Lou Broten (1914-2013)


Year: 2001
Location: Edmonton
Profile: Lou Broten was born in North Dakota and moved to a Saskatchewan homestead with his parents in 1917. In 1931 he homesteaded in northern Saskatchewan but was forced to seek scarce urban work because of Depression conditions. In 1941 he moved to Edmonton and worked at Edmonton Motors as a mechanic before joining the stores department at CN in Hanna. That made him a member of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen (CBRT). Joining the armed forces in 1942, he served in anti-aircraft warfare before returning to CN at war’s end. He became a locomotive engineer, a position he held with CN until his retirement in 1978. President of the Edmonton local of the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen for many years, Broten also served as a Canadian representative for 19 years on the union’s Board of Directors. The Board heard appeals from members of decisions made by the elected international officers. Broten’s interview includes an account of a strike over the CN’s elimination of firemen, one of many occupational health and safety issues that his union tackled. He also deals with the “colour line” issue (exclusion of Blacks) within his union.
Keywords:  Anti-aircraft warfare; Canadian National Railways (CNR); Great Depression; Homesteading; International Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen; Locomotive engineer; Mechanic; Railway Firemen; Railway Work—occupational dangers.
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See also: Health & Safety; Systemic Racism