June 21, 2003 ceremony at the grave of labour martyr Ginger Goodwin, on the 18th annual Miner's Memorial Day in Cumberland, British Columbia, Canada
|On July 27 of 1918, United Mine Workers labour organizer Albert "Ginger" Goodwin was shot by a hired private policeman outside Cumberland, British Columbia. His murder sparked Canada's first General Strike .
GINGER' KNEW WHAT SIDE HE WAS ON
In 1909, the miners went on strike. They lost. Black-listed and broke, Goodwin moved to Cumberland on Vancouver Island. Again he worked in the coal mines. He was active in the strike of 1912-1914. Again the strike was lost and again he was blacklisted.
After brief jobs in Merritt and Fernie, Goodwin began work in the Trail smelter in 1916. He was soon elected secretary of his local and vice-president of the B.C. Federation of Labour.
"B.C.'s pretty wacky. We have a strong shit-disturbing past in my family. My grandfather was a fisherman, and my grandmother grew up in shanty towns on the waterfront. My grandfather was involved in the fishermen's union in the '30s, when they were trying to blacklist all the Communists. They weren't able to do that in B.C. to the extent that they were in other parts of Canada. That makes our history a bit different -- the only place as politically strident is Quebec."
Keithley gives the tradition of political folk a nod with songs by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, as well as old-time union favourites, on Beat Trash. He also spins a few Canadian tales of his own, such as "Potlatch" and "Ginger Goodwin," named after an assassinated union martyr whose memory Keithley aims to revive and mythologize, Stompin' Tom style.
"I've discovered all sorts of things through music," he says. "Ginger Goodwin led the first strike in Canada for an eight-hour workday. I'm trying to promote it as a Canadian holiday. I had never heard anything about the guy, and then my brother -- who works for the Canadian Auto Workers -- mentioned him, because they go to his grave site every year for a memorial."
Joe Keithley - http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_03.30.00/music/keithley.html
Ginger Goodwin and Cumberland Labour Culture
The labour movement in BC has always been strong and the Ginger Goodwin issue has galvanized the people of Cumberland in a unique way. The section of the Inland Island Highway near Cumberland was named "Ginger Goodwin Way" in 1996, under a pro-labour NDP government. Long-time Cumberland Mayor William "Bronco" Moncrief was re-elected to council in 1997 and raised issue with the sign, claiming it was offensive to some members of the community and that the section of highway should be renamed "Miners Way" to celebrate all miners. During the summer of 2001, the sign was finally removed altogether, but that did not kill the controversy. In October 2001, a pro-Ginger Goodwin Way concert was held. I see bumper stickers reading "Ginger Goodwin Way" stuck on storefronts in Victoria. So, why does the name Ginger Goodwin still elicit so much response?
the following 3 articles are no longer available online at Vancouver Sun, however the Trials of Ginger Goodwin is mirrored in full at http://www3.telus.net/robbgibbs/PNLHA/goodwin.html
The trials of Ginger Goodwin - December 16, 2001 Andrew Findlay Vancouver Sun
The floor joists of the tiny hall flexed beneath the weight of the mosh pit, threatening to collapse into the replica coal mines of the Cumberland museum downstairs.stage, the members of DOA cranked out the ear-splitting refrain of their song Know Your Enemy. It was early November and DOA, Vancouver's tireless punk rock warriors, had joined more than 200 people at the Cumberland Cultural Centre to rally around the memory of unionizing pacifist Albert (Ginger) Goodwin and protest the recent renaming of a stretch of highway that -- until September of this year -- was called Ginger Goodwin Way.
From a table at the rear of the hall, local labour activists sold Ginger Goodwin Way bumper stickers and conspired with the eclectic group of young punks and aging activists gathered together for the raucous evening. Six weeks earlier, a gang of creative protesters had assembled clandestinely in the dark of night to plaster Goodwin stickers on all the Dunsmuir Avenue street signs on the village's main drag (coal baron Lord Dunsmuir was Goodwin's towering nemesis). The action was a collective flipping of the finger, a spirited dissension against the stiff-collared government authorities who had ordered the signs replaced in a move that appears to rewrite history and once again marginalize Goodwin, Cumberland's favourite son and one of the province's best loved labour heros.
Some might say the free-spirited campaign is simply a sentimental pitch to give a name to a stretch of road that's now just another strip of the Vancouver Island Inland Highway, but others see it as a flashpoint signaling a full-scale Goodwin revival. Eighty years after his death, a Ginger Goodwin renaissance is underway.
Add to the activists' efforts a possible feature film, a recently published short story by Vancouver author Michael Turner, and DOA frontman Joe Keithley's drive to have Goodwin's memory honoured in the form of a national holiday, and one thing seems certain: The road signs may be gone, but Ginger Goodwin can't be kept down.
Slap in face for workers - Stephen Hume September 05, 2001 Vancouver Sun
Mine disaster part of a forgotten past by Stephen Hume Vancouver Sun Feb. 15 2001
BC FED News Release September 13, 2001
Labour demands Ginger Goodwin Way signs be restored on the Island Highway
BCs unions have demanded immediate restoration of the signs designasting a section of the Island Highway as Ginger Goodwin Way.
In a letter to Minister of Transportation Judith Read, B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair condemns the surreptitious removal of the signs as "petty, offensive and partisan." News reports suggested that the signs were quietly removed by the ministry during the past week.
Also in the letter to Read, Sinclair said the Federations Executive Council condemned the removal and demanded immediate restoration of the signs.
"Ginger Goodwin was not only an Officer of the Federation, he was a miner, an organizer, a community leader and a tireless advocate for the rights of working people," Sinclair wrote. "At least five BC communities have streets commemorating coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. Ginger Goodwin Way provides a very modest balance."
Ginger Goodwin was also very active in organizing Cominco workers in Trail to fight for their rights.
I've Visited Historic GINGERVILLE Vancouver Island BC
GINGER: The Life and Death of Albert Goodwin
by Susan Mayse
Why did Canadas Dominion Police shoot socialist labour organizer Ginger Goodwin at point-blank range in the Vancouver Island wilderness just before World War One ended? Why did the police later claim self-defence and try to cover their tracks? Although Goodwin probably was not plotting a Canadian insurrection to follow the Russian Revolution, his munitions strike certainly provoked military intelligence to action. His death in July 1918 sparked Canadas first general strike, but Gingers memory is alive and well in the former island coal town of Cumberland.
Harbour Publishing, 1990
B.C.'s injuries on the job: 15,000 lost years since 2007
By Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun
Statistics Canada compiles injury reports from provincial agencies. Work-SafeBC records reported job-related injuries for this province.
Their records show that since statistics on workplace injuries began to be collected in 1928, the casualty count for B.C. workers on the job exceeds the total number of Canadian military and civilian casualties in every war we've ever fought by a ratio of more than 14 to one.
In B.C. alone, more than five million on-the-job injuries have been reported, more than two million of them over the past decade.
Since 2002, Canada has lost almost 150 soldiers in Afghanistan. In the same period, B.C. has lost 1,506 workers killed on the job.
full article: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/injuries+lost+years+since+2007/3204640/story.html#ixzz0s5vkkFug
Cumberland Museum and Archives Collection: Community archives; early mining equipment, displayed in a walk-through mine exhibit and as a video presentation; 3,000 photographs; glass plate negatives, collection of the Japanese Photo Studio Community Collection; early hospital artifacts and records, board minutes, etc; cultural artifacts and archival material pertaining to Chinese and Japanese Canadians, video presentation on Cumberland Chinatown; Telephone Pioneers hands-on exhibit, built and donated by the BC Telephone Pioneers, Tyee Chapter; houseware, business, community church artifacts; labour history, including Ginger Goodwin artifacts and research; family history research centre, electronic and hard copy, including community newspapers dating from 1897 to 1931; special events exhibits and dioramas: trains, minesites, Empire Day.
The Cumberland Museum located in the heart of the very small town, celebrates labour history to a great extent. You can walk through a fabricated mine shaft, and explore some of the conditions that the men worked under less then 100 years ago. In the museum you are surrounded by memories of lives lost, to poor working conditions. These working conditions led the workers to organize, under the Western Federation of Miners, One Big Union, and the United Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. It reminds us of where we came from as well as how far we have yet to go. It also celebrates the life of Ginger Goodwin, which was spared for the working man's cause. In 1919, he was shot down suspiciously by Dominion Police. The true reason was never revealed, but much speculation has led us to beleive otherwise. He was shot in the back in the outskirts of Cumberland, July 27, 1918, of which a monument was erected in this spot.
The Cumberland and District Historical Society
In all, some 295 workers died in the Cumberland mines, making them among the most dangerous in Canada. The Cumberland Miners Memorial Day is both a day to mourn those who gave their lives and to celebrate the gains we enjoy today because of those who went before.
The Purposes of Miners' Memorial Day
-Renew the commitment to strive for safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.
-Commemorate the miners who worked and lost their lives in the mines of Cumberland and other workplaces throughout BC.
-Commemorate the life and contribution of Ginger Goodwin, union organizer and labour martyr.
Events for the day include a pancake breakfast, laying of wreaths at Ginger Goodwin gravesite, cemetery tour, refreshments, pub crawl, dinner and entertainment.
The Miners' Memorial Day is usually held on the third week of June.
Miners' Memorial Day - Cumberland
Article by Steve Harvey
Workers' Memorial Day started in Sudbury, Ontario to commemorate the lives of four miners killed in a rock burst on June 20, 1984. In 1986, in the village of Cumberland, British Columbia, the Cumberland and District Historical Society held its first Miners' Memorial Day. This day was conceived as a way to pay tribute to Cumberland's mining heritage which lasted from the turn of the century to the early 1960's.
Each year has had a different theme - from recognition of the part played by Japanese and Chinese immigrants, the Black community, women to the ever-present theme of the commemoration of the many miners - some whose names are remembered, some who died unknown - who died in the coal mines of Cumberland. A moving part of each ceremony is the laying of roses on the miners' graves.
The Miners' Memorial Day ceremonies take place in the Cumberland cemetery around the grave of the central figure in Cumberland's labour history - Ginger Goodwin. Goodwin was a Socialist and union organizer who took part in the big strike in Cumberland in 1912. In later years, Goodwin stood as the Socialist Party candidate in Trail, BC in 1916 - espousing socialist and pacifist views in the middle of WWI. He also led a strike in at the Trail smelter in 1917, gaining, of course, the enmity of mine owners and government alike.
Most people believe that it was Goodwin's outspoken championing of workers' causes and resistance to the "bosses' war" that led to his death. Goodwin was originally classified as unfit for military service, then reclassified as fit for duty not long after the Trail strike. Eventually, Goodwin felt compelled to return to Cumberland and hide out on along the Cruickshank River, near Comox Lake.
It was there he was shot to death by a special police Constable. The constable claimed the act was self defence but few in Cumberland believed that claim. The procession for Goodwin's funeral stretched out into a "mile of people." In the rest of British Columbia, Canada's first general strike took place, shutting down most work places though not all.
Ginger Goodwin, and his friend and mentor, Joe Naylor are accorded a special place of honour at Miners' Memorial Day.
Unions such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) have made Miners' Memorial Day an integral part of their labour history seminars. The Campbell River, Courtenay & District Labour Council provides a great deal of support, both in the form of financial help and volunteers.
Last year, the first annual Songs of the Workers was held on the evening before Miners' Memorial Day. Several singers provided an evening of entertainment and inspiration, singing old favourites and little heard songs alike. The evening proved very popular and this year was incorporated into the official program.
More information about Miners' Memorial Day can be found by contacting the Cumberland and District Historical Society at their email address: CMA_chin@island.net
Simon Fraser News May 22, 1997 * Vol . 9, No. 2
SFU HISTORIAN DIGS INTO B.C.'S RICH LABOR PAST by Bruce Mason
May is B.C. Labor History Month and Mark Leier thinks the recognition is long overdue. Recent research by the labor historian prooves there's plenty of cause for celebration.
"Let's start with the legendary Ginger Goodwin who was killed in 1917 on Vancouver Island by a special constable tracking down conscientious objectors," he says. "There've been conspiracy theories of an assassination circulating ever since."
There were rumors that the fiery orator and popular organizer for the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers had been murdered in an ambush by a hit-man. The widespread speculation was that Goodwin had been shot in the back at close range with an illegal dum-dum bullet, which expands on contact. Leier carefully looked over the forensic evidence and checked out every book in the SFU library related to gunshot wounds.
Actually, he was shot in the side of the neck with a hunting bullet, says Leier. Some people saw marks on the body that they believed were powder burns. This would prove that Goodwin had been shot at extremely close range. But the experts say that without modern scientific tests, it would have been impossible for these witnesses to tell powder burns from dirt, lead particles from the bullet, or even insect bites inflicted after death.
"The lesson is -- don't assume anything. Use critical thinking to pass on the facts, which are often more fascinating than myths," says Leier. "Goodwin would have considered himself a victim of a system that punishes troublemakers, rather than a victim of a few corrupt men. In the long run, that makes for a more compelling story."
"These lives may have been raw, but it's important to know their sweat, blood and dreams if we are to know all of our history. They fought to make our lives better and their example can be an inspiration for the issues we face."
1917 Samuel Gompers is elected President of the AFL he vows to destroy socialists.
1918 July 26 Ginger Goodwin (Secretary, Western Federation of Miners) is shot in the back by a Special Constable of the Province.
Aug. 2 Ginger Goodwin dies. During the 24 hr strike that followed, the Longshore Hall, defended by 600 longshoremen, withstood repeated assaults by a mob of 10,000 rioters. The Labour Temple at Dunsmuir and Homer, was put under siege by a mob of returned veterans and George Thomas, a longshoremen, was beaten. B.A. Pete Sinclair was illegally arrested on the job under the Conscription Act. Sinclair was overage, and after a two day strike was released. 6 month longshore contract increased wages from $.65/hr to $.80/hr Deepsea and $.90/hr to $1.15/hr overtime. There was an 8 hr work day with a 2 hour callout guarantee and travel time was included in the contract.
1918 Gordon J. Kelly (President ILA 1912) dies and is buried in the Mt. View Cemetery, 5455 Fraser Street. International Labour Organization (ILO) is founded.
1919 Winnipeg General Strike May 15 - June 26. Sympathy strike in Vancouver B.C. from June 4 - June 26. One Big Union is established. Longshore BA Bill Pritchard jailed.
1920-1930 In 11 years 66 longshoremen are killed in Vancouver, mainly because of gear failure.
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