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"They Didn't Starve Us Out": Industrial Cape Breton in the 1920s

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For 200 years, coal mining had been a way of life--and death--in Cape Breton. By 1920 things were looking up: miners were unionized and paid decent wages. Then the British Empire Steel Corporation arrived and bought every single steel and coal company in Nova Scotia. BESCO also owned stores, houses and land. Then the company cut wages by a third--setting off a bitter labour dispute. The miners tightened their belts and settled in for a long strike. Company stores were looted and burned, and finally in 1925 the military ended the unrest with brute force. But the miners, in an important sense, had won. They broke up the monopoly and provided an example to workers across the country.

1991, 21 min 04 s