St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes says any library celebrations involving recognition of contributions from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie should recognize he was an anti-union employer.
Mayes, chairman of the city’s protection and community services committee which oversees the public library, said Carnegie is recognized the world over for his support of the modern public library system.
What’s little known, Mayes said, is Carnegie’s treatment of organized labour.
"Carnegie was an anti-union employer whose factories had a 12-hour workday," Mayes said, adding that while Carnegie gave his employees every other Sunday off, they also had to work 24 hours every other Sunday to get it.
Carnegie funded the construction of libraries across North America, including the Cornish and St. John’s branches in Winnipeg.
The public library will be marking the 100th anniversary of the two branches in 2015, including Carnegie’s donation that got them built.
Carnegie helped build the U.S. steel industry in the late 1800s but he was also a union-buster. After he sold his steel interests, Carnegie used his wealth to promote education and library construction.
However, he was despised by union activists who saw him building a legacy on the backs of the working poor he had brutalized in his factories.
Mayes, a former labour lawyer before getting elected to council, told a civic committee Monday that many cities, including Saskatoon, refused Carnegie’s donations because of his relationship with employees.