On Tuesday, May 1, you can sit down to a plate of bean , coleslaw and cornbread with the Honourable Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, at the 20th Cumberland May Day Bean Dinner, held annually to remember the ‘Big Strike’ of 1912-14. The dinner, which will be held in the Cumberland Cultural Centre, will celebrate the resiliency and pride of the Cumberland coal miners and their families.
Imagine, if you can, being on strike for almost two years, being thrown out of your home and having to camp in tents though two winters. Seeing your town occupied by the police and militia as the company brings in strikebreakers to take your job. Seeing your children go hungry as the Government of the day, which had the power to resolve the strike, merely sends a boxcar full of beans. Yet you and your community still fought on and only the coming of the First World War led to the end of the strike. All because the company wanted to ignore the work of the gas committees in ensuring the mine was free of explosive methane and other dangerous gases.
It is fitting that the Minister of Labour, the Hon. Harry Bains, who is responsible for WorkSafeBC, will be the keynote speaker. Minister Bains , who has represented the constituency of Surrey-Newton for the past 13 years, is a former vice president of Steelworkers IWA Local 2171. The Minister’s portfolio also includes the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Board.
To add to the quality of the evening, Cumberland’s favourite son, Gord Carter, will be on hand to sing a few of his tunes.
For the third year in a row there will be a May Day parade up Dunsmuir Avenue just prior to the dinner.
The Cumberland May Day Bean Dinner is a joint undertaking of the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council and the Cumberland Museum and Archives. All funds raised will go toward a labour history project at the Museum.
Tickets are $20 and available at the Cumberland Museum, and Laughing Oyster Bookstore in Courtenay. Tickets can also be reserved by phoning the Museum at 250-336-2445. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.Brian Charlton