Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book launch of a history of Alberta's working people, February 24

Project 2012
Alberta Federation of Labour
February 07, 2012

Thirty-three years after the publication of the first book on the history of Alberta labour, Athabasca University Press is releasing a major work that tells the story of Alberta's working people, their trade unions and organizations, and the struggles they went through as they built this Province and its communities.

Trade union leaders and activists and the general public are invited to the launch of Working People in Alberta: A History on Friday, February 24th at 3:00 PM in the Main Hall of the Ironworkers Building, 10512 - 122 Street in Edmonton.

Published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Alberta Federation of Labour, this new book provides a much-needed update to Alberta Labour: A Heritage Untold, written by Warren Caragata in 1979. Working People in Alberta contains over 300 lavishly-illustrated pages, and was produced by members of the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) as part of Project 2012, a 5-year partnership with the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) to produce educational and historical materials in preparation for the AFL's Centennial in 2012.

According to Athabasca University professor Alvin Finkel, the book’s principle author, Working People in Alberta does more than build on Caragata’s achievement; it incorporates social history approaches to the history of working people to provide a narrative that goes beyond organizations and institutions. Stories about their struggles and achievements are told by workers, both union and non-union, in their own words, drawing heavily on over 200 interviews conducted by the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) over its 13-year history.

As such, it reflects a priority of the Institute from the time it was born in 1999, when its members set out to conduct comprehensive interviews with Alberta's labour pioneers and union activists, determined to counter a tradition in which so much history was written from the viewpoint of Canada’s elites. Furthermore, it focuses on more than just the labour movement, delving extensively into the stories of unorganized workers and community leaders, as well as those of trade unionists.

Working People in Alberta is authored by Alvin Finkel, with contributions by Jim Selby, Jason Foster, Winston Gereluk, Jennifer Kelly and Dan Cui, James Muir, Joan Schiebelbein, and Eric Strikwerda. It is dedicated to Neil Reimer (1921-2011), a pioneer of Alberta's labour movement and an active member of ALHI, who served as National Director of the the Energy & Chemical Workers Union (now the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union) and as the first Leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party, amongst other contributions.

The book is part of an historical series being produced by AU Press, Working Canadians: Books from the CCLH. Besides relying on sustained Project support and contributions from Alberta's trade unions, research and publication of Working People in Alberta was made possible, in part, by financial support from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundations (AHRF).

Table of Contents: Unlike so many historical works that begin with the arrival of white settlers, Working People in Alberta begins with a chapter on Alberta’s First Nations, the province’s first inhabitants. Chapters include:

Unsung Builders of Alberta: Introduction to A History of Working People in Alberta
Ch 1 Millennia of Native Work
Ch 2 The Fur Trade and Early European
Ch 3 One Step Forward: Alberta
Workers 1885-1914
Ch 4 War, Repression, and
Depression, 1914-1939
Ch 5 Alberta Labour and Working-Class
Life, 1940-1959
Ch 6 The Boomers Become the Workers:
Alberta, 1960-1980
Ch 7 Alberta Labour in the Eighties
Ch 8 Revolution, Retrenchment, and the
New Normal:The 1990s and Beyond
Ch 9 Women, Labour, and the
Labour Movement
Ch 10 Racialization and Work
Conclusion: A History to Build Upon

The book launch is open to leaders and activists from trade unions and other organizations, as well as to the general public. Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be served. As space will be limited, you are asked to RSVP by February 17, 2012 by email to or phone (780) 481-2347.

For more information on the Alberta Labour History Institute and Project 2012, contact Karen Werlin, Administrator at 780-421-0471 or; or Winston Gereluk, Project 2012 Chair; AFL Centennial Director at 780-483-3021 or
For information on the AFL Centennial contact Maureen Werlin, AFL Centennial Coordinator at 780-483-3021 or

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