Frank Rogers, Wednesday 15 April 1903
Frank Rogers came to Vancouver in 1897 and quickly became a rising star in BC’s early union movement, helping to build the longshoremen’s, fishermen’s, and railway workers’ unions. His murder during a CPR strike in 1903 made him BC’s first labour martyr.
On 27 February 1903, CPR workers walked off the job to protest the firing of a clerk for organizing employees into the United Brotherhood of Railway Employees (UBRE). The CPR vowed to break the strike, and was prepared to spend a million dollars to do so. The steamship Yosemite was used to house strikebreakers and armed special constables were recruited by the CPR. Frank Rogers helped to organize longshoremen for a sympathy strike.
Rogers and two other labourers were walking down Cordova Street one night during the strike. When they got to Abbott Street they spotted some shadowy figures mulling around the waterfront and went to investigate.
A fight between strikers and strikebreakers had taken place there less than an hour earlier. It turned out a couple of scabs had lost a hat and umbrella in the kerfuffle and were returning to look for them with an armed escort from two special constables. When they saw Rogers and the other men coming, the two scabs ran to the Yosemite.
James McGregor, a strikebreaker brought in from Montreal, was in a nearby office shed and pulled his gun when he saw Rogers under the street light. The two specials fired into the darkness when they heard the gunfire. A bullet hit Frank Rogers in the stomach and he died in the hospital two days later.
One of the strikebreakers said that McGregor admitted to him that he had fired the fatal shot. During McGregor’s murder trial however, the witness changed his story and McGregor was acquitted for lack of evidence.
For the full story, see “Frank Rogers” by Janet Nicol