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Dateline Cowichan 1936: Labour forces start to come together

Paldi founder Mayo Singh celebrates 25 years in Canada by posing for this family portrait with his wife and four children, including his son, Rajindi Singh Mayo.   - courtesy Joan Mayo
Paldi founder Mayo Singh celebrates 25 years in Canada by posing for this family portrait with his wife and four children, including his son, Rajindi Singh Mayo.
— image credit: courtesy Joan Mayo

The early decades of the 20th century saw working men and women come together in large groups to give them a voice in workplace conditions, wages and benefits.

And so it was in Cowichan when in June 1936, Local 2782 of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union was formed during a strike at Lake Cowichan. The local extended from Nanaimo to Victoria, and included the island’s west coast north to Port Renfrew and the Gulf Islands. It was estimated that 4,800 men were employed in the area. Secretary-treasurer was J. C. Bailey.

The union was moving to sign up all lumber employees in the region. Emphasis was placed upon a clause in the application form that organizers hoped would eliminate opposition to the union because of foreign domination. It read:

“It is agreed by the signing of this application that after seven years from date you shall possess citizenship papers; otherwise you shall be dropped from the roll of the organization.”

The local was under the B. C. District Coast Council, Vancouver, which was affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners headquartered in Glasgow Scotland. Organizers said the coast charter was received through the American Federation of Labour.

1936: post offices

Mayo Singh gave the name Paldi to a new post office to serve the 300 men who worked at his mill. He chose the name in honour of his native village in the Punjab, India. The post office in the community formerly known as Mayo was the valley’s 12th.

1936: social clubs

Mrs. R. Beech and Mrs. O. Olson were among the organizers of a dance by the women’s Auxiliary of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union, Lake Cowichan, in aid of a fund to establish a social club for lumber workers at the lake-foot.

1936: barn dances

A barn dance in Evans’ barn attracted nearly 150 people. The sets were called by Pat Weaver, Mr. Dave Murray was floor manager and Mrs. A. Malbon in charge of refreshments. Woodward’s four-piece orchestra supplied the music.

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