On the Line: Struggles of Alberta’s Packing Plant Workers

On the Line: Struggles of Alberta’s Packing Plant Workers (Download PDF) was provided for the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) by Edmonton authors and historians, Allan Chambers and Linda Goyette. This booklet will provide readers for many years to come with a realistic account of labour’s past in the industrial areas of Alberta’s cities, particularly in Edmonton’s north end, where meatpacking plants once dominated the skyline.

It begins with stories about the old Packingtowns that used to exist in Alberta’s major cities. The battles for labour recognition and decent contracts in those plants have become part of Alberta labour legend, and echo through more recent struggles that took place when meatpacking companies took their plants to rural Alberta, hoping to find a more compliant, non-union workforce. As we all know, they were disappointed. Meatpacking is hard and dangerous work, made more so when management tries to squeeze even more profits out of their plants by mechanizing and speeding up the process. It closes with a blow-by-blow account of the strike at Lakeside Packers in 2005, in which workers (many new Canadians) withstood threats, violence and goonery of unprecedented levels to win a first contract from American food giant Tyson.