Labour organizer honoured

Apr 08, 2003,
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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On April 13, SFU's centre for labour studies will lay a wreath at the grave of Vancouver labour organizer Frank Rogers to mark the 100th anniversary of his murder by anti-unionists.

"Remembering Frank Rogers reminds us that the rights and freedoms we have enjoyed were not given to us," says centre director and labour history professor Mark Leier (left). "They were fought for, and continue to be fought for today in B.C. and around the world. Marking Rogers' murder is a way of appreciating that sacrifice, and of reflecting on the struggles we face today."

Rogers was a prominent labour activist who led the Fraser river salmon strike of 1900-1901. That strike marked the first time Caucasian and Asian workers fought together for better conditions. Further, the strike proved that a group of workers many thought could not be organized could, in fact, form a union.

In 1903, Rogers supported the United Brotherhood of Railroad Employees (UBRE) in the strike that resulted from the Canadian Pacific Railways' refusal to recognize the union. Late on April 13, Rogers visited the UBRE picket line at the foot of Abbott Street to protest abuses by CPR strikebreakers, and was subsequently shot and mortally wounded. A strikebreaker and CPR special policeman were arrested for Rogers' murder, but the policeman was never charged, and the strikebreaker, defended by a CPR lawyer, was found not guilty.

Although Rogers' funeral attracted many labour supporters, his grave remained unmarked until the 1980s. The memorial tribute, co-sponsored by the centre and the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association, will include an address by B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. The service will be held graveside at the Horne Block Mountain View cementery, near 33rd Ave. and Fraser Street in Vancouver, at 1:30 p.m. All are welcome. For more information, or to arrange to lay a wreath, contact Tessa Wright at 604-291-3446 or tessa

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