Trade Unions

in the Bienfait Saskatchewan Area

Info from the 1955 History of Bienfait book, with some personal comments added.

United Mine Workers of America, UMWA Union Hall, early 1950's
from Alex Wilson Collection sent by Margaret Cuddington

1. First miners union organized in this area was between 1905-1907 with the United Mine Workers of America. Due to the very seasonal nature of coal mining in the district at that time the miners union was not established and went out of existence.

2. In the years preceding the First World War around 1919 and 1920 another union called the One Big Union (commonly known as the O.B.U.) tried unsuccessfully to organize the miners. Incidents such as kidnapping, threats of violence by individuals resulted in its setback.

3. In 1931 the Mine Workers Union of Canada organized in this area, its following was strong at first. However during the course of its organizing campaign an incident commonly known as the Estevan Riot resulted in the death of 3 men and a great number wounded at demonstration of the Union membership in Estevan, so in the course of six months in 1932 this Union's following reached a low ebb and it went out of existence.

4. Prior to World War Two (1938) and in the depth of the depression the United Mine Workers of America, District 18 organized the majority of the miners in this field. Its organizational efforts culminated in a miners strike in 1939 a few days before the War began. In the interval of the strike a split developed and an independent union was organized in one of the large mine called the Saskatchewan Union. However as the strike developed in the field and a National Emergency situation was created by the war. In order to restore harmony in the area a commission set up by the provincial government resulted in restoring at least a partial solution at the time to the strike problem. The United Mine Workers of America because of National and International affiliation agreed to leave the district for the duration of the war. This restored peace in the mine fields and two organizations were the result. One embracing a number of mines under the Mine Workers Central Union of Estevan and District and the other the Saskatchewan Coal mines union.

5. In 1945 the United Mine Workers of America District 18 replaced the mine Workers Central Union of Estevan and District represented one group of miners and the Saskatchewan Coal Miners Union another group. These organizations are still in existence here. However in 1948 the United Mine Workers of America Called a strike of Pay and Hours of work, and Welfare Fund which lasted around 11 weeks. Today the situation under the banner of the unions in this field is fairly good. Note- this was written in 1955

I know a friend of mine, Lorne Wagner, was President of Local 7606 of the United Mine Workers of America in Sept 2002 when the book “Bienfait” was promoted.
Not sure of the status of him, or the Unions in the area now.

I am a strong Union man, 33 years a member of the Telecommunications Workers Union, Local 33.
The Trade Union movement, in my eyes, is #1 priority for the working man. The working man has nothing else, but the power of a group.
I served as Secretary-Treasurer for years, and also a term as President of the Local. Went through 2 long strikes, one in the dead of winter.
I am totally aware of the need for Unions.

Managers have their “Unions”, only they call them “Associations” or “Chambers of Commerce”, as they can't say “Union”, never mind use the name.
Even Lawyers have a “Union” I get a kick out of the right wing guys that hate Unions, but belong to them!
Then they have their “Clubs” and “Fraternities” They are “Unions”, like it or not.
A group that has beliefs of one kind or another, for the benefit of it's members. Exactly what a Labour Union does.
If they get rid of “Unions”, then get rid of the “Associations” “Chambers of Commerce”, “Masons”, “Rotary club” etc etc. to equal the playing field.


  • Last modified: 2018/02/20 12:40
  • by dlgent