Excerpt - The
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1958, union organizers
started coming into Rod Anderson’s camp to talk to the
loggers, to tell them what their working life should
The first time was on a fine Sunday in late summer. The
men were hove back for the day having a rest. A rest
just meant that there was no cutting on Sunday. They
used the time to file their saws and sharpen their axes.
Some of them washed both their clothes and themselves in
a nearby brook or lake. The cooks were working flat out.
Besides having to feed the men their Sunday dinner,
bigger than other days, they had to catch up as well
with the usual making of bread, molasses buns and,
perhaps, some pies.
Into this scene walked two strangers. They introduced
themselves as organizers from the International
Woodworkers of America, the IWA.
“We’re here, boys, to tell you about logging camps in
British Columbia. Now, you might think that is pretty
far away and has nothing to do with you fellas, but
you’re wrong. It is far away, but Newfoundland is part
of Canada now and has been for the past nine years. It’s
time for Newfoundland loggers to be treated like other
Canadian loggers. Do you know that camps on the mainland
have showers, indoor toilets and central heating?”
This got the men’s attention. Most of them didn’t even
have those kinds of things in their homes. They were
from small isolated outports still struggling to become
part of the twentieth century.
“Now, gentlemen, we propose to change all that. We
propose to give you a new union that will improve your
working life and give you a better wage to pass on to
your families. We’re asking you right now to sign up
with us. Membership dues are one dollar. If you haven’t
got the fee right now, you can pay us later.”
Rod listened to what the union organizers told the men.
Perhaps they had a point. So he said they could have
supper with the men and stay overnight. It being Sunday,
the meal was boiled dinner: salt meat, pease pudding,
doughboys, potatoes and turnip. Then the organizers
bedded down in a spare bunk with the loggers.
The recruiters’ hair and clothing became lousy that
night, and in the morning their arms and legs were
covered with red welts that the men told them were bites
from bedbugs. This was part of the life of a logger. Rod
had slept on the same bunks and eaten the same food when
he worked for his father and he had accepted it.
He mentioned, in passing, to other contractors that
maybe they should see about building better bunkhouses,
but they had laughed him into the ground. “My son,” they
said, “if we was to improve anything, our profits are
gone. The Company won’t give an inch on any upgrading,
you know that. Besides, what do we care? It’s not our
property; it belongs to the Company.”
Sometime later, on a trip across the River to Badger,
Rod was called into the A.N.D. Company manager’s office.
Mr. Cole was long gone and had been replaced several
times by managers brought in from England, St. John’s
and mainland Canada.
“Well, Rod. I hear you’re allowing union men to take
over your camp.”
For a moment Rod was too astonished to answer. Take
over his camp? What was this all about? “Well, sir,
I wouldn’t say they are taking over anyone’s camp,” he
said. “They’re trying to organize a union. What’s wrong
“The Company doesn’t want the IWA, that’s what’s wrong
with that. We’ve been getting along fine here for fifty
years. So, my advice to you is: no more being friendly
with the union organizers. There are lots of contractors
willing to take your place and you know it.”
Rod passed along word to Bill, his foreman. “If the
union fellas come back wanting to stay overnight or have
a meal, just say you’re sorry, but we have no room. And
say the Company has said they can’t be fed.”
Other contractors did the same, some with more
forcefulness than Rod. But it was too late. The IWA had
made serious inroads into the camps. Every logger had
signed up on the spot. They were all focused on the new
union’s promise of better camp conditions, a shorter
work week and a wage increase.
The IWA began broadcasting a radio program called
Green Gold, aimed at informing the loggers of the
current happenings. In the camps at night, after supper,
the men gathered around battery radios to listen to news
of the union’s progress. Rod turned a blind eye to the
activities of his men. If they signed up, he didn’t want
to know about it. All he wanted from life was to do his
job, look after his family, and live in peace....