The Stratford & District Labour Council has endorsed the efforts of local heritage advocates to retain the former GTR repair shops on the Cooper site.
Following a recent presentation by members of the Stratford-Perth County branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO) and the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation, the council passed the following motion:
“To give our full support to the retention and rehabilitation of the GTR Repair Shops Building as a living legacy to each of the Stratford citizens who devoted their time and their trade in that very significant Heritage Building. That building formed the basis of all that was and is our wonderful city and should not be destroyed.”
According to council president, Kim Kent, the shops organized Canada's first machinists union in 1890.
“This union was only one of many at the shops," she notes, adding that, in 1920, the Federated Crafts was formed as an umbrella group for the various unions of car-men, boilermakers, blacksmiths, pipe fitters, machinists, sheet metal and electrical workers.
At one point as much as 40 per cent of Stratford's labour force worked on the site. Kent says the unions fought for better wages and working conditions for their members.
“The Stratford we know today was given to us by these dedicated men and women, union members, who spent their working lives in the shops and it is for that reason our council passed its motion," she adds.
News of the council's support was welcomed by Dean Robinson, a member of the heritage foundation’s GTR Heritage Site committee as well as the ACO.
“A few weeks ago we were successful in convincing Heritage Stratford (advisory committee) to undertake a review to identify the significant heritage aspects of the shops, and this is another step in our campaign to raise the profile of the GTR shops with the people of Stratford," he says.