Mine Mill: The History of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers in Canada Since 1895
Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.
Mike Solski is a former executive of Mine Mill. John Smaller was a public relations man with the union. Both are now retired.
The work they have compiled is predictably one-sided and self-justifying; some readers, especially those affiliated with rival unions or with government, or those with little innate sympathy for the labour movement, will find the stridency with which it is written tiresome and offensive. There is also a credibility gap, especially in the sections where a defence is mounted against allegations of excessive Communist influence within the union. These caveats aside, however, this is in many ways a fascinating and (used with some caution) a valuable book. This is particularly true since it deals with a union that, both geographically and literally, is outside the mainstream of the Canadian labour movement but one that has wielded an extraordinary amount of influence in the resource extraction industries of the west and northern Ontario. There is also a very valuable, though perhaps overly long, synopsis of the American and Canadian industrial unionism out of which Mine Mill was born.
The format is rather unusual but perhaps reflects the intended primary audience — the membership itself. Rather than a cohesive narrative, there are newspaper-like vignettes of varying length interspersed with biographical sketches of the principal players. It is a format with great potential for disaster but one that, in this instance, works well. The work is amply illustrated and, while there are the predictable photographs of anonymous committees that should have stayed that way, the overall selection and placement is to be commended. This is certainly a book well worth the attention of those interested in Canadian labour history.