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.
About the author
Ron Verzuh is a writer and historian. His previous books include Radical Rag: The Pioneer Labour Press in Canada and Underground Times: Canada’s Flower-Child Revolutionaries.