Call for Papers: Pacific Northwest Labor History Conference

Pacific Northwest Labor History Conference
Call for Presentations, Workshops and Papers
Cumberland, British Columbia
June 13-15, 2014

The 44th Annual Conference of the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association (PNLHA) takes place in the historic village of Cumberland, B.C., June 13-15, 2014. The conference is held in conjunction with Cumberland’s own Miners Memorial Weekend, which commemorates the thousands of miners who were killed and injured in the coal fields of Vancouver Island, while celebrating the spirit of resistance of labour leaders like Ginger Goodwin and Joe Naylor.

The PNLHA Conference is hosted by the Cumberland Historical Society (Cumberland Museum) and sponsored by the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council, and of course the PNLHA.

Cumberland’s colorful and rich history dovetails nicely with the theme of the conference – “Mining Our Past: Conflict and Solidarity in a Resource Economy.” As an old coal-mining town where immigrants from across Europe, Japan, China, and the USA came to make a life, Cumberland is typical of the hundreds of small towns and villages that sprang up in the Canadian and American West in the exploitive rush for minerals, fish and timber.  That rush led to many conflicts along with many great acts of solidarity. The local PNLHA committee is seeking proposals for workshops and presentations that both illuminate the past and help us learn how to organize and mobilize for the future.

Coal mining in Cumberland began in the 1880s with the Union Colliery Company, owned by the Dunsmuir family who were rabidly anti-union. Cumberland’s diverse workers found themselves in a very exploitative and dangerous workplace. This led to a struggle for a union; a goal that was not achieved until the 1930s. The miners of Cumberland were part of the Big Strike of 1912-14. Cumberland was also the home of Ginger Goodwin, a labour organizer who was shot in 1918 by special police for dra  dodging, and home also to Joe Naylor- a major mover for the One Big Union. The last mine closed in the 1960s with many workers shifting to jobs in

An important thematic thread within the conference is “Indigenous Workers, a Hidden History”. It is our goal to feature presentations around the role of Indigenous workers in the resource economy over the past 200 years, and the past and present relationship between Indigenous workers and labour unions. Given the increased awareness of the historical and systematic racism Indigenous people faced, and still face, many people are unaware of the important work First Nations did in the economic growth of the USA and in Canada. Papers and presentations illuminating this area would be most welcome.

Another important thematic thread we wish to feature is the evolving role of women over time in boom-and-bust towns. From the frontier towns of the 1880s, to the industrial cities of the 20s, to the company towns of the 50s, how did unions react to the growing “feminization of the workforce”?

Other areas of interest from the organizing committee include:

The First World War began 100 years ago in Europe. What effect does the political atmosphere of war time have on working people and their struggle for economic and political justice? How did the nationalism of that period impact international solidarity building, and what lessons are applicable to the 21st Century?

Art, whether music, poetry or visual arts, is o en treated as a luxury or a marginal part of the political life of trade unions and activists. What role has art played in past struggles, and how can we use music, poetry and visual arts today in reaching the rank and file?

From Wisconsin to British Columbia to Europe, public sector unions are under an unprecedented attack on their very existence. What have we learnt over the past 70 years of building public sector union organizations, and how can this knowledge be used to fend off these assaults?

Digital and social media are powerful tools for engagement. How can union activists best utilize these tools to reach union members and the general public with their stories?

The 44th Annual Conference of the PNLHA will be a rich and illuminating (and I daresay unique!) three or four days in a perfect setting, where history is alive and respected.

Below are details for submissions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Proposals for workshops and presentations should include:

1. A 1 to 2 page summary of your workshop or presentation
2. Presenter(s) name(s) and contact information
3. A short bio and vitae of presenter(s)
4. The approximate time required for workshop or presentation
5. Audio / Visual requirements

Although there is no guarantee, we will attempt to fit your presentation in. Acceptance is based on relevance to the theme and topics outlined above, and scheduling considerations.

The deadline for proposals is December 13, 2013. We will notify you as to the status of your proposal

Submit your proposals via e-mail to Brian Charlton, for the Local Organizing Committee at:

bcharlton@shaw.ca