Mine union shifts attention to their next project

Now that the restoration of the Coal Car monument at the intersection of Souris Avenue South and Fourth Street is complete, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 7606 has turned their attention to their next project.

The union wants to refurbish the tombstone in the Bienfait cemetery, at the gravesite of the three miners who died in the Estevan Riot on Sept. 29, 1931.

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Dave Dukart with the local union, who headed up the coal car project, said the gravesite is a huge plot, since it has the graves of the three men who died: Julian Gryshko, Peter Markunas and Nick Nargan.

“It’s a great big cement monument … and the cement is flaking. It’s been painted over the years, but it hasn’t been painted since about 1996 or 1997, in that area, so it’s well past it’s time to have some upgrading done to it,” said Dukart.

A plaque, which was installed in honour of the 65th anniversary of the riot, is located at the site with a plastic covering that it is getting hard to read, he said. The plaque offers background on the labour strife that led to the riot.

There is also a wrought-iron railing around the gravesite itself that is made of metal, and it’s flaking as well, Dukart said. 

Next year also marks the 90th anniversary of the riot, so UMWA hopes to get some people to step forward for a ceremony to commemorate the milestone. Dignitaries and union leaders would be invited.

“These people lost their lives trying to organize a union for better working conditions and better living conditions back in the day. So hopefully we’ll get something going. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time to organize something like that.”

Dukart is confident that the members would be able to fund the cost of the project. Everything is already there, so it will just take some paint, concrete work and elbow grease to get the area back into good shape.

It shouldn’t be as big of a project as the coal car refurbishment, which was finished earlier this year. The coal car, which also honours the victims of the riot, was returned to its home in late April.  

As for the coal car project, it was significant, but Dukart said it turned out really well. People have offered favourable comments, since it now stands out.

“People are very happy with it. They’re very pleased with the way it turned out. It looks great. It’s nice and new, and the plaque itself turned out very, very well. We’re very pleased with it,” Dukart said.

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