On July 27 of 1918, United Mine Workers labour organizer Albert "Ginger" Goodwin was shot by a hired private policeman outside Cumberland, British Columbia. His murder sparked Canada’s first General Strike .
‘GINGER’ KNEW WHAT SIDE HE WAS ON
Not a tall man – just over 5 feet, 6 inches. Frail. Suffering from lung disease – probably tuberculosis. His only distinguishing feature was his red hair.
Albert "Ginger" Goodwin didn’t look like much, but he had a towering moral presence. His short life was spent fighting for people who work hard for little reward – and it ended with a bullet and immortality as a labour martyr.
Goodwin was born in Teesdale, England on May 10, 1887. He was 15 – relatively old – when he started work in the Yorkshire coal mines. In 1906, he emigrated to Canada in search of a better life and found work in the Cape Breton coal mines.
In 1909, the miners went on strike. They lost. Black-listed and broke, Goodwin moved to Cumberland on Vancouver Island. Again he worked in the coal mines. He was active in the strike of 1912-1914. Again the strike was lost and again he was blacklisted.
After brief jobs in Merritt and Fernie, Goodwin began work in the Trail smelter in 1916. He was soon elected secretary of his local and vice-president of the B.C. Federation of Labour.
In 1917 he led another unsuccessful strike – this time for a universal eight-hour workday among smelter workers. But his leadership of the strike and his outspoken opposition to the 1914-18 war had brought him to the attention of the authorities.
Despite his lung problems, his conscription status was changed from "unfit" to "fit for service in an overseas fighting unit." The reclassification amounted to a death sentence.
Goodwin went into hiding in the bush near Cumberland. With the help of townspeople, he evaded the authorities until July 27, 1918, when he was tracked down and murdered by the Mounties. Workers in Vancouver marked Goodwin’s funeral on Aug. 2 with B.C.’s first general strike.
His remains are buried in the Cumberland cemetery: nearby, a section of the Island Highway has been named "Ginger Goodwin Way." He won’t be forgotten.
CEIU B.C. Ginger/CALM