ALHI Documentaries

In the voices of participants, this video documents the history of the United Nurses of Alberta from its founding in 1977 to the turn of the 21st century. That includes the series of strikes from 1977 to 1988 that empowered Alberta nurses both as professionals and workers. That empowerment led nurses to take a leading role in the struggle against privatization of health care in the 1990s and in favour of strengthening the public system.

Doug O’Halloran was president of UFCW Local 401 for three decades and focused on organizing the unorganized. He was permanently disabled as a result of a car chase that forced him into a ditch during a first-contract strike at Lakeside Packers.

ALHI and Build Together collaborated to collect stories of women in the skilled trades, and a video was produced for the 2019 conference of the Building Trades of Alberta. Build Together, Women of the Building Trades is a national program of the Canadian Building Trades Unions (CBTU). 

The video for the conference includes segments of interviews with the first woman cement finisher for the City of Calgary who is a member of LIUNA Construction and General Workers’ Union Local 92; a Red Seal journeyperson welder and proud member of Ironworkers Local 720; an apprentice in the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, Local 222 and an apprentice with the Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers, Local 110; a journeyperson welder, with a B-Pressure certificate, who is a member of UA Local 488; and a journeyperson electrician who is a member of IBEW Local 424. They speak of challenges and supportiveness, the importance of union solidarity and community, and their encouragement for women to choose working in the skilled trades.

1919: THE GREAT LABOUR REVOLT An international uprising of workers followed World War I. The best known Canadian manifestation was the Winnipeg General Strike. Less known is that Alberta workers joined the 1919 uprising against capitalist exploitation and economic instability with two general strikes (Edmonton and Calgary) and a shutdown of the province’s large coal-mining sector. This video uses the workers’ words to tell the story of why they chose to revolt and call for a different power structure in which workers’ needs would outweigh capitalists’ unlimited demands for profits. We hear from miners, telephone operators, packinghouse workers, nurses, housewives, and organizers of restaurant workers, among others, about what life was like for working people and how they envisioned taking matters into their own hands to change everything. The voices you hear in this video are voices of both professional actors and amateurs knowledgable about the communities they are representing. But the words are the documented statements of workers of 1919. The workers in the video are composite characters whose words come from testimonies before such organizations as the Mathers Commission, a federal royal commission in 1919 established to study the causes of worker unrest in Canada.

In “Walzing with the Angels,” Métis Ironworkers describe building Edmonton’s CN Tower.

Susan Keeley narrates the story of Calgary’s Labour Temple from its construction in 1912 through major events such as the On To Ottawa trek and the establishment of the municipal ambulance service.

Video prepared for the Alberta Federation of Labour centennial in 2012 about the Dandelions, an activist group from the 1980s. This video was produced by the Alberta Labour History Institute for the Alberta Federation of Labour documents the activities of a group of people demanding government action during the economic downturn of the 1980s.

Oral histories from the wave of Labour unrest that swept Alberta in 1986, culminating with the violent picket line confrontations during the Gainer’s meatpacking strike.

ALHI documentary featuring oral histories about the Celanese chemical plant in Ft. Saskatchewan, Alberta.

UNIONIZE TO SURVIVE is the story of a meat packing plant on 66th Street in Northeast Edmonton. Built by Swift Canada in 1908, the video traces working life in the plant until its closure in 1997. It highlights the role of the union in the workplace, culminating in the landmark 1986 Gainers strike.

The Hinton Asbestos Wildcat The Hinton paper mill has asbestos insulation throughout which workers have tried to clean up since the 80’s, but were stalled by the company. Finally over the July 1st weekend in 1997, they shut the plant down because they believed they were in “immanent danger” from the asbestos. Members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers 855 tell why they took this action and the way in which the harmful removal of the carcinogenic material benefited not only the workers, but the whole community of Hinton.

John Mitchell’s Coal Branch John Mitchell was born in Luscar, his wife was born in Mountain Park. Both of these towns in the foothills of the Rockies thrived with the coal mining industry during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1950s the mining companies bulldozed them. John Mitchell uses his collection of old photos to describe what was lost with these communities.

Lakeside Packers: the 2005 Strike The meat packing plant operated by Tyson in Brooks, Alberta is one of the largest in Canada. In the fall of 2005, the company forced a strike over the first contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers. Local 401 staff member Don Crisall was there with his video camera documenting the increasingly violent tactics of the company and the final victory by the union.

Lakeside Packers: the Organizing Drive After a strike in the summer of 1986, the union was de-certified at the meat packing plant in Brooks. This video documents the two decade long struggle of the UFCW to re-organize the plant. It shows how, in the end, the participation of the Sudanese community at the plant turned the tide for the union.

Susan Parcels Case – Video prepared for the Alberta Federation of Labour centennial in 2012 about the case fought to secure benefits for nurse Susan Parcels. Equal rights have always been a major concern for organized Labour. In 1989, Susan Parcels felt she was being discriminated against by her employer in Red Deer because of her pregnancy. She brought forward a legal action supported by the United Nurses of Alberta that demonstrates how the law can be used to improve conditions in the workplace.

Video prepared for the Alberta Federation of Labour centennial in 2012 about the Temporary Foreign Worker program in Alberta. Canada has always depended on migrant labour, and despite evidence to the contrary, has earned a reputation as a welcoming country, offering hope and opportunity to people all over the world who are willing to provide labour in return for a home. This changed drastically with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), an innocuous federal program that was expanded beyond recognition to meet a high demand for labour in lower skilled jobs. A range of people from AFL President Gil McGowan through the workers themselves describe the abuses of the program and labour’s efforts to create a better situation.