He says its one book he wishes hed never had to write. Ed Thomas, CUPE 5167 member and a tractor operator with the City of Hamiltons parks department, is talking about Dead, But Not Forgotten a tribute to workers around the world who have given their lives to earn a
Two Labour Days ago, we were marching in a parade and it just came to me, Thomas says. I thought why dont I write a book about this?
The people I was walking with told me about two workers monuments in Toronto, one outside the Sky Dome, and a painting at the Bloor and Young subway station dedicated to workers killed building that subway line. So the first day I decided to write, Id already gotten two monuments and I was on my way.
Thomass book documents more than 135 monuments from 22 countries around the world, the majority displayed in black and white photographs, with commentaries on each. Some are elaborate and expensive tributes while others are a plaque or poster. Whether its a tree in a flowerbed, a poem or a song, he says, its what it represents thats important.
He began his project by writing to labour federations across Canada telling them about his plans. He contacted National President Judy Darcy as well as the CLC. Word got out and people started sending him information. Then the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions called and invited Thomas to Brussels for a meeting about April 28th, now observed around the world.
Representatives from 30 countries endorsed Thomass project at the Belgium meeting. He was invited to work at the United Nations last April where he organized the labour caucus to ensure every delegate from the 180 countries had a Day of Mourning kit put into their hands.
Through it all, Thomas has had to become fundraiser as well as writer, relying on the support of unions and individuals to cover his out-of-pocket expenses. Advance orders will go towards printing and shipping costs as the book is a labour of love.
While this is his third book the first was a history of his union local, the second a guide on how to write a history Thomas didnt start out wanting to write. Most of his education was earned through adult classes. Even after a year at
McMaster University as a mature student, he still struggled with his vocabulary and spelling.
I flunked public school four grades, Thomas says crediting a literacy program, started by the Hamilton and District Labour Council, for getting him into writing. The program was through the Workers Education Centre and the forerunner to Ontarios BEST (Basic Education for Skills Training).
It gave me the confidence to do something major. I didnt think that it would actually be me who did something like this.
His message to others: Workers play a major role in this world If we dont write our histories, we dont know where we came from.