Silby Barrett

Silby Barrett, labour leader (b at Bishop's Cove, Conception B, Nfld 27 Sept 1884; d at Toronto 9 Aug 1959). Barrett fished with his father and worked in the coal mines in Cape Breton and Ohio before settling in GLACE BAY in 1908.

Barrett, Silby

Silby Barrett, labour leader (b at Bishop's Cove, Conception B, Nfld 27 Sept 1884; d at Toronto 9 Aug 1959). Barrett fished with his father and worked in the coal mines in Cape Breton and Ohio before settling in GLACE BAY in 1908. He became president of the United Mine Workers of Nova Scotia in 1916 and of the Amalgamated Mine Workers of NS in 1917; when the miners affiliated as District 26, UMWA, in 1919, Barrett became international board member, a post he held repeatedly until 1942.

Despite his early reputation as a "red," Barrett soon became a staunch ally of international UMWA president John L. Lewis. When District 26 was suspended in 1923, Lewis appointed Barrett the district's provisional president, and in 1936 Lewis appointed Barrett Canadian director of the Steelworkers' Organizing Committee.

A founder of the CANADIAN CONGRESS OF LABOUR in 1940, Barrett was elected to the executive annually until 1955. Moving to Toronto in the 1940s, he became director of District 50, UMWA. A strong backer of the CCF, Barrett was famed in labour circles for his political shrewdness and salty wit: whatever he had to confess, he boasted, "I never cast a Liberal nor a Tory vote."