover image for On the Line : a history of the British Columbia labour movement / Rod Mickleburgh.
Title:
On the Line : a history of the British Columbia labour movement / Rod Mickleburgh.
ISBN:
9781550178265
Publication Information:
Madeira Park, BC : Harbour Publishing, 2018.
Physical Description:
xii, 300 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm.
Abstract:
"The BC tradition of fighting back against unfair pay and unsafe working conditions has been around since before the colony joined Confederation. In 1849 Scottish labourers at BC's first coal mine at Fort Rupert went on strike to protest wretched working conditions, and it's been a wild ride ever since. For years the BC labour movement was the most militant in the land, led by colourful characters like Ginger Goodwin, murdered for his pains, and pull-no-punches communist Harvey Murphy, who brought the house of labour down on himself with his infamous "underwear speech." Through years of battles with BC's power elite and small victories followed by bitter defeats, BC unions established the five-day work week, the eight-hour day, paid holidays, the right to a safe, non-discriminatory workplace and many more taken-for-granted features of the modern work landscape. But unions' enemies never sleep and, well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, battles still go on, like that of BC teachers in their long and ultimately successful struggle to improve classroom conditions. On the Line also highlights the role played by women, Indigenous and minority workers in working toward equality and democracy in workplaces and communities. In prose that is both accessible and engaging, accompanied by over two hundred archival photos, Mickleburgh tells the important story of how BC's labour organizations have shaped the economic, political and social fabric of the province--at a cost of much blood, sweat, toil and tears. This volume is the most comprehensive overview of labour's struggle in BC and will be of particular interest to union members, community activists, academics and readers of regional history."-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

The BC tradition of fighting back against unfair pay and unsafe working conditions has been around since before the colony joined Confederation. In 1849 Scottish labourers at BC's first coal mine at Fort Rupert went on strike to protest wretched working conditions, and it's been a wild ride ever since. For years the BC labour movement was the most militant in the land, led by colourful characters like Ginger Goodwin, murdered for his pains, and pull-no-punches communist Harvey Murphy, who brought the house of labour down on himself with his infamous "underwear speech."

Through years of battles with BC's power elite and small victories followed by bitter defeats, BC unions established the five-day work week, the eight-hour day, paid holidays, the right to a safe, non-discriminatory workplace and many more taken-for-granted features of the modern work landscape. But unions' enemies never sleep and, well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, battles still go on, like that of BC teachers in their long and ultimately successful struggle to improve classroom conditions. On the Line also highlights the role played by women, Indigenous and minority workers in working toward equality and democracy in workplaces and communities.

In prose that is both accessible and engaging, accompanied by over two hundred archival photos, Mickleburgh tells the important story of how BC's labour organizations have shaped the economic, political and social fabric of the province--at a cost of much blood, sweat, toil and tears. This volume is the most comprehensive overview of labour's struggle in BC and will be of particular interest to union members, community activists, academics and readers of regional history.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Mickleburgh (The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975) brings to life British Columbia's long, rough-and-tumble history of labor disputes with a beautifully illustrated chronology detailing the sacrifices and picket line struggles of a broad range of workers. Colorful characters-such as working-class agitator and longtime legislator Tom Uphill (who promoted beer as a worker's right), indomitable workplace compensation advocate Bea Zucco, and pioneering feminist carpenter Kate Braid-are profiled alongside tales of high drama. Stories of strikes, from the 1918 Vancouver general strike and the 1940s dockyard brinkmanship of the Canadian Seaman's Union to the provincial teachers' illegal 2005 walkout, showcase the various tactical decisions, the white-knuckle negotiations, and the losses of life and liberty that defended jobs in perilous times. Mickleburgh pays particular attention to the oft-neglected roles of women, indigenous people, and immigrant laborers. Although he writes from a pro-labor perspective, he pulls no punches in detailing unsavory parts of the movement's history, including racism and the Cold War-era purging of progressive union members. Bolstered by a crisp and accessible style, this history will appeal to union partisans and anyone who enjoys a good history filled with fascinating anecdotes and memorable characters. Photos. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.