Arthur "Slim" Evans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named Arthur Evans, see Arthur Evans (disambiguation).
Arthur "Slim" Evans, c. 1911.

Arthur Herbert "Slim" Evans (April 24, 1890 - February 13, 1944) was a leader in the industrial labor union movement in Canada and the United States.

Early life[edit]

Born in Toronto, Evans travelled west in 1911 and worked in various places, first as a farmer, then a carpenter. In Minneapolis he became involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, (IWW, or "Wobblies"). He was present at the 1913 miners' strike in Ludlow, Colorado. Two days after Evans arrived, he was shot by strikebreakers hired by John D. Rockefeller, one of the big coal company owners, during what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. [1] Evans walked with a limp for the rest of his life as a result.[2]

Evans returned to Canada and continued his union activism. He was the leader of the One Big Union local of coal miners in Drumheller, Alberta, where he was sentenced to a three-year prison term for leading a strike. In 1933 he was sentenced again to 18 months for his role leading miners, this time in Princeton, British Columbia. Evans, along with other former wobblies, became a member of the Communist Party of Canada after it formed in 1921.[3]

Relief camp strike[edit]

Perhaps his greatest notoriety came in 1935 when, as leader of the Communist Party's trade union umbrella, the Workers' Unity League, Evans led the On-to-Ottawa Trek. Communist activists organized workers in the government relief camps into the Relief Camp Workers' Union. Relief camp workers struck on April 4, 1935 when they went to Vancouver, where they stayed and pressed their demands until the Trek began on June 3. The first batch of strikers left Vancouver, riding on boxcars, and were joined by many others in Kamloops, Field, Golden, Calgary and Moose Jaw. By the time they reached Regina, Saskatchewan their numbers had climbed to over 2,000. Evans led a delegation to go ahead of the strikers and meet with the prime minister, R. B. "Iron Heel" Bennett. The two leaders engaged in a heated exchange, when Bennett accused Evans of being an embezzler. Evans' response received much publicity:

You are a liar. I was arrested for fraudulently converting these funds to feed the starving, instead of sending them to the agents at Indianapolis, and I again say you are a liar if you say I embezzled, and I will have the pleasure of telling the workers throughout Canada that I was forced to tell the premier of Canada he was a liar. Don't think you can pull off anything like that. You are not intimidating me a damned bit.[4]

The meeting accomplished little more than to illustrate the intransigence of the government and the determination of the strikers, and the delegation left Ottawa to rejoin the strikers in Regina. Evans and other Trek leaders were arrested at a large demonstration of strikers and supporters on July 1, 1935, (Dominion Day, or Canada day, as it is now called), which precipitated the Regina Riot. The federal government had decided that the Trek would be forcibly stopped in Regina because of fears that it would gain momentum if allowed to reach Winnipeg that could turn it from a protest into a revolutionary movement.[citation needed]

Evans was charged under Section 98, the section of the Criminal Code, which had been added in the aftermath of the Winnipeg General Strike outlawing membership in revolutionary organizations. An exhaustive government inquiry was held into causes of the riot, and its conclusions paved the way for reforming the relief camp system. This outcome and the overwhelming defeat of R. B. Bennett are two indicators that the strike was a success, even though the Trek was crushed.[citation needed]

Evans continued his union activism, organizing the miners and smelter workers in Trail, British Columbia into the CIO union, Mine, Mill, and Smelters Union. He also led fundraising drives for the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, the volunteer contingent from Canada that fought the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. His last union position was as the shop steward at the Vancouver Shipyards.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

He died in Vancouver on February 13, 1944, aged 53, after being hit by a car.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jean Evans Sheils and Ben Swankey, "Work and Wages"! A Semi-Documentary Account of the Life and Times of Arthur H. (Slim) Evans . Vancouver: Trade Union Research Bureau, 1977, 10.
  2. ^ Jean Evans Sheils and Ben Swankey, "Work and Wages"! A Semi-Documentary Account of the Life and Times of Arthur H. (Slim) Evans . Vancouver: Trade Union Research Bureau, 1977, 6.
  3. ^ Jean Evans Sheils and Ben Swankey, "Work and Wages"! A Semi-Documentary Account of the Life and Times of Arthur H. (Slim) Evans . Vancouver: Trade Union Research Bureau, 1977, 32.
  4. ^ Ronald Liversedge, Recollections of the On-to-Ottawa Trek, ed. Victor Hoar, Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1973, 210-11.
  5. ^ Waiser, Bill (2003). All Hell Can't Stop Us: The On-to-Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. Calgary: Fifth House. p. 273. 

Sources[edit]

  • John Stanton, Never Say Die!: The Life and Times of a Pioneer Labour Lawyer, Vancouver, Steel Rail Publishing, 1987.
  • Jean Evans Sheils and Ben Swankey, "Work and Wages"! A Semi-Documentary Account of the Life and Times of Arthur H. (Slim) Evans. Vancouver: Trade Union Research Bureau, 1977.
  • Bill Waiser, All Hell Can't Stop Us: The On-to-Ottawa Trek and Regina Riot. Calgary: Fifth House, 2003.