Canada has a long history of labour unions and defending the rights and safety of workers. Unions made their first appearance in the Red Lake mining industry in the 1950's. Three of Red Lake's mines organized under the banners of two international unions. The largest of these unions was the United Steelworkers of America (United Steelworkers) that represented hourly workers at Dickenson Mines, the Griffith Mine and Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines. Before the United Steelworkers, the miners at Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines' were organized by the International Union of Mine Mill and Smelters Workers (Mill and Smelters Workers). In 1962, the workers of Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines voted to change unions. Madsen Red Lake Gold Mines than became a local chapter of the United Steelworkers until its closure in 1976. Campbell Red Lake Mines and Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines were the only major Red Lake mines not to be unionized.
While there have been several strikes in Red Lake’s history, none of them had the impact of the 1996 Goldcorp strike. In June 1996, the United Steelworkers’ Local 950 voted to strike after refusing the terms of the newly rewritten collective agreement with Goldcorp. The main issues were job security, health and safety and hours. In the early morning hours of June 23, 1996, union members walked off the job.
No one expected the strike to last as long as it did, but negotiations proved difficult. Throughout the almost four year strike, the Red Lake Mine (formerly Dickenson Mines) ceased production for the first time since 1948. During the strike, Goldcorp modernized the mine, expanded their exploration program and Goldcorp CEO Rob McEwen even received a death threat. The strike finally broke on April 21, 2000. Union members accepted a settlement that would give stock options to all of the strikers. The deal also included Goldcorp rehiring 45 union members when the mine reopened.
Knowing the strike severely damaged the working relationship with Goldcorp's management, the United Steelworkers left the mine in an unprecedented move. Before this, the United Steelworkers only left an organized mine when it closed. This departure marked the end of unionized mining in Red Lake.
Goldcorp Strike of 1996
From the News Room...