Proposal Title

SESSION 1.3: "Sentiment for IWW is good": Forest Capital, Loggers, and the Strikes of 1923 and 1924 in the East Kootenays

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

4-5-2019 10:45 AM

End Date

4-5-2019 12:15 PM

Disciplines

Labor History

Abstract

“‘Sentiment for IWW is good’: forest capital, loggers, and the strikes of 1923 and 1924 in the East Kootenays” Set within the context of an industry on the verge of collapse due to overexpansion and unsustainable cut rates, this paper examines the experience of loggers and forest communities during the 1920s and 1930s in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia. The paper shows that forest capital’s commitment to modern, high-speed sawmill operations contributed to the rapid exhaustion of the region’s resource and an ongoing, downward pressure on wages and conditions in labour-intensive woods operations. By the early 1920s, the shared experience of poor conditions and low wages prepared loggers, many seasonal workers from prairie farms, for the effective organizing drive of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Kootenay strikes of 1923 and 1924 were part of the IWW’s final major organizing drives that focussed on loggers, sawmill workers and farm workers across the west. The paper examines the sources of solidarity among impoverished rural workers who took enormous risks in participating in two major strikes. It also explores the power of capital, including the Canadian Pacific Railway, to defeat workers and their radical, industrial union in a remote region of the province. In the early 1920s, the IWW did not appear to be in a state of “disorder and decline” to the workers and companies of the region. Finally, the paper considers these understudied, practically unknown, strikes within a history of rural underdevelopment and poverty in the region and the province. As part of this, it argues that they deserve a more prominent place in the province’s labour history.

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May 4th, 10:45 AM May 4th, 12:15 PM

SESSION 1.3: "Sentiment for IWW is good": Forest Capital, Loggers, and the Strikes of 1923 and 1924 in the East Kootenays

IB 1015

“‘Sentiment for IWW is good’: forest capital, loggers, and the strikes of 1923 and 1924 in the East Kootenays” Set within the context of an industry on the verge of collapse due to overexpansion and unsustainable cut rates, this paper examines the experience of loggers and forest communities during the 1920s and 1930s in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia. The paper shows that forest capital’s commitment to modern, high-speed sawmill operations contributed to the rapid exhaustion of the region’s resource and an ongoing, downward pressure on wages and conditions in labour-intensive woods operations. By the early 1920s, the shared experience of poor conditions and low wages prepared loggers, many seasonal workers from prairie farms, for the effective organizing drive of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Kootenay strikes of 1923 and 1924 were part of the IWW’s final major organizing drives that focussed on loggers, sawmill workers and farm workers across the west. The paper examines the sources of solidarity among impoverished rural workers who took enormous risks in participating in two major strikes. It also explores the power of capital, including the Canadian Pacific Railway, to defeat workers and their radical, industrial union in a remote region of the province. In the early 1920s, the IWW did not appear to be in a state of “disorder and decline” to the workers and companies of the region. Finally, the paper considers these understudied, practically unknown, strikes within a history of rural underdevelopment and poverty in the region and the province. As part of this, it argues that they deserve a more prominent place in the province’s labour history.