The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has partnered with the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) to ensure that Alberta’s labour history is known and celebrated through Project 2012. The AFL was founded in 1912 in Lethbridge by coalminers, railroaders, labourers, farmers, topographers and carpenters.
Labour’s story is being told through historical booklets, posters, videos, a web site, displays in art galleries and museums, community events and projects, theatrical and musical productions, and a two-day labour history conference. So far, thirteen communities throughout Alberta will hold events to celebrate the AFL’s 100th Anniversary. The project will culminate with a day-long celebration for union members and the public in June of next year in Fort Edmonton Park.
The AHLI received a Centennial Grant in 2005 that funded a web site and travel to interview people throughout Alberta. One of the first things they did was visit the Crowsnest Pass to meet with miners and collect their stories.
“There’s a little building there that was originally a hospital built by the coalminers, before there was Medicare or hospitals to speak of,” says retired CUPE Regional Director, former AFL president and ALHI president Dave Werlin. “We used that building for our interviews and it was filled with people. We interviewed them all day and into the night, for two days. A lot of the people who told their stories were coalminers or widows of coalminers.”
Interviews were collected on tape and will be digitized and available on the ALHI web site. This was repeated in different areas of the province including the Coal Branch, Hinton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, and Medicine Hat.
Significant achievements and gains by local unions or organizations have improved the lives of Albertans, including women’s rights, human rights, health and safety, labour standards, health care, pensions, etc.
“A lot of those advances were made during very difficult times,” says Werlin.
Unions can give financial support to this ambitious project in various ways — contribute 25 cents per member annually until 2012; fund a specific component of Project 2012; or make a donation towards equipment and materials.
ALHI is an Alberta-based research institute made up entirely of volunteers. The group was formed in 1999 by trade unionists, community activists, archivists and academic historians to preserve and tell the story of working people and their organizations in Alberta.
The Institute has provided material and expert assistance as well as have produced calendars, videos, websites, education materials, and constructed an Alberta Labour History Timeline and Map to document labour events available at: labourhistory.ca.