17 episodes

Canadian labour history storytelling podcast, produced by volunteers & staff of the BC Labour Heritage Centre on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) territories. Hosted by labour reporter & author Rod Mickleburgh.

On the Line: Stories of BC Workers BC Labour Heritage Centre

    • History

Canadian labour history storytelling podcast, produced by volunteers & staff of the BC Labour Heritage Centre on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) territories. Hosted by labour reporter & author Rod Mickleburgh.

    Episode 17: Asbestos - A Lethal Legacy

    Episode 17: Asbestos - A Lethal Legacy

    This episode looks at the grim toll taken by exposure to carcinogenic fibres of asbestos.  Because it often takes decades for diseases such as mesothelioma  - a cancer caused by asbestos exposure - to develop, its legacy is ongoing.  We’ve known about these dangers for decades, yet the widespread use of asbestos continued long after its lethal properties were beyond dispute. It routinely found its way into a startling range of construction materials and, ironically, safety products.

    In September 2022, the BC Labour Heritage Centre officially dedicated a remarkable memorial to the victims of asbestos.  The Asbestos Memorial is located on the Vancouver waterfront as part of the Vancouver Convention Centre's Art Program with a commanding view of Burrard Inlet, where workers once loaded asbestos onto cargo ships.

    Lee Loftus, a third-generation member of the Insulators Union Local 118 talks about his role in raising awareness and understanding the risks of asbestos exposure.

    Tracy Ford, co-founder of the Asbestos-Related Research, Education & Advocacy Fund (AREA), recalls how the disease caught up with her father.

    Dave Pritchett, a longshoreman who worked at the Cassiar Asbestos dock in North Vancouver, explains how he and fellow longshore workers were on the front lines of handling asbestos.

    Linda Brace, widow of a smelter worker in Trail BC, recounts Cominco's response to her husband's death from mesothelioma at the age of 53.

    FEATURED MUSIC:   Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.

    "More Than a Paycheck" written by Ysaye Barnwell and performed by Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, from the CD "A New World for Our Heirs".

    "Sit Down" written by Maurice Sugar and performed by Manhattan Chorus.

    Tracy Ford, "A History of Asbestos in BC", BC Labour Heritage Centre and WorkSafeBC, 2015. https://youtu.be/uEOgZt2y1_I

    Dave Pritchett, Oral History interview, BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2018.

    Linda Brace, "Asbestos - The Silent Killer", United Steelworkers Local 480, 2008. https://youtu.be/H9IkIr3Jm5Y

    RESEARCH: Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Production by John Mabbott.

    • 23 min
    Episode 16: The Union Archive That Almost Didn't Make It

    Episode 16: The Union Archive That Almost Didn't Make It

    In 2019, former members of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) along with community historians opened the IWA Archive in Lake Cowichan BC.  Located at the Kaatza Station Museum, the IWA Archive is near the home of the first IWA local in the province. The Museum also houses the fabulous Wilmer Gold Photo Collection.

    The founding convention of the IWA took place in Tacoma Washington in 1937. Its first President was Harold Pritchett from British Columbia, who was also the first Canadian to lead an international union.

    John Mountain, Al Lundgren, Pat Foster and Terry Inglis tell the story of how the collection began, was almost lost, and with the help of Archivist Henry John, continue to preserve the records of what was once BC's largest and most powerful union.

    Bikram (Vic) Berar, whose father Jaswant Singh was an interpreter for South Asian lumber workers and also a Local 1-80 Vice President, explains how important the IWA and the Archive is to his family.


    FEATURED MUSIC: Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.

    "Talking IWA" written and performed by Joe Glazer, 1977.

    Hjalmer Bergren (12:32-12:52)  and Ernie Dalskog (13:17-13:27), "These Were the Reasons": Stories of Union Organizing in BC, BC Overtime, 2011. https://youtu.be/NFwpDcBUPlw
     RESEARCH: Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Production by John Mabbott.
     

    • 27 min
    Episode 15: Smelter Wars

    Episode 15: Smelter Wars

    The workers at the lead-zinc smelter in Trail, British Columbia have a long history of overcoming formidable obstacles to unionization. Contentious politics, a company union and two World Wars are some of the issues discussed in this episode. 
     We talk to Ron Verzuh whose new book Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for its Life in Wartime Western Canada  (University of Toronto Press, 2022) has just been published. We also listen to archived interviews with two men who worked in the smelter in the early 1900s and remembered Ginger Goodwin who led a strike there in 1917.
    Originally members of the Western Federation of Miners, who became the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, the workers at the Trail Smelter (Cominco) are now represented by United Steelworkers Local 480.
    FEATURED MUSIC: Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.
     
    “Ode to the Union Smelterman” (1907), author unknown. Performed by Jeff Burrows.
     RESEARCH: Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Production by John Mabbott.
     Andrew Waldie interview, RECORDED: 1975-12-18 by Howie Smith. ©Royal BC Museum
    Ed Provost interview, RECORDED: 1975-12-20 by Howie Smith. ©Royal BC Museum

    Cominco History – Rossland Museum & Discovery Centre retrieved at https://www.rosslandmuseum.ca/cominco

    • 40 min
    Ep. 14: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

    Ep. 14: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

    As Black History Month comes to a close, On the Line marks the occasion with a fascinating look back at the history of train sleeping car porters, almost all of whom were Black. It's a story that has only recently started to be told, and combines the history of Black employment in Canada, unionization and the fight for dignity and equality. 
     We examine those long lost days mostly through the voice of Warren Williams, whose Uncle Lee was in the forefront of the drive to organize Sleeping Car Porters in Canada. Warren is the current President of CUPE Local 15, representing inside workers at the City of Vancouver.
    Learn more: https://www.labourheritagecentre.ca/frank-collins-union-leader-black-activist-1940s-vancouver/
    Listen to Warren's full interview here: https://vimeo.com/643640604
    FEATURED MUSIC: Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.
    "Too Too Train Blues" - Performed by Big Bill Broozy
    "Midnight Train" - Performed by Oscar Peterson

    RESEARCH: Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Our thanks to Warren Williams for sharing his family's story as part of the BC Labour Heritage Centre Oral History Project in Feb. 2021, an interview which the clips in this episode are featured from.

    Black Strathcona Project. http://blackstrathcona.com/
    Travis Tomchuk. Black sleeping car porters: The struggle for Black labour rights on Canada’s railways. Retrieved from https://humanrights.ca/story/sleeping-car-porters

    • 26 min
    Ep 13: Relief Camps of the Great Depression

    Ep 13: Relief Camps of the Great Depression

    Featuring archival audio interviews and labour songs of the time, this episode examines the so-called "Dirty Thirties" or "The Great Depression" and the forced labour relief camps the Federal Government of Canada set up in response. We include a special focus on a little known relief camp that was a mere hop, skip and a jump from downtown Vancouver, BC, in North Vancouver. This is the story of the Blair Rifle Range and other relief camps in B.C.

    Learn more: labourheritagecentre.ca/blair-rifle-range/
    FEATURED MUSIC: Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.

    "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Performed by Al Jolson, 1932. Written by lyricist Yip Harburg and composer Jay Gorney, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" was part of the 1932 musical revue Americana; the melody is based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby. 

    "I Don't Want Your Diamonds Mister" & "Nine Pound Hammer" clips performed by Tom Hawken & his band. Part of the "These were the reasons..." film produced by Howie Smith and BC Overtime.

    RESEARCH:
    Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh. Thanks to Donna Sacuta, Exec. Director of the BC Labour Heritage Centre, for her research on the Blair Rifle Range and contribution to this episode.

    Building Andy's Range: The History of the Blair Rifle Range by Donna Sacuta. BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2017, rev. 2021.

    On the Line: A History of the BC Labour Movement by Rod Mickleburgh. BC Labour Heritage Society, Harbour Publishing, May 2018. 

    Interview with Donna Sacuta conducted by Patricia Wejr on behalf of the BCLHC, 2022.
    Interview with Jean Shiels conducted by Sara Diamond, 1980s. Original Format: The VIVO Media Arts Centre. Crista Dahl Media Library & Archives. Sara Diamond fonds.
    Interview with Red Walsh conducted by Howie Smith, featured in “These were the reasons…” Stories of Union Organizing in British Columbia (2011) Produced by Howie Smith and BC Overtime, this documentary is about the struggle of working people in BC to win basic union rights. Copyright.

    • 25 min
    Ep. 12: The Battle of Blubber Bay, BC, 1938

    Ep. 12: The Battle of Blubber Bay, BC, 1938

    An epic confrontation just before WWII between mine workers fighting for justice and an arrogant company with authorities in their hip pocket. This is the story that has come to be known as The Battle of Blubber Bay.
    Once a whaling station on Texada Island, Blubber Bay, British Columbia was home to an enormous open-pit limestone mine on the north end of the island. Starting just after the turn of the century, workers - many of them Chinese - had toiled away in the 250-ft deep pit. An obstinate mine manager and a wage cut motivated them to join the International Woodworkers of America (IWA). On June 2, 1938, two-thirds of the company's 156-strong workforce walked off the job as a last-ditch effort by the IWA to try and secure a foothold in BC. The battle that followed was legendary.

    FEATURED MUSIC: Theme song: "Hold the Fort" - Arranged & Performed by Tom Hawken & his band, 1992. Part of the "On to Ottawa" film produced by Sara Diamond.
    "Blubber Bay Boogie" - Wesley Wheelwright, [Weeley Wright] from the record Songs of BC, 1958.
    "IWA Marching Song" - Joe Glazer, Songs for Woodworkers, "Forty Years of Progress 1937-1977". 1977.

    BACKGROUND MUSIC:
    "Angel Tooth" - Zander, Blue Dot Sessions URL: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Blue_Dot_Sessions/Zander/Angel_Tooth

    VOICEOVERS: "Rookie Police Officer" & "Vancouver Sun Reporter"  voiced by John Mabbott

    RESEARCH:
    Research and script for this episode by Patricia Wejr & Rod Mickleburgh.
    Hak, Gordon Hugh, Capital and Labour in the British Columbia Forest Industry, 1934-74, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007)
    Neufeld, Andrew and Andrew Parnaby, The IWA in Canada: The Life and Times of an Industrial Union, (Vancouver: New Star Books/IWA Canada, 2000)

    Parnaby, Andy. “‘We’ll hang all policemen from a sour apple tree!’: Class, Law, and the Politics of State Power in the Blubber Bay Strike of 1938–39.” MA thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1995.
    Parnaby, Andrew, “What’s Law Got to do With it? The IWA and the Politics of State Power in British Columbia, 1935-1939,” Labour/Le Travail, 44 (Fall 1999), 9-45.
    Phillips, Paul A., No Power Greater: A Century of Labour in British Columbia, (Vancouver: BC Federation of Labour, 1967)

    Russwurm, Lani. Blubber Bay Strike (1938 – 1939). BC Labour Heritage Centre Archives.
    Stanton, John, Never Say Die!: The Life and Times of a Pioneer Labour Lawyer, (Vancouver: Steel Rail Publishing, 1987)
    Wejr, Patricial and Howie Smith, Fighting for Labour: Four Decades of Work in British Columbia, 1910 – 1950 (Victoria, BC: Sound Heritage, 1978)






     

    • 19 min