BCLHC January 2021 Newsletter

 In News

1938 Musical Revue Thrills Vancouver Audience

‘Pins and Needles’ featured New York garment workers

In September 1938, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) brought their theatrical musical hit “Pins and Needles” to Vancouver where it played to rave reviews.

The cast were all ILGWU members from New York garment factories, or as The Province newspaper reviewer called them “just plain, simple, common, ordinary everyday men and women who work hard for their living.” Read more.


Podcast Episode 4

The Vancouver Island Coal Strike

Our latest podcast episode of “On The Line: Stories of BC Workers” is brimming with labour music. You will hear “Bowser’s Seventy ‘Twa”, “Nanaimo Jail”, “Baching in a Boathouse” and “Are You From Bevan?”, along with archived voices of the men and women who were there in 1912-1914. Listen up!


Early Chinese Worker Militancy in BC

The Fall 2020 issue of Our Times Magazine includes a brilliant essay by Winnie Ng, part of her project to bring to light some long-buried labour struggles that few historians have written about. “Early Chinese Worker Militancy in BC” aims to dispel stereotypes of Chinese people as docile strike-breakers.  The work explores Chinese-language source materials — both scholarly work and community publications including the longest-running Chinese Canadian daily newspaper, the Chinese Times (Tai Hon Kong Bo), which served the Vancouver community from 1914 to 1992.
Read here.

Images from COVID Chronicles: BC Labour’s Story

Since last summer, we have been collecting stories, images and interviews about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected BC workers and their unions. You can listen to some of the interviews on our website, complete a survey to tell us your story or send us artifacts for our archive. We are extremely grateful when photographer Joshua Berson offered to collect some amazing photos for us, some of which we are sharing here. Other images have been contributed by individuals and unions; if you have any to share please email us


Farewell to BC labour Comrades

Since our last newsletter, we have lost two notable members of the labour community in British Columbia. Bill King championed employment reform in the 1970s as the NDP’s first Minister of Labour.

Last week, Gord Larkin, long-time representative of the Canadian Labour Congress and musical troubadour to countless rallies, conventions and the CLC Winter School passed away.

We send our condolences to families, friends and fellow travellers.

Canadian Labour Congress rep Gordie Larkin performs onstage as IWA Canada members rally outside Canadian Window Coverings after learning the firm was leaving B.C. The company had a history of union busting; its 120 mainly women workers had certified with the union the previous February. Pacific Tribune Photograph Collection/SFU


Gordie Larkin is best known for musical contributions at the CLC Winter School and his countless hours volunteering for the BC Fed Labour Dinner. May he rest in power. Gordie was a proud ally of the ILWU and a member of Unifor.


Below is an excerpt from the Burnaby Now


 By: Dustin Godfrey

A stalwart in the labour movement and former Burnaby Citizens Association president, Gordie Larkin, is being mourned by friends and colleagues after dying of COVID-19 at age 78.

In an interview, Coun. Colleen Jordan said she knew Larkin for about 40 years, and he would be remembered fondly throughout Canada for his political work with various provincial and federal NDP candidates.

“It wasn’t just his job. It was his total life,” Jordan said, adding that Larkin, raised in East Vancouver, was a Burnaby resident “for as long as I can remember.”

Larkin got his start in the labour movement through his work in the fishing industry, getting involved in the fisherman’s union, which ultimately became part of Unifor. He then went on to work with the Canadian Labour Congress and was active with the United Way through the CLC.

“(There are) people all across the country that are going to be in shock today because, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, there’s hundreds and hundreds of people who knew him. It’s a pretty sad day for a lot of folks,” Jordan said.

Jordan said Larkin died of COVID two months to the day after he started feeling the effects. He had been at home for the first month or so before winding up in the hospital. He ended up in intensive care for the last two weeks. He appeared to have “turned the corner” and improved before “taking a bad turn” Wednesday night and dying.

“What a devastating bloody disease,” Jordan said. “He put up a good fight, but he didn’t win the battle.”

Larkin was also well-known for his music, as NDP Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims noted on Twitter.

“An amazing activist. Brought his music to the labour movement. Gordie Larkin leaves a legacy,” Sims said.

Jordan called Larkin a “troubadour” for the labour movement, even though he was teased for only playing a couple of chords on the guitar.

“He wrote songs for people when they retired or there was a special celebration for them, and he would write songs for them, and people treasured those,” Jordan said. “Now I don’t know who’s going to play for him because we lost our main … troubadour.”

In a statement to the NOW, Mayor Mike Hurley said he knew Larkin through the labour movement, and he “certainly was very well-known in Burnaby” and “a well-liked character within labour.”

“It’s very sad news, and certainly I pass along my deepest condolences to Gordie’s wife, Barb, and to his family and many friends,” Hurley said.


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