Source: BC Labour Heritage Centre
December 12, 2021
On Saturday, December 12th, 2020, the BC Labour Heritage Centre held a virtual unveiling of the new historic plaque in Nanaimo, BC. The plaque recognizes the Great Coal Strike lasting from 1912-1914. The strike is considered the fiercest labor dispute in the province’s history. The plaque is located in Dallas Square, Nanaimo, beside the “100 Years of Coal” monument.
From the 1870’s on, the coal miners of Vancouver Island had fought strike after strike to force the hardnosed coal barons to recognize a union.
Thanks to strikebreakers, blacklists, anti-union courts and the forces of so-called law and order, they lost them all.
Finally, in 1911, the miners invited in the tough, experienced and deep-pocketed United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) to make one last all-out attempt to bring the mine owners to heel.
What started as a flare-up over safety quickly sparked into a conflict that was the most protracted, violent and hard-fought strike in BC’s long labour history. It lasted two years, from 1912 to 1914. This is the story of the Vancouver Island Coal Strike.