19901015016 | Standard Mine in Shaughnessy, Alberta, at the end of the last shift before the closing of the mine, AB, January 15, 1965

 
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Standard Mine in Shaughnessy, Alberta, at the end of the last shift before the closing of the mine, AB, January 15, 1965
January 15th 1965, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
20.3 x 25.4 cm
19901015016
This artefact belongs to : © Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives
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Keys to History

Strained labour relations were another trait of the coal-mining industry in southern Alberta. Mining was seasonal work that boomed in the winter and slowed down in the summer. Until 1906, mine owners had almost unlimited control over the miners, dictating wages and working conditions, rent in company houses and dormitories, and prices for mining supplies purchased from the company. In 1906 the United Mine Workers of America, District 18, began to organize the miners of the Galt companies at Lethbridge. The company fought back and the resulting strike was long and bitter. Although a collective agreement was signed, strife continued in the Lethbridge coal field that led to strikes in 1909, 1911, 1919, 1923 and 1924.

There was one positive result of the 1906 strike, however. William Lyon Mackenzie King had come to Lethbridge to mediate a settlement, and the experience he gained there led him to draft the Industrial Disputes Investigations Act (1907), that established the principle of third-party mediation in labour disputes in Canada. Ultimately, it was a strike in Galt Mine No. 10 at Shaugnessy in 1965 that prompted the owners to shut down the last operating coal mine in southern Alberta, and close the door on an era.

  • What

    The first collective agreement signed in the Lethbridge field ran from June 1, 1907 to March 31,1909. Wages for underground workers ranged from a low of 15 5/8 cents per hour for new switch boys and pick carrier boys, to a high of 40 cents per hour for pumpmen. The work day was eight hours.

  • Where

    Once the United Mine Workers of America, District 18, had established itself in the Lethbridge coal field, other improvements for mine workers came as well. In the years before universal health care in Canada, for example, the union signed medical service agreements with local doctors on behalf of its members.

  • When

    January 15, 1965: An unidentified coal miner leaves the Standard Mine in Shaugnessy, Alberta, at the end of the last shift before the mine closed. The miners went on strike that day for higher wages. The company responded by closing the mine on February 4,1965.

  • Who

    What is interesting about the first agreement is that no mention is made of what the miners were to be paid. They remained on individual contracts, but gained the protections accorded other classes of workers in the mines, plus a check-weighman who would fairly and accurately measure the weight of the coal they mined - the determining factor in how much they earned.