Growing up Union and Feminist – A Profile of Alice West

DSC_4776by Janet Nicol

Alice West was 16 when she began working in a plywood plant along the Fraser River in south Vancouver. It was 1942 and jobs had been opening up for women since war broke out and men were leaving to fight overseas. “We weren’t paid much compared to other jobs but we had our own money and freedom,” West remembers. “I wasn’t a schoolgirl anymore.” She and a few of her co-workers got the notion to organize a union at the plant, and they succeeded. West has been fighting for equality and fair treatment ever since.

Still active at age 87, West was given the Rosemary Brown Award for Women on June 7 at a luncheon in Vancouver. The award is given annually in memory of the late BC politician and feminist, Rosemary Brown. Her daughter, Cleta Brown, presented the award to West for her lifetime contributions to women in the labour movement.

I interviewed Alice West at her Burnaby home a few weeks later. West recalled her many history-making union battles–including the fight for equal pay and maternity leave.

Watch for the article in Our Times , on magazine stands this September, 2013.


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