The Labor Statesman: A Greater Destiny

Published by BC Labour Heritage Centre on

The first edition of The Labor Statesman hit the streets in Vancouver, B.C. on April 25, 1924.  It would publish continuously for 45 years, ceasing publication in 1969.

The Labor Statesman1, owned by the Vancouver, New Westminster and District Trades and Labor Council (VTLC), cost five cents to purchase, or 20-week subscriptions could be had for one dollar.

In the first issue April 25, 1924—a hefty 12 pages—the newspaper explained that the executive of the VTLC had been impressed by the “lusty literary infant”, LONGSHOREMEN’S STRIKE BULLETIN, published by the Union just a few months prior. So impressed, in fact, the Labor Council executive decided on a newspaper of their own with the goal of building “industrial and political unity,” “a higher standard of living,” and “a greater destiny.” A Press Committee made up of a typographer, two carpenters, a railwayman and a piledriver set to work.

“This journal will aim to be a medium for news and views of the movement, will attempt to make its editorials advisory and critical, in the hope that healthy discussion among the workers of this city may develop.”

“It is a paper of the wage-earner, designed to deal with his problems as they affect him from day to day.”

“This journal makes no great pretensions to literary style…if the language used can be understood by those for whose consumption it is intended…then our object will have been achieved and we will rest satisfied.”

In April, 1924 there were signs of a coming general election in B.C.; The Statesman was skeptical.

“All the old tricks, and probably one or two new ones, will be made up for the purpose of leading the great majority of the population, to wit, the working section, not into the promised land, but into the land of promises.”

While many articles were national in focus, The Labor Statesman also included labour news from Britain and the United States. The local coverage is both intriguing and humourous today, some 100 years later.

“The Musicians Union in this city is 99 percent organized. The one percent is being chased out of the city.”

“Two non-union dairies were recently fined for selling dirty milk. But the consumers who were probably half poisoned with the dirty milk were not reimbursed.”

“The Carpenters complain that union-made overalls are hard to get in this city.”

With more newspapers published by unions and other organizations now digitized, the opportunity to spend many hours reading and learning about the labour history of the time deepens. Browsers have the fascinating opportunity to compare coverage between the various publications of the left, right and mainstream media on labour events of the past.

We gratefully recognize CUPE Metropolitan Vancouver District Council for their financial support of the digitization of The Labor Statesman.

Browse The Labor Statesman

Find more union newspapers online

  1. For many decades Canada used the American spelling ‘labor’. It was not until after the Second World War, and the rise of Canadian unionism, that ‘labour’ became preferred.[]