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Labour Activism





Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

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There should be in each mine-inside the mine-in every section or two sections a couple of blankets and an ambulance; I guess that's the proper name, put there in the box in case of accidents. A miner can go there and take the blankets and ambulance to support that fellow miner that has been hurt. It happened to me in Drumheller field last year, a man be shot and I asked the pit boss if he had no blankets. He said nothing doing. While the man was nearly dead and I had to go and take a board-was full of nails-and take the nails out and then carry him out on that board. That should be in the mine in case of accidents, and support men being hurt.6

What emerges is a grim picture of the appalling conditions in the mines and the exploitation of workers not only on the job (including "docking" their pay packets for "dirty" coal) but through poor company housing and "gouging" through the company shops. We know a little more about him from information provided by Enrico Butti in his oral history interview of 1982. According to Mr. Butti, "Joe" Centazzo lived in the Ross Flats from 1913-20. The kids said that he was a Bolshevik. He had a chicken farm in Beverly and he used to preach Bolshevism in broken English atop a crate at the Old Market Square where the Edmonton Public Library now stands. According to Mr. Butti it's said that, at his funeral, his coffin was draped with the Red Flag of the Revolution. He was clearly not alone in his sympathies because a 1937 City of Edmonton Archives photograph shows the Italian Workers League demonstrating in the May Day parade.


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