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[book cover] Provincial Solidarities


About the Book

Established in 1913, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour is the second oldest provincial federation of labour in Canada. Its history began in early campaigns for workers’ compensation and union recognition and continues today in the latest battles to defend social standards, secure employment, and union rights. Active initially in the port city of Saint John and the railway centre of Moncton, the federation soon expanded to include workers in the mines and mills of the north, taking up the causes of public employees and women workers and confronting the realities of life and work in a bilingual society.

A pioneering study, written in clear and forceful prose, this is the untold story of provincial labour solidarities that succeeded in overcoming divisions and defeats to raise the status of working men and women within New Brunswick society. Drawing on archives, newspapers, and workers’ own descriptions of their experiences, Frank makes an original contribution to our understanding of the political, economic, and social development of the province. In so doing, he helps meet the need for an informed public awareness of the history of workers and unions in all parts of Canada.


About the Authors

David Frank teaches Canadian history at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. A former editor of the journal of Atlantic regional history, Acadiensis, he has published numerous studies in Canadian history, including Labour Landmarks in New Brunswick / Lieux historiques ouvriers au Nouveau-Brunswick (with Nicole Lang). His classic study of Cape Breton coal miners, J. B. McLachlan: A Biography, received several historical and literary awards, including the Dartmouth Book Award (Non-Fiction) and the John W. Dafoe Book Prize.



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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.


Download the entire book

Select a Chapter

DownloadFront Matter

DownloadTable of Contents

DownloadList of Abbreviations


DownloadIntroduction "Makers of History"

Download1. "An Accomplished Fact" 1913–1929

16 September 1913

Before the War

Workers’ Compensation


Broader Horizons

“No Short Cut”

Download2. "What We Were Promised" 1930–1939

“The Prevention of Unemployment”

A New Politics?

The Right to a Union

Miramichi and Minto

The Labour and Industrial Relations Act

Ending the Depression

Download3. "A Province Fit for Heroes" 1940–1956

Defending Democracy

“A Blue-Print of Peace”

Industrial Unionism

Industrial Legality

Power and Politics

House of Labour

Download4. "The New Unionism" 1957–1975

Equal Opportunities

Whitebone vs. MacLeod

New Members

Public Employees

Development and Underdevelopment

Looking Forward

Download5. "On the Line" 1976–1997

Days of Protest

Moderates and Militants

Strengthening Participation

Plan of Action

McKenna vs. the Unions

“Make It Fair”

DownloadEpilogue. "Honour the Past. Build the Future"

DownloadAppendix: Membership in the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, 1913–2011




“Frank convincingly demonstrates that the Federation’s influence rested on the necessary, ongoing task of building and rebuilding solidarity among workers and working-class organizations. . . . Provincial Solidarities demonstrates that the labour movement’s achievements have come from sustained collective action. As labour’s accomplishments continue to come under heavy attack, Frank has made an important contribution: he shows how the past teaches us the critical importance of solidarity in tackling the challenges facing working people today.”

Canadian Historical Review


“One of this book's strengths, quite apart from its thoroughness and research, is the way it has succeeded in contextualizing this umbrella organization into the fabric of social history, so we can see both the changing issues with each passing era, and the themes that continually recur.”

Atlantic Books Today


“David Frank offers a wide compendium of federation struggles to improve labor laws in this Atlantic Canada province. Of particular importance were the many attempts to address workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation. What broadens the scope of this history, however, is Frank’s attention to the role of women and minorities who worked to build the federation and to fight the hard fights that are part of New Brunswick labor’s history. This veteran labor historian displays an insightful ability to address the strong points in that history and to resist avoiding the flaws.”

Labor Studies Journal


“Frank makes it apparent that the federation has always struggled to secure its footing in a province where full-time, permanent employment has long been a contentious issue. As such, it had, of necessity, to swing between pragmatism and a more militant orientation. Nevertheless, Provincial Solidarities demonstrates that the workers of the province took their responsibilities seriously as concerned and conscientious citizens, most notably with respect to the economic and environmental health of New Brunswick. The book, an important one for New Brunswick, will be of interest to historians, sociologists, and political scientists, and it is well suited for undergraduate courses on labour, economic, and political issues. That the book was released in the province’s two official languages makes it doubly significant for the people whose history it recounts.”

Journal of New Brunswick Studies, complete review available here


“Both instructive and engaging,?Provincial Solidarities?is a welcome addition to the field, where all too often the experiences of Atlantic Canadian workers take a backseat to those in the industrial heartland, or to the so-called “radicals” of Western Canada.”

British Journal of Canadian Studies


“Frank’s portrait of the federation is sympathetic and positive, but it is no mere celebration of past achievements. The book offers a carefully reasoned reminder of the contribution of unions and their central organizations.?The provincial context necessarily takes priority, but readers are given the opportunity to observe where the New Brunswick story resembles and differs from patterns in other provinces. We are left wishing for similar historical accounts of other provincial federations and the labour histories they reflect.”

University of Toronto Quarterly