‘Enough hot air, we want fresh air’: How a wildcat miners’ strike helped change Ontario labour law – by Jamie Bradburn (TVO Today – April 18, 2024)


Fifty years ago, uranium miners in Elliot Lake hit the picket line, triggering a series of events that led to protections for all workers in the province

“Silicosis is an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death. Silicosis is the result of the body’s response to the presence of silica particles in the lung. Silica particles are very small in size and can reach deep into the lungs (into the alveoli), where they are removed by white blood cells.

Free crystalline silica causes the white blood cells to break open, which forms scar-like patches on the surface of the alveolus. When a large number of these “scars” form, the alveolar surfaces become less elastic. Over time, this damage reduces the transfer of gases, which can lead to shortness of breath.” — Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website

As an increasing number of uranium miners in Elliot Lake were diagnosed with silicosis, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses during the early 1970s, workers, union officials, and politicians called for improvements to health and safety processes. Frustration over government inaction boiled over into a two-week wildcat strike at Denison Mines 50 years ago, triggering a series of events that led to protections for all workers in Ontario.

Elliot Lake was a Cold War boom town; its mines supplied the United States with most of its uranium-oxide needs. By 1959, it boasted more than a dozen mines and 25,000 residents. At its peak, the town produced nearly 75 per cent of Canada’s uranium supply. With this growth came questionable health and safety standards, which mining companies set aside inadequate funding for.

For the rest of this article: https://www.tvo.org/article/enough-hot-air-we-want-fresh-air-how-a-wildcat-miners-strike-helped-change-ontario-labour-law