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Locally-penned book chronicles union story

A book launch was held earlier this week at the Red Deer Public Library to mark the release of Wall-to-Wall, a commemorative book marking the start of a local newspaper union 20 years ago.

The Media and Communications Workers of Alberta Local 30400, representing employees at the Red Deer Advocate, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year of achieving its first wall-to-wall collective agreement. The book also has a compelling historical emphasis exploring the roots of the union in general.

In honour of this key event, Local 30400 has published a book – authored and produced by Red Deer writers Johnnie Bachusky and Jack Wilson, Calgary writer Danielle Erin Wilson and Innisfail graphic designer Karen Fagan.

Wall-to-Wall: Alberta’s Print and Publishing Workers’ Momentous 110-year Journey – details the evolution of the Local from its roots in Calgary as ITU Local 449 to the present, under the umbrella of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), North America’s largest communication union.

Wilson said the concept for the book surfaced about seven years ago, but production on the project began three years ago. Danielle, Jack’s daughter, started work on the book, which involved interviews and extensive archival research in Calgary — about 18 months ago, he said.

He later approached Bachusky, who has a passion for historical subjects in general, about coming onboard. Bachusky took on writing and research duties as well, along with the role of editor of the volume. “Johnnie really got into it. He put his whole heart and soul into this,” said Jack. Next up, the team hired local graphic artist Fagan and the highly anticipated project continued to take shape.

The finished product is a polished and attractive volume, packed with recollections, stories and vivid portrayals of those who worked to bring the local union into existence. A generous supply of photos, archival and contemporary, also serve to feature various aspects of the union’s evolution, and richly add to the text.

“We also wanted to finish the book to coincide with the 100-year history of the Alberta Federation of Labour. Their celebration is this coming weekend in Calgary,” said Jack.

For Bachusky, the project proved a fascinating experience of learning about the overall history of the local union but also of discovering much about the lives of those involved in its history.

“The more I started getting involved in it, the more I began to feel very passionate about it,” he said. “The history here is absolutely fascinating — to learn about the sacrifices so many people made to get better working conditions, fairness and gender equality.”

Bachusky also pointed out that the union at the Red Deer Advocate was the first union in North American newspaper history that went ‘wall to wall’, where every department is unionized. That’s very important for the labour movement in North America, he said.

“It set a precedent for so many newspaper unions across North America and beyond. We have really important classic history right here in Red Deer.

“I think this is a celebration both for the Red Deer Advocate and the labour movement.”

For more information about the book, or to purchase a copy, contact Jack Wilson at 403-396-9116.

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