Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for Its Life in Wartime Western Canada
Published by: University of Toronto Press
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Sales Date: 2022-01-17
Published: January 2022
372 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 1.10 in, 16 b&w illustrations, 1 b&w map
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In 1938, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sent communist union organizer Arthur "Slim" Evans to the smelter city of Trail, British Columbia, 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 a smelter owned by the powerful Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada. But the union’s fight for survival had only just begun.
Smelter Wars unfolds that historic struggle, offering glimpses into the political, social, and cultural life of the semi-rural, single-industry community. Hindered by economic depression, two World Wars, and Cold War intolerance, Local 480 faced fierce corporate, media, and religious opposition at home. Ron 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 antagonists: a powerful employer, a company union, local conservative citizens, and Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) leadership.
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.
List of Acronyms
Introduction: A Smelter City is Born
1. A Red Union Comes to Town
2. Battling Blaylock’s Company Union
3. Women War Workers and Ladies Auxiliary Politics
4. Mine-Mill Courts Trail’s Immigrant Enclave
5. A Clash of Ideologies in the Kootenays
6. Steel Cold Warriors Raid Trail’s Red Union
7. Resisting Canadian McCarthyism in British Columbia
Conclusion: The Complicated History of Local 480
Epilogue: The Smelter City Today