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[book cover] Working People in Alberta

Alvin Finkel, with contributions by Jason Foster, Winston Gereluk, Jennifer Kelly and Dan Cui, James Muir, Joan Schiebelbein, Jim Selby, and Eric Strikwerda

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February 2012

9781926836584 (Paperback)
9781926836591 (PDF)
9781926836607 (ePub)


Working Canadians: Books from the CCLH

History / History: Canada / History: Labour / History: Western / Labour Studies / Sociology



Wildcat strike in Edmonton on Feb. 16th. CBC Edmonton AM asks author Alvin Finkel if it's a sign of things to come.





About the Book

Working People in Alberta traces the history of labour in Alberta from the period of First Nations occupation to the present. Drawing on over two hundred interviews with labour leaders, activists, and ordinary working people, as well as on archival records, the volume gives voice to the people who have toiled in Alberta over the centuries. In so doing, it seeks to counter the view of Alberta as a one-class, one-party, one-ideology province, in which distinctions between those who work and those who own are irrelevant. Workers from across the generations tell another tale, of an ongoing collective struggle to improve their economic and social circumstances in the face of a dominant, exploitative elite. Their stories are set within a sequential analysis of provincial politics and economics, supplemented by chapters on women and the labour movement and on minority workers of colour and their quest for social justice.

Published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Alberta Federation of Labour, Working People in Alberta contrasts the stories of workers who were union members and those who were not. In its depictions of union organizing drives, strikes, and working-class life in cities and towns, this lavishly illustrated volume creates a composite portrait of the men and women who have worked to build and sustain the province of Alberta.

About the Editor

Alvin Finkel is professor of Canadian history at Athabasca University, where he has taught since 1978. Best known as the co-author (with Margaret Conrad) of the two-volume History of the Canadian Peoples, his main areas of research and teaching are the history of social policy, labour history, and Western Canadian history.



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Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 CA). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited.


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Select a Chapter

DownloadFront Matter

DownloadTable of Contents


DownloadIntroduction:Those Who Built Alberta
Alvin Finkel

Download1. Millennia of Native Work
Alvin Finkel

Download2. The Fur Trade and Early European Settlement
Alvin Finkel

Download3. One Step Forward: Alberta Workers 1885–1914
Jim Selby

Download4. War, Repression, and Depression, 1914–1939
Eric Strikwerda and Alvin Finkel

Download5. Alberta Labour and Working-Class Life, 1940–1959
James Muir

Download6. The Boomers Become the Workers: Alberta, 1960–1980
Alvin Finkel

Download7. Alberta Labour in the 1980s
Winston Gereluk

Download8. Revolution, Retrenchment, and the New Normal: The 1990s and Beyond
Jason Foster

Download9. Women, Labour, and the Labour Movement
Joan Schiebelbein

Download10. Racialization and Work
Jennifer Kelly and Dan Cui

DownloadConclusion: A History to Build Upon
Alvin Finkel






Working People in Alberta?sheds light on the western end of working-class Canada and situates Alberta workers in a national context.... Finkel and the eight other contributors cover the headline-grabbing events from this history, but also strive to include the often voiceless members of the working class using direct quotes from First Nations workers, immigrant workers (particularly Ukrainians), and women workers.”

—Ron Verzuh,?Labor Studies Journal?38.1, p. 80


“… Three chapters stand out. Joan Scheibelbein’s provided an easy-to-grasp general history of the role of women in the Alberta workplace over the past 100 years. Jennifer Kelly and Dan Cui’s discussion of minority workers broadened my knowledge of this forgotten sector. Finkel’s concluding chapter explains how Alberta suffers from the highest worker fatality rate in Canada even while its law remain consistently anti-labour”

Alberta Views


“Beautifully designed and illustrated, Working People in Alberta is a model of public history that meets the needs of labour activists and working people for an informed knowledge of provincial history. ... In times like these, history can be read with a purpose, and Working People in Alberta succeeds in achieving its goals. Union activists and their allies in all provinces will find this an instructive history, for this is a celebration not of any particular labour organization but of the vision of a more just distribution of our social and economic wealth that is shared by workers across Canada.”

—Review by David Frank, Our Times (Dec 2012/Jan 2013)


Union Power and?Working People in Alberta "provide an excellent look into the history of labour in Canada and how it has changed over time. Most notably each is an important addition to the struggle to keep labour history in the public eye."

—Joel Ralph,?Canada's History,?April-May?2013, p. 56