More Than a Story: The History of CUPE Local 50

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More than a Story the history of

By B. Jones

Copyright ©2012 CUPE Local 50 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the copyright owners, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the copyright owners. ISBN 978-0-9867277-7-1 First Edition 2012 Proudly printed in Canada by a unionized printshop About the cover Art by Jeff Maltby, design by Sudden Publishing The mural “Public Works Through the Years” was completed in August 2009 and depicts the history of the City of Victoria’s Public Works contributions from the mid-1800s to present day. It was commissioned by the City of Victoria as part of the 10th Anniversary of Public Works Day. Acknowledgements CUPE Local 50 would like to thank CUPE B.C. and CUPE National for their support and assistance in the completion of this project. The author would especially like to thank the following: » For the use of various articles and photographs: Monday Magazine » For the use of various articles and photographs: Victoria Times Colonist » For use of photographs: City of Victoria Archives » For use of his Public Works mural: artist Jeff Maltby » For use of material from their chronological history of Victoria: The Victoria Heritage Foundation » For use of his cartoon, previously published in the Times Colonist: Adrian Raeside » For kindly donating their time, memories, photographs, and notes; and for consenting to interviews: John Burrows, Bill Doherty, Colin Graham, Jim Lamb, Pete Mathews, Cindy Reichert, Jim Walker and Carlos Flores. » For additional comments and material: Carolyn Bradey, Jay Chudleigh, Steven Curry, Susan Jansen and Don Sutton » For research assistance: Brian Bradley, John Burrows, Susan Jansen and Don Sutton » Thanks also to HEU

Contents Messages from CUPE ............................11

Chapter 8: Under Attack ....................46

Introduction .......................................... 22

Chapter 9: Reason .............................251

Chapter 1: The Beginning ................... 33

More about Colin Graham ........... 53 53

Chapter 2: The Inter-War Era .............. 88

Local 50 loses its home .................. 58 58

Chapter 3: Surviving Restraint ........... 14

Chapter 10: A New Era ...................... 59 60

Chapter 4: War and Peace .............. 19

More about John Burrows ............. 61 61

Chapter 5: Strike! ................................ 27 26

Local 50’s social side ..................... 67 67

Chapter 6: Old and New .................. 32 31

Chapter 11: The Future ...................... 70

More about Bill Doherty ................ 36 36

An act of unity, not charity ........... 73 76

Chapter 7: Change ........................... 40 39

Strength in numbers ....................... 74 78

More about Jim Walker ................. 41 41

The leaders of Local 50 ................. 76 80

Local 50’s current home at 2736 Quadra Street in Victoria, B.C. The building is a home and legacy for current and future members.


messages from CUPE

n the occasion of the publication of Local 50’s history, we firstly offer our sincere congratulations on behalf of our entire membership. Since 1918, multiple generations of public employees in Victoria have provided quality public services and contributed greatly to the creation of one of Canada’s most beautiful communities. We often hear people say that we “stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” and these words come to mind when we think of members of Local 50 who have built Victoria over the past ninetyplus years. Our congratulations and thank yous extend beyond today’s membership


to those who came before us who, in addition to building the community, built Local 50 into the strong and effective local union that it is today. Again, our sincere congratulations and best wishes on the publication of this important chapter in the labour history of British Columbia. In solidarity,

Paul Moist President CUPE National

would like to congratulate you on your project to document your history and share that with your members who have been part of that history, with newer members that can share in the pride of the organization they now belong to, and, just as importantly, future generations of workers who will be members of Local 50. Your local’s long history is a testament to the difficult struggles, the hard work, and the determination it took to get to where we are today. I say “we” because although Local 50 has always worked to do the very best for their members, your local’s activism and commitment has helped shape other locals both large and small on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, and in our National Union in Canada. There have been of course massive changes over the years that have challenged the local, but one thing that has never changed is that workers’ rights were not achieved as a result of any employer giving us those rights. Workers have fought every inch of the way so that future generations of workers would have more than we had, and for them to leave more to the following generation – that’s what solidarity is really about. CUPE Local 50

has played a major role in making that happen. History that goes back over nine decades should never be ignored, it should be celebrated, as you are doing with this exciting new initiative. I for one am looking forward to its launch. I want to conclude with a personal observation. I have had the opportunity over the last 30 years to work on many campaigns with my sisters and brothers in CUPE Local 50, not only in my role as provincial president, but as a local activist, a local president, and a representative of Vancouver Island. Throughout those years I knew that I could always count on the executive and members of Local 50 to be there when we needed them, regardless of the issue. If we believe as I do that loyalty is truly the currency of the labour movement, CUPE Local 50 members can consider themselves rich. Celebrate your history with pride and enthusiasm! Your current executive, members of your local, you and all those before you who helped make your local what it is today, deserve at least that. In solidarity,

Barry O’Neill President CUPE B.C. Division



he story of Local 50 is more than the story of the 55 men who met one evening in 1918 and formed a local of the Civic Employees’ Protection Association. It is the story of those men and the ones who came after – the story of fathers and sons. It is also the story of a fight for women’s rights in the workplace – the story of brothers and sisters. It is a story of working with other organizations and within the community – a story of family.

not their aim to strike down the status quo. Although new unions were springing to life across the country, and regular people were challenging longstanding labour laws, Local 50 was not trying to change labour history. The story of CUPE Local 50 began on a much smaller stage and was, in a way, more significant. Their story began with a small community of people who sought better working conditions, equality, fair wages, and respect for the dignity of their labour. They were committed men

1918 was a very big year. Canadian labour organizer Ginger Goodwin was killed. WWI ended and Armistice Day was declared. The Spanish influenza outbreak killed more people than WWI and forced the closure of most public places. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the west coast of Vancouver Island. Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth extended his streak to 29 2/3 scoreless World Series innings. Perhaps Victorians can be forgiven if their attention was elsewhere and they did not notice the formation of an Employees’ Association by a small group of city workers. Although CUPE Local 50 came to life at a time when regard for the ordinary working man had experienced a significant shift for the better, it was

with a thoughtful regard for the quality of life of their fellow workers. It was a small idea – the notion of concern for a fellow worker. The secret to Local 50’s longevity – the reason the local marches on despite all adversity and all detractors – may just be that they have never lost sight of that small idea. Today, CUPE Local 50 represents the City of Victoria inside and outside workers, as well as workers at the Victoria Police Board, the Gorge Vale Golf Club, Royal Oak Burial Park, B.C. SPCA Victoria Branch, and the United Way of Greater Victoria. They are all members of the Local 50 family.

United Way Kickoff 2012 Pancake Breakfast

chapter one The Beginning

The decade of Local 50’s formation was a volatile one. When war was declared on Germany in 1914, the austerity measures that took effect across Canada did not spare Victoria. Victorians endured the conditions with the expectation that the end of the war would bring about restoration. Their hopes were not realized. What followed was a period of conflict and uncertainty. There were a number of strikes in Victoria before Local 50 was formed. In 1917, a work stoppage by conductors and motormen of B.C. Electric Railway Company nearly brought Victoria to a halt. Some of the city’s outside workers staged walkouts and threatened strikes. Wildcat strikes were nothing new among the city’s outside workers. When their actions resulted in wage gains, inside workers pressed for similar increases. The pay raises were as limited and as haphazard as the strike action, though, applying only to certain groups of employees. News of the successes of workers’ rights groups around the world inspired workers in Victoria. When Victorians heard about the Great October Revolution in Russia, they realized that they also had the power to shape their own destiny. Organizing was taking place across the country and across the province. Local unions became more active, and city workers were encouraged by what they saw. Wages and working conditions of civic employees had failed to rebound after the war, and the ad hoc pay increases did little to address the gap between pre- and post-war wages. The city workers were not satisfied that their concerns were being properly considered by their employer. A petition for a wage increase was drawn up, and a campaign for signatures began. Although the mayor and council heard the rumblings from workers, they were not convinced that there was a serious problem. It was their belief that the agitation was the work of one or two unhappy employees and not the sentiment of an entire workforce.

Clipping from The Daily Colonist, Friday, February 1, 1918.

The petition quickly drew 55 signatures and became an issue that unified the different groups of civic employees. The petition was presented to City Council on January 31, 1918. The benefits of being united soon became evident, and the employees decided to meet to formalize their group. On February 9, 1918, the 55 signatories to the wage petition met at the Knights of Pythias Hall. They created and adopted a constitution and elected their first president. They called the group the Victoria Civic Employees’ Protective Association (CEPA).

City of Victoria Engineering Department, 3rd floor of City Hall, 1918. City of Victoria Archives, M00556

City Hall staff outside Victoria City Hall. City of Victoria Archives, M08922

Time passed without progress. CEPA was concerned that the city was hoping the issue would simply fade away. As reported from that night by Elected President William Galt and Secretary James Walker: “A meeting of civic employees was held Feb. 9th, 1918 in the Council Chambers, to vote on the following resolution: “Resolved, that the Civic Employees of the City of Victoria in meeting assembled form a permanent association to be known as “The Civic Employees’ Protective Association of Victoria B.C.” for the purpose of promoting the financial, social and moral welfare of its members, and we further recommend that the meeting proceed to elect officers for said association forthwith.” The newly formed CEPA waited patiently for a response from the mayor to their petition. By April they had not received a satisfactory response to wage issues. They submitted a list of wage schedules to the council. Later in April, the Victoria Trades and Labour Council made a presentation to City Council on behalf of CEPA. The mayor assured the Labour Council that the issue would be considered. Time passed without progress. CEPA was concerned that the city was hoping the issue would simply fade away. Stepping up the pressure, CEPA made an application to the minister of labour

in May. They requested the appointment of a Board of Conciliation under the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act in the hopes of achieving a binding decision on the wage issue. Fed up with continuous delays, on June 10, 1918, CEPA passed a resolution stating that a “walk-out” would be declared. The CEPA members, supported by other City Hall workers, were ready to put down their tools, “unless the Association was officially notified by the City Council not later than 12 o’clock noon of Tuesday, June 11, of its acceptance of a Board of Conciliation.” Although 55 men signed the petition and started CEPA, there were more than 55 men employed at City Hall. Not everyone immediately joined the fledgling local, but nearly all the employees supported the strike. The fact that 360 employees were ready to strike was reported in the newspaper in 1918. On June 12, CEPA was notified by City Council that they agreed with the request for a Board of Conciliation and that they would abide by the board’s decisions. It appeared that 360 workers poised to strike had accomplished what no amount of pleas, petitions and presentations could. Unfortunately, ensuing discussions as to who would make up the board dragged the process out even longer. After having elected to solve the dispute via the conciliation board and after finally selecting their representative to the board, the council remained divided on issues with at least one alderman who “told of the ‘false impression’ under which he had been labouring, to the effect that all the city’s employees, and not only the members of

Clipping from The Daily Colonist, July 20, 1918.

the Protective Association would be affected by the conciliation board’s verdict.” CEPA presented their argument: “It seems that the city employees must be penalized for the sins of the City Council committed during boom days, for which said council was highly responsible. Is it the civic employees’ fault that the City Council is able to collect only 60 per cent of the taxes? Or is it not rather due to the shirking methods and indecision of the council?” The city’s response was a point-by-point justification of why they made the decisions they did and why they did not have the finances to meet CEPA’s demands. Included in their response was a suggestion of the economic benefit of replacing workers with machines. The mayor noted that street sweepers consumed $46,000 a year and that only old or physically unfit men were employed in this type of work. He speculated that many thousands of dollars could be saved by replacing the men with machinery. The mayor’s comments led to the following commentary in the Daily Colonist. “The mayor’s statement led one to believe that street sweepers were being kept in the city service out of charity and that the work could be done cheaper by machinery. This was proved to be untrue by one of the employees, who said that street sweeping by machinery had been tried and found to be more expensive. In Victoria, street sweepers were paid $2.75 a day. Even Nanaimo paid better than this city.” The arguing continued, with CEPA members wondering why the police and fire departments seemed to get whatever they wanted whenever they asked for it (John Fry, the city’s new police chief would, in 1918, request and receive the first motorized patrol wagon). There was complete chaos when the discussions moved to specific wages, as it turned out there were cases of men

doing the same job but being paid different wages. There were also men doing two jobs but only being paid for one and receiving no increases, as well as men receiving increases while their co-workers did not. City Council members attributed this to lobbying by individuals and blamed CEPA members. It was generally agreed that a wage bylaw was needed, but agreement ended there. How to reference the agreement presented a whole new set of arguments. There seemed to be no reliable cost-of-living figures, and one by one, suggestions were discarded: Labour Gazette figures proved detrimental to unions when taken before commissions, and food for soldiers was considered as well as the food bill at the Old Men’s Home. These were considered too much under the influence of political issues and were disregarded. The issue was not completely resolved. A general wage rate was eventually applied, but managers did not always abide by it. There continued to be men working for less than the going rate, and some men who received bonuses or other irregular compensation. Among CEPA members, there was discussion about better ways to determine and enforce pay rates. Though the idea was in its infancy, the concept of creating a master collective agreement began to take shape. Although the exchanges between CEPA and the city seemed polite as reported in the papers, it was undeniable that there was a lack of respect for the outside workers. There was no evidence to suggest that the mayor and council understood the scope of the outside workers’ jobs, the way the workers were paid, or the level of difficulty in the various positions. There had been conflict between the outside workers and the employer before. With the formation of CEPA, the two sides became more defined. As an organized group of workers, CEPA demanded respect.

“The existence and success of this association depends chiefly on the efficient and faithful execution of the duties of the following officers: President, Corresponding Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer ... therefore be it resolved that the [officers] be granted exemption of subscription dues and, in addition, be allowed $1 per month each while occupying such offices as a slight recognition of their services. – minutes from first meeting accepted February 9, 1918

The original charter was issued in 1918, but subsequently lost. This one, reissued in 1953, incorrectly identifies 1917 as the inception.

chapter two The Inter-War Era


Workers on the construction of the Johnson Street Bridge, 1922. City of Victoria Archives

he period from 1910 to 1920 had been one of divided focus. People watched events unfolding around the world and saw opportunity for change in their own countries, their own cities, and their own communities. As much as that decade was marked by bringing world views to the local landscape, the next decade was one of introspection for most unions. Unions continued to make gains, and the power of the working man continued to grow, but for the most part, labour organizations concentrated on strengthening their positions from within. On the national stage, this meant the creation of competing bodies such as the Canadian Federation of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress. Locally, it meant sorting out affiliations and generating more enthusiasm and participation among the members. Establishing the local and fighting for reinstatement of prewar wages and employment levels had served as a rallying point in the previous decade. In the early parts of the 1920s, though, there existed no incendiary issue. The relative labour peace of the inter-war period made some people wonder if the union had served its purpose. If newspaper reports of the day were any indication, there was more concern over the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. In 1920, women voted in a provincial election for the first time. The first Minimum Wage Act was passed. The Communist Party of Canada was formed in 1921. The stage seemed set for an era of change and progress. In the City of Victoria the population had been growing steadi-

ly, reaching 38,727 by 1921. A promise of prosperity abounded as more jobs became available. One of the biggest projects of the decade was the construction of the Johnson Street Bridge. The south span of the bridge (the highway span) opened to the public on October 2, 1922. The bridge was completed in January 1924. The total cost for the bridge was $918,000. Manned by Local 50 employees, the bridge would become a critical link between downtown and the west side, and a strategic bargaining point between the city and its employees. By 1927, Local 50 saw their numbers more than double those of the 55 founding members of 1918. The Parks Department expanded with the addition of Clover Point, which had previously been a rifle range.

Empire Day celebrations at Beacon Hill Park, ca. 1920. Grounds groomed and site prepared by Local 50. City of Victoria Archives, M07140

Top, garbage truck at the garbage wharf, ca. 1921. Left, early dump truck, probably used as a garbage truck, ca. 1920. Right, newer garbage truck, ca. 1927. City of Victoria Archives, M08687, M07619, M07620

The local experienced changes within the organization, reflecting the administrative realignment that was underway nationally and provincially. CEPA in its original formation was something of a “catch-all” group of city workers, but in the 1920s, the inside employees formed their own association (City Hall Officials’ Association). Other smaller groups such as police, firemen and garbage workers also joined together in their own separate associations. Officers of CEPA changed and it became part of the local labour tapestry, affiliating with the Victoria and District Trades and Labour Council (VDTLC) and the national Trades and Labour Congress. The tumultuous activities from 1910-20, culminating in the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, left Canadian unionists poised to seize huge gains for the working man. The power at their fin-


gertips was to remain unused, though, as warring factions within the trade union movement undermined their strength. Workers in smaller, non-craft unions like CEPA felt disassociated from the concerns of the national and international unions. Despite CEPA’s small-town feel and mostly local focus, they found themselves on the mailing lists of some of the biggest and most radical unions on the continent. Their affiliations soon had them receiving requests for support and financial assistance from union groups across Canada and the United States. However, the association still gave priority to its own workers. In 1920s Victoria, that meant a polite push for restoration of wages and working conditions and a wholehearted dedication to the social aspect of the organization. Early unions were influenced by existing lodges and social

from the bookkeeper


clubs, which is reflected in the Local 50 archives. Very few records of meetings or negotiations were retained. Rather, the era is documented by receipts, advertising, and correspondence related to picnics, parties, and other social events. Newspaper clippings and City Archives give every indication of the local being conscientious in their representation of members, but for some reason, none of the local’s own evidence of this survives. Even the original formal decree recognizing CEPA’s formation was lost. The replacement charter bears a typewritten notation indicating that the document replaces the original charter of 1917 – a curious note given that the formation date was actually 1918. For CEPA, the galvanizing issue of the decade came in the form of a stance on superannuation. The local saw the wisdom in subscribing to the established Provincial Superannuation Act rather than a more specific civic pension accepted by others in the city’s employ. When it came time to select a pension plan, Local 50 members were adamant about their choice. They presented a petition expressing their desire to be brought within the scope of the Provincial Superannuation Act and indicated they were uninterested in any alternative plan.

The city maintained that they had nothing but the best interests of their employees at heart. They were “unreservedly in favour of civic pensions.” But they were equally firm in their own view – that the city should administer the pension plan, in “mutual interests of all concerned.” The local kept up their campaign amongst their members, prompting a letter from the city. The letter advised against agitation, “which has started to inflame the minds of the men on the pension plan,” and warned the local about “provoking hostility between the men and council.” The idea that the city thought they could threaten or summarily order the local to do anything did not sit well. Local 50 members said they would accept no plan other than the Provincial Superannuation Act. City Council stated they would “never consent to one plan for the rest of the service and another plan for the outside staff.” The fight was on. Local 50’s stance on the superannuation plan was an important milestone in their history. The local’s executive examined the city’s plan and the Provincial Superannuation Act. They discussed it, made a decision, and brought the information to the membership. The membership in turn considered the two plans.

Bottom, Johnson Street Bridge under construction, ca. 1922. Left, opening of the bridge, 1924. City of Victoria Archives, M00311, M00308


They had the opportunity to ask questions and ultimately make their own decision. Local 50’s preference was to be brought within the scope of the Provincial Superannuation Act. It did not matter that the city was not actually offering the Provincial Superannuation Act as an option or that the inside workers had already accepted the city’s plan, and it didn’t matter that the city declared there would be only one plan at City Hall. Local 50 politely and firmly insisted that the plan they favoured, the one that best served their members, was the Provincial Superannuation Act. No amount of rhetoric would sway them. Their adamant stand brought them into the provincial plan – a move which would later support amendment to the act and a partition to create the Municipal Superannuation Act. There was not much time to celebrate any progress made in the decade. In 1929, the Great Depression arrived.

Despite CEPA’s small-town feel and mostly local focus, they found themselves on the mailing lists of some of the biggest and most radical unions on the continent – also some of the more obscure.


chapter three Surviving Restraint


he stock market crash of 1929 and ensuing depression of the 1930s created an interesting challenge for Local 50. Logic and public opinion suggested that the local support municipal coping efforts such as wage cuts and relief programs. Commitment to the union, however, dictated that they protect their members’ jobs. The relative peacefulness of the previous decade had put out some of the fire in the union movement. Further weakened by waning membership, the local found they had little impetus to launch objection when the city set their plan in action. City employees reluctantly absorbed the first cuts decreed by then-Mayor David Leeming. The concessions consisted of a 15% wage cut and significant reduction in manpower. The outside departments were decimated, leaving only “skeleton crews” to maintain services. Those lucky enough to retain their jobs did so without many of the benefits they had previously enjoyed. Vacations and superannuation fell by the wayside. Local 50 membership continued to decline throughout the early 1930s. Laid-off members sought work elsewhere, and some workers simply opted out of the union. So it was a small group that assembled for the general meeting in January 1933. The meeting took place at Fire Hall #1 on Cormorant Street, with members gaining access by saying a password. The word

Trying to respond to the deteriorating conditions in their workplace, the local’s officers were distracted by controversy within the executive. at that time was “Harmony.” The year that followed would bring anything but. The city imposed another 5% cut in wages. A plan was introduced to use relief labour to assist in the depleted outside departments. Many of the relief workers were assigned to the parks and boulevard departments. The city suddenly had an abundance of cheap labour. Largely unregulated, the relief workforce was susceptible to influence by municipal politics. As more and more work was relegated to the non-union relief contingent, the local appealed for a wage increase. It was disregarded. While trying to respond to the deteriorating conditions in their workplace, the local’s officers were distracted by controversy within the executive.

Installation of the N.W. sewer, ca. 1930. City of Victoria Archives, M07166


Although it was agreed that jobs were of paramount importance, there was a preoccupation with the annual picnic. The picnic became a staging point for discord within the local as well as frustration with the city. Members of the local argued against inviting city officials at a time when the city seemed to be launching a campaign against the workers. There was a dispute about whether the members should be given the traditional day off with pay. There was contention over who was on the picnic committee, who had jurisdiction over the committee, and even where the picnic should be held. When the picnic was held, it was without City Council; they were not invited. CEPA members were granted a half-day off work rather than the usual full day. Apparently the arguing at the organizational stage of the picnic spilled into the picnic itself. At a meeting following the event, the local’s president, Brother Osbourne, was criticized for “his actions and remarks.”

It was said that “his conduct was not becoming to his Office.” Osbourne’s rebuttal was to resign and comment, “I am through as an active member of this association.” In 1934 there was a new executive and a new password – “Unity.” Noted in the minutes: “President-elect gave the password as Unity in the hope it would bear fruit.” Meanwhile, the City of Victoria was still augmenting the outside departments with relief workers. Local 50 set forth a campaign to get public works jobs out of the relief program and back to public works employees. Attendance at meetings frequently dropped below quorum levels, and compounded by the financial stress this dwindling membership caused, it became difficult for the local to conduct their business. A note in the minutes refers to an earlier Executive Board decision to discontinue donations and grants to all organizations. This continued into the middle of the decade.

Although it was agreed that jobs were of paramount importance, there was a preoccupation with the annual picnic.


Looking North on Rupert Street toward St. Joseph’s Hospital. City crews pruning trees. City of Victoria Archives, M00032

In 1935, Local 50 joined a coalition of civic service associations – the Civic Employees’ Federation of Greater Victoria. The coalition comprised CEPA, the City Fire Fighters’ Local Union No. 258, the City Hall Officials’ Association, and the Victoria Police Mutual Benefit Association. Together they took on the relief labour issue and confronted the city, winning a 2.5% wage restoration. It was a small victory but it was a for-

ward step in a decade that had seen the local mostly stepping backward. Encouraged by the modest wage restoration, the local embarked on a campaign to increase membership. The success of the campaign was illustrated in meetings through the rest of the decade, nearly all of which featured the introduction of new members. In 1936 the local welcomed 30 workers. Other groups, including garbage men and high school janitors, joined the local. The spirit of collective organization soon extended beyond the Victoria associations, and the local began communicating with civic groups in Vancouver and Calgary, sharing information about wages and working hours. By 1937, the worst of the Depression was over. The City of Victoria celebrated 75 years of incorporation with the hanging of flower baskets on downtown lamp posts. A spirit of optimism was growing and the local took advantage. There was more confidence among members to present grievances, and more success when they were presented. “Two grievances, one of a ‘report of a man in Beacon Hill Park working for nothing’ and another regarding ‘a man taken on the staff from Vancouver when local men were available’ were taken up by the Grievance

Civic Federation of Victoria’s Annual Employees’ Picnic, 1937. City of Victoria Archives, M09029


Committee and, according to records, met with ‘favourable results.’” The local decided it was time to push for a full restoration of wages. They were aided in their cause by comments made by the superintendent of parks, who recommended that more fulltime workers were needed. Superintendent Warren stated, “It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Boulevard Department to function using relief labour.” Warren would later admit that the relief labour program was carried out “at the expense of the boulevards,” adding, “they need much work to get them back to pre-Depression levels.” By the end of 1938, the city had capitulated, and all civic wages, including those of outside workers, were restored to the 1932 levels. The local recognized the role played by the Civic Federation in the post-Depression gains – the benefit of joining with other union organizations was obvious. Still, the local proceeded thoughtfully when approached by other groups and remained mindful of their own mandate. They were, ultimately, charged with representing the interests of the members of the local. When negotiating specifics of the superannuation plan, Local 50 CEPA found themselves at odds with other members of the Civic Federation. In the interest of their own members, men doing mostly physically demanding labour, the local sought a pensionable age of 60. The other members favoured the more widely used age of 65. The local was unapologetic. In 1938 they wrote to the Civic Federation, “protesting the lack of cooperation and information” in regard to the issue, adding “we would be forced to withdraw our economic strength” in the event that this was not addressed.

Garbage truck at the garbage wharf, 1932. City of Victoria Archives, M07618

The local had come a long way by the end of the decade. They operated with confidence and authority. They had survived the Depression, after all. They had achieved restoration of wages, and full-time jobs were returning. They had increased membership numbers and revived interest in the union. Their determination had made an impression in the union community. The reason for their success was summed up by the outgoing president for 1939, A. Murray, who believed it was because of “unity of purpose as well as of membership … much had been accomplished by united efforts to our own good that by co-operation all the gains received could be retained.”

City worker Nick Bertucci and canine companion, with City of Victoria WaterWorks’ first truck. City of Victoria Archives, M08697


chapter four War and Peace


ederal concerns supplanted local interests at the beginning of the 1940s. In 1941, the federal government removed the right to strike from all unions for the duration of the war. The government introduced unemployment insurance and also instituted what they claimed was a temporary measure – income tax. Times got tough for unionists. The local was once again in the position where the choice seemed to be between going along with austerity measures and being good citizens, or continuing to fight for their members and risk being perceived as selfish and unwilling to sacrifice for the war effort. The local had learned a lesson about recovery after the wage cuts and unemployment in the Depression, and they had no appetite to relearn the lesson. Where factors such as conscription and lack of information had made WWI a largely unpopular war, WWII was well sold. Most citizens in Canada supported the country’s participation. It didn’t hurt that this war appeared to provide something of an economic boom on the heels of the Depression era. The local was not anxious to be seen as trying

to profit from the war, but they knew how difficult it would be to regain anything they let slip. They engaged in a careful balancing act. The local was affected by WWII in a direct way. After finally restoring the semblance of a regular workforce, they saw the departure of some members bound for service overseas. The local supported the members, sending letters of encouragement and gifts of tobacco, but the reduction in numbers ultimately affected the local’s strength. In 1941, the local recorded the receipt of correspondence regarding the formation of a national union. Debate went on about the structure of a national entity. The local considered the possible benefits of participating. Their involvement in councils and federations was expanding, as in 1943 they affiliated with the

Where factors such as conscription and lack of information had made WWI a largely unpopular war, WWII was well sold.

Sawdust gang ready to leave. Sawdusting of all metre boxes was done yearly. City of Victoria Archives, M08693


Vancouver Island Regional Division of the Joint Council of Public Employees. The local was supportive of affiliations in general, understanding the importance of strength in numbers, but they were ever mindful of how the affiliations served their own members. In 1944, the local approached the city with a demand for a 10% wage increase and a cost-of-living bonus. The bonus was to offset inflation, which had risen to 7.2% in Victoria. The city rejected the demand and made the offer of a 6% increase plus cost-of-living bonus. The city’s offer was accepted, but “under protest.” After deciding on the across-the-board 6% wage increase for city employees, City Council rescinded the increase in favour of a Civic Salary Schedule Bylaw. Committees were established on both the union and employer sides to review the salary schedules. After having severely restricted the activities of unions during the war, the government enacted federal law legislating recognition of unions and requiring employers to bargain with unions. There was also a requirement for a grievance procedure and a prohibition of strike action while a grievance procedure was underway. When the war ended, the optics of the bargaining positions of the local and the city were reversed. During the war, the city had been able to control wages, and there was little the local could do without appearing to undermine the war effort. After the war, with returning workers who had made great sacrifices overseas, the city could not ignore the local’s demands without seeming ungrateful.

Top and bottom, letters from Local 50 members serving overseas. Sgt. Stan James and Capt. J.A. Marrs, respectively.


Last of the wood paving being removed at Yates and Douglas Streets, 1947. City of Victoria Archives, M07054

Signing of the master agreement was followed almost immediately by non-compliance by the city. This was nothing new. Changing laws, returning workers and an expanding Public Works department all contributed to an improved bargaining environment for the local. When it came time to negotiate in 1947, they approached the process with confidence and determination. Unlike other agreements that had been made with the city, the 1947 agreement was to be a master agreement, addressing wages, hours of work, overtime, and benefits. Local 50 would also negotiate settlement on issues specific to the outside workers, which would also be under the master agreement. The 1947 agreement would serve as a basis for all subsequent contracts. Negotiating the agreement proved to be a slow and frustrating process. The local found the city obstructive and argumentative, passing off issues from committee to committee while the local stood waiting. The city’s stalling tactics eventually wore down the local’s president, W. Spence, and he tabled his resignation. The lack of progress together with pressure from the membership proved too much for the next president, T. Rhodes, and he resigned as well. At a meeting to select a successor, all three nominees declined to stand. In the end, Secretary Treasurer R. Betts was talked into taking the presidency.


When negotiations finally began, the local pressed for a 40hour work week, a general wage increase, and a cost-of-living bonus to compensate for wartime inflation. They also sought a formal wage scale and a clearer definition of working conditions. A number of issues, particularly seniority and the application of benefits, were not finalized in the agreement, but the path was laid to pursue them in the future. The master agreement, signed off in August 1947, was considered a significant positive achievement. Others must have agreed, as civic employee associations from Vancouver, Burnaby, Kamloops, and Calgary immediately requested copies. The agreement won a vote of confidence with the membership, as the local saw numbers go from 150 at the start of negotiations to 254 by the end of 1948. Signing of the master agreement was followed almost immediately by non-compliance by the city. This was nothing new. Minutes for the local’s meetings frequently included complaints about the city not abiding by agreements. In the past, many matters had been settled informally, sometimes with no more than a verbal promise and a handshake. The local was determined to

see that the city adhered to the hard-won agreement and were equally determined that the solutions come through a formal grievance process. A popular excuse from the city was that officials were not familiar with all the details of the new agreement. The local’s plan to set up meetings to educate the superintendents and department heads did not have much effect. As workers went without promised wage adjustments and bonuses, tensions were increasing over what seemed to be an ever-slowing grievance process. Frustration hit a peak at the garbage wharf when a new hire was promoted over more senior men. A wildcat strike shut down the operation. A city superintendent named McCaig went to the worksite to deal with the strike. Told by workers of the improper promotion, McCaig claimed he was “unfamiliar with the working agreement.” The Grievance Committee continued to pursue outstanding issues; the city continued to put them off. After yet another futile attempt to make progress on grievances, a committee member commented about “the difficulties and lack of consideration given to the outside staff.” The sentiment that the outside workers were being singled out – that they, specifically, were being disrespected – began to take hold. In 1947, at a general meeting, a lengthy debate took place over a

city notice banning “the taking of refreshments during working hours.” A motion from the floor asked the Grievance Committee to meet with the city to protest the notice. The motion was defeated 22 to 7. The motion had context in 1947, with the “taking of refreshments during working hours” being common at the time. It also had context in the evolution of the local. The sound defeat of the motion may have been an indication of the local’s desire to be taken seriously. In previous decades, the social aspect of the local had consumed a lot of energy. The social committee was one of the most active committees, and there was always a dance or Christmas

Excerpts from Executive Meeting Notes, ca. 1945.


party or some get-together being organized. Meetings sometimes concerned themselves as much with renting halls and ordering refreshments as they did with improving wages and securing benefits. In the 1940s the focus began to shift. By 1949, even the Social Committee recognized the change, recommending that the 31-year tradition of “smokers” be cancelled. After all the hard work put into achieving the master agreement, the local wanted to be respected – and they wanted the agreement to be respected. The local had previously retained a bargaining agent in conjunction with other branches of the civic service, but ended the relationship when they realized that he could not adequately represent their local while also representing eight other groups. In June 1949, the local hired A. Murray as a part-time bargaining agent. Murray had led negotiations in 1947. He was hired at $20 per month, but several months after being hired, tendered his resignation because of the low salary and transportation costs. A special executive meeting resulted in a request that Murray reconsider and that his salary be increased to $80 a month. The local had their bargaining agent, and the days of handshakes with city officials ended. A final important development was the institution of the check-off system. All city employees were required to be members of the association and pay dues. The city recognized Local 50 as the sole bargaining agent for the city’s outside workers, and the check-off became known as Clause 4 in future working agreements. Although the local counted many significant achievements throughout the 1940s, there was one area that continued to


prove frustrating. Despite being an official union local, despite unions receiving federal recognition, and despite achieving a master agreement, the local could not convince the employer that it was necessary to abide by the rules. It served to deepen the divide between the two parties and to strengthen the resolve within Local 50.

In the 1940s the focus began to shift. By 1949, even the Social Committee recognized the change, recommending that the 31-year tradition of “smokers” be cancelled.


chapter five Strike!


hings changed quickly in the 1950s, and many of the changes had to do with speeding things up. In July 1951, the city ended the practice of paying all employees by cash. A new machine pay system was adopted, and paycheques were produced. Television sets began to appear in Canadian homes, and along with them came the 1950s’ version of fast food – TV dinners. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in Vancouver in 1954, and in a year when a new speed record was set, work in the city of Victoria ground to a halt. Since the local’s inception, the middle ground between the union and the city had been widening. To outsiders it might have appeared that the two factions were following a parallel path – settling most issues amicably and proceeding contentedly with the city’s business. To insiders, though, the gap between union and employer was growing with every item of contention. As the local affiliated to island, provincial, and national orga-

nizations, the employer joined forces with legal and advisory groups to strengthen their side. Members of the local suspected that the city did not truly seek to bring resolution to employment issues, but rather was bent on quashing the union. There was concern about public opinion, as it was becoming popular to blur the line between communism and unionism – growing unrest in Cuba and the possibility of Castro overthrowing the existing government was conveniently linked to unionist activities. As the negotiating period for Local 50 approached, the breadth of the divide between union and employer became evident to everyone. Within Local 50, the 1950s became known for the first civic strike. The strike began on June 17, 1954 and ended on June 30, 1954. It delayed the annual hanging of Victoria’s iconic flower baskets until July and roused the concern of a city that prided itself on its appearance. On June 28, the Daily

City of Victoria Public Works Yard at Garbally Road. Staff on strike, 1954. City of Victoria Archives, M08050


Colonist described “grass growing long on Victoria’s miles of boulevards, the garbage piling up into unsavoury, fly-breeding dumps and the hanging baskets blooming unseen in city nurseries.” It wasn’t exactly Castro or a revolution, but it alarmed Victorians just the same. The city tried repeatedly to have the strike ended in the courts. Mayor Harrison challenged the legality of the strike by questioning whether correct notice of the strike was given. He attempted to limit picketing. He was especially


concerned that striking workers might block the Johnson Street Bridge. The mayor was no stranger to the courts, having served as the city prosecutor prior to becoming mayor. Before the strike, he had unsuccessfully petitioned the courts to open Beacon Hill Park to commercial ventures. After exhausting legal channels, the mayor and council bowed to public pressure and finally returned to the bargaining table. The strike was settled after two weeks, earning Local 50 members a respectable seven-cent increase

to the $1.43 hourly wage. It also earned them a reputation. They became known as a group who were not afraid to strike. When it came time to negotiate again in 1955, things proceeded very differently. Both sides exchanged proposals. The merits of the demands were discussed. Options were proffered. Explanations were provided. Solutions were sought. The local achieved most of what they were after, and the agreement was signed off without incident. It seemed things were looking up. There were signs that the local’s financial situation was

improving. Insurance was secured, including a $1,000 policy against “burglary and hold up” to cover the local’s secretary when he was in possession of union funds. The Victoria Building Co-operative Union was formed and Local 50 began purchasing shares. There was also money to revive an abandoned tradition and hold a smoker. The social committee estimated the cost for refreshments and entertainment for the party to be around $210. They managed to run the event at a cost of $57.50 and recover all but 33 cents through ticket sales. By July

The strike was settled after two weeks, earning the Local 50 members a respectable seven-cent increase to the $1.43 hourly wage. 1955 the local’s membership numbered 205, and in January of 1956, an auditor’s report found the union to be in sound financial condition with assets of $6,452.33 and a cash balance of $5,547.78. The function of the local as a social club continued to be important throughout the 1950s. A meeting in 1956 concluded with a showing of vacation photographs taken at the Indianapolis Speedway and thanks given to Brother C. Holt. Another meeting in 1956 notes a letter of thanks from a member, expressing appreciation for cigarettes and a visit during a recent illness. It might have been expected that the local’s successes would translate to improved attendance at meetings, but this did not happen. In September 1958, it was noted that 500 notice-ofmeeting cards had been sent out, and only 25 people had attended the meeting. A note in the minutes illustrates the local’s desire to be inclusive. “The Executive have noted that we have quite a few brothers who have recently come from Europe and that these brothers are not represented on any of our Committees. This may be caused by what they feel is a lack of English to express themselves, but we can assure them that there is a place in our union for any man who is willing regardless of his manner of speech. If he can think straight in any language we don’t care how fractured his English is.”

Local 50 worker watering hanging baskets, ca. 1955. The process for watering remains similar today. City of Victoria Archives, M07693


In 1958, the city ended the practice of dumping garbage at sea. Since 1908, they had been loading garbage onto a scow and towing it out into Juan De Fuca Strait. The garbage wharf continued operations, though, and while the city made plans for a permanent landfill site, garbage was dumped at nearby Mud Bay. In 1959, another strike loomed. By April, negotiations were in full swing and rumours were flying. In a bulletin, the local asked their members to disregard the rumours: “They, like spring showers, are one of the working conditions which we must put up with this time of the year.” When the local asked for a yes vote on strike action, the members responded with 237 of 267 votes in favour. Throughout the 1950s, the local had been trying to solve the problem of representation in negotiations. Business agents that had been accessed via affiliations became increasingly unavailable. Support for negotiations was sometimes a deciding factor in considering affiliations, and it was frustrating for the local when the service was not there. In 1957, the local had requested help from the National, and in

a 1959 post-settlement bulletin, it was noted that assistance from the National had been pivotal. It was also noted, yet again, that the local needed to be better prepared for negotiations in the future. The employer also contemplated ways to provide a stronger front. The Times Colonist featured a story on the city’s plans to form an Inter-Municipal Committee with a view to forcing joint negotiations. They recognized that the civic employees in each municipality were using each other’s contracts as leverage in negotiations, and they reasoned that if they made it mandatory for all municipalities to negotiate together, they could force the same contract conditions on all the employee groups. A similar tactic had been tried unsuccessfully in 1954 when the city made a contract offer that was to be valid only if both CEPA Local 50 outside workers and the Local 388 inside workers accepted the same terms. Local 50 refused. Nonetheless, the idea resurfaced at the end of the decade. The joint committee was a step in the direction of the formation of the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association (GVLRA).


chapter six Old and New


In 1963, when Howard Honeyman retired, Queenie did also, relinquishing her title as the last working horse in the city’s employ.


here the 1950s was a decade of surging into the future, the 1960s was a decade of reflection on yesterday mixed with planning for tomorrow. Sports enthusiasts of the day noted with lament the departure of Boston Red Sox long-time left fielder Ted Williams and speculated about the future of the new kid, Carl Yastrzemski. Music fans were reluctant to let go of Chuck Berry’s style of rock and roll but were excited about the new sound of bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In Local 50, the decade saw the retirement and departure of some of the local’s stalwarts, with the names Charlie Thompson and Joe Hopper being heard less often. New faces were welcomed to the executive, and the names Bill Doherty, Rob Johnston and Doug Hudlin began to appear in the minutes. Concern continued that the city was relying increasingly on outside experts and legal assistance in dealing with contracts and arbitrations. For negotiations in 1960, the city hired a lawyer with a specialty in labour relations. The local was critical and noted, “It becomes more and more apparent that there is a trend for municipalities to delegate their negotiations with their employees to so-called Labour Management Experts. In doing so they ignore the fact that they are elected to represent the people, and to manage the affairs of the same people, not to delegate it to a second and in some cases a third party. The only ones who prosper under this set up will be the lawyers and so called labour experts.” The local repeated an old warning to their members. If they were to keep pace with the employer, they were going to have to strengthen their own ranks. They knew they needed to be better educated, better prepared, and better supported. The city frequently maintained that unionized workers were overpaid and that this was an unnecessary burden to taxpayers. It was a stance that often preceded the suggestion of privatization. In 1960, City Council put out a request for tenders for boulevard and green-space maintenance, as they believed a private company could do the job cheaper than city employees. The single bid received was rejected as it was twice the cost of having the Parks Department do the work. It was a big victory for Local 50. Still seeking to head off a wage increase, the mayor suggested that city employees ought to consider how lucky they were to have the jobs they did. He couldn’t

continue to claim they were overpaid and instead directed attention to benefits such as holidays, sick leave, and superannuation. Throughout the 1960s, the local managed to negotiate small increases in wages and some improvement to vacations. Negotiations were not as frustrating as trying to convince members to attend meetings, though. Despite creative efforts by the executive, the meetings were often held under Section 8 (Article (d)) – no quorum. While Local 50 struggled to come up with innovative ways to attract members to meetings, the work world and union world was changing around them. In 1963, parks worker Howard Honeyman retired and with him the classification of carter was also retired. As a carter, Honeyman had charge of Queenie, who pulled a two-wheeled cart in Beacon Hill Park. When Honeyman retired, Queenie did also, relinquishing her title as the last working horse in the city’s employ. A truck replaced Honeyman’s cart and Queenie went on to become a children’s favourite in the park’s animal pen. 1963 brought change to the national stage also, with the formal announcement of the new national union, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and presentation of the CUPE logo. While CUPE was celebrating its formation and looking ahead, members of Local 50 were thinking about the upcoming 50th anniversary and looking back. One member discovered a programme from the Civic Employees’ Federation’s annual sportsday in 1936. The 1936 programme included Highland dancing at MacDonald Park, a swimming gala at the Crystal Gardens, rowing in the inner harbour, and track and field events at various locations. In 1964, the local signed a two-year contract, once more achieving a small wage increase and some vacation improvements. The stability of the two-year agreement seemed to sit well with everyone, and in 1966 a three-year agreement was signed. The local awarded the first-ever lifetime memberships in 1966. They were awarded to Brothers Charlie Thompson and Joe Hopper. Both men were nearing retirement and had spent much of their civic careers serving the local. After a number of meetings where no quorum was achieved, the meeting to award the two lifetime memberships was a departure – 40 members were present. It was unclear, however, whether the increase in attendance was because of the awards ceremony or because the agenda included a motion to increase dues. The dues increase was defeated. Several months later, Peter Scott, who had presented the lifetime awards, resigned from his position as president. A notice in the June 1966 bulletin declared: “It is indeed a loss to this Local

Joe Hopper [Life-time Award Recipient] as written by Peter Scott

“If any two words could describe a man, and could give a picture of his activities during his association with our union, I would have to use the words ‘Work Horse.’ “When there were jobs to be done, sometimes behind the scenes and often requiring a great deal of diplomacy, Joe always gave [his] best to accomplish them.”

Charlie Thompson [Life-time Award Recipient] as written by Peter Scott

“We could write pages of all the odd jobs and union activities that have been a part of Brother Thompson’s life, but most members know of his activities and interest in our local. He has held positions of shop-steward, executive member, vice president and two terms as president. He also was a most faithful delegate to the Victoria Labour Council, served as an executive member on the Island Council and took an active part in the Senior Citizen Campaign Council.”


You know the records of those in office as well as any and likely better than most. Vote accordingly. to lose Brother Scott as an active member, for he has filled his office with dignity and integrity and he enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all the members. To lose any of our executive officers creates a problem, but to lose one of Brother Scott’s calibre creates a void which will be hard to fill.” Local 50 did not endorse political candidates, but in October 1966, in advance of the civic election, they offered this advice: “…a reminder that union members are, in effect, in the position to elect their employers: You know the records of those in office as well as any and likely better than most. Vote accordingly.” In 1967 the local was in the second year of a three-year con-


tract. They had already agreed to have the next year’s wages set by a wage survey. The existing contract could be opened at the end of the year but only for negotiation of items other than wages. Unfortunately, they realized they had erred in agreeing to an employer proposal for a lesser wage rate for casual and seasonal employees. They believed that the lower rate would be used strictly for true casual employees, but the employer ended up keeping employees strictly in the casual/seasonal category so they could get the same work but pay less. The local recognized that to pay anyone less money for essentially the same work went against union philosophy.

In March 1967, the local received a communication from CUPE National that pointed out that CUPE was only as strong as the locals affiliated with them. Local 50 had, in effect, been sending out this same message to their members. In their never-ending attempts to get members out to meetings, they reminded them that their Local was only as strong as their membership. The note from CUPE National was interesting in its timing. At a previous meeting, Local 50 members had questioned the lack of a national strike fund and, in that meeting, put forward a motion to pay all of the local’s monthly bills except the CUPE National per capita fee. Concern surrounding CUPE National’s collection and disbursement of funds was an ongoing issue. Local 50 carried their concerns with them to convention. From the Local 50 minutes: “Re: National Convention on Strike Fund or Defence Fund. This Local instructed our Delegate not to vote on any recommendation brought to the floor, but, to move the recommendation be sent out to each local for a referendum ballot.”

1968 was a busy year on all fronts for Local 50. Planning was in full swing for the local’s 50th anniversary celebration. The venue for the celebration had changed a number of times, initially being the Empress Hotel. In the end it was decided that it would be held at Club Tango on View Street. In order to make the evening affordable to everyone, the price was set at $3 per couple. The dinner celebration was well attended, and Local 50 congratulated themselves on 50 years of perseverance. Bill Doherty was on the executive at the time. His memory of 1968 includes the 50th anniversary festivities, but not as a focal point. In an interview he explains that he remembers that the celebration happened, but not much more than that; he was more concerned with the business at hand – getting members out to meetings and staying a step ahead of the employer. Doherty was right to be concerned. In 1968, Bill 33 was introduced in the legislature. “Where a dispute between any employer or group of employers and their employees or a trade union


More about Bill Doherty

Bill Doherty at the Local 50 office, 2011.


hen announcing the expected budget expenditures for 1959 the City noted, “Continue the project of putting Bowker Creek underground.” The Bowker Creek project had seen the hiring of a young labourer, Bill Doherty. A self-described “tramp miner,” Doherty had followed work across British Columbia, eventually landing on Vancouver Island. On the Island he found mining work in Jordan River. A subsequent summer job with Victoria’s Water Works turned into permanent employment when the powderman retired. Doherty’s blasting qualification won him the position. Happy for steady employment, Doherty stayed with the City, gradually working his way up in the department. Although he hadn’t always worked in union jobs, he had always been interested in the philosophy of unions. That interest prompted attendance at the local’s meetings and led to more active involvement in the 1960s.


In an interview in 2011 Doherty says he doesn’t remember how he was elected to the vice-president position in the local. About his stints as president, he said, “Yeah, I was the president when no one else wanted the job. I don’t think I was ever elected president.” In spite of this, he doesn’t believe the membership was apathetic. He comments, “They knew what side they were on. But they sort of left it up to the executive and president or whoever, except when it came to voting on a contract.”

“We went through arbitrations the City knew they couldn’t win, but went ahead with anyway.”

When asked if he thought his experience as president of the local was worthwhile he was emphatically positive. “Oh, yeah. I think I probably convinced a few people that the union was important to them … and that the personnel department [human resources] wasn’t there to look after their interests. When I first started that was a widely held opinion – that the personnel department would look after them and was on their side. I don’t think you’ll find many people that view it that way now. It’s one of the things I think I helped accomplish. They more or less know what the union is for, at least.” Doherty says he found the employer’s attitude frustrating during his tenure. “We went through arbitrations that the City knew they couldn’t win, but went ahead with anyway.” Doherty describes being on the Local 50 Executive Board as “interesting work” and admits that everyone did not get along all of the time. “The coming and going of that sort of stuff was part of the reason my presidency started and stopped. When I stopped being president, people wanted me to. Except with Colin Graham – I was all in favour of him taking over. He succeeded me and I was all in favour of that. I got along with him before he was [president] and after he was.” In reflecting on his work for the local, Doherty expresses one regret and it demonstrates a decidedly union bias. “One of the things that always embarrasses

me that was on my watch was that the farm at Beacon Hill Park was let in.” He explains that people who worked at the farm were not paid. “But they were replacing people that they would have hired who worked in that area during the summer and got labourer’s wages.”

Moving and replacing trees, Centennial Square, 1965. M08921


is not resolved, the cabinet may, at its sole discretion, in order to protect the public interest and welfare, order that the employees shall not be permitted to go on strike or, if a strike is already in existence, order that the strike cease immediately.” The dispute would then be referred to a mediation commissioner who would have the power to bring down an award that would be binding on both parties. This would mean compulsory arbitration at the discretion of the cabinet. As the end of Local 50’s three-year contract drew near, preparations were made for negotiations. Three years without negotiations had allowed a lot of issues to pile up. The membership had a long list of concerns including reclassifications in pay groups, holiday pay, overtime pay, substi-


tution pay, safety, and clothing. Members were adamant that the casual pay rate be abolished. After reviewing the accumulated points, they also decided that the next contract should be for just one year. In the minutes of May 1968 was this small note: “Lady employed in Parks is not receiving the going rate. This matter to be turned over to CUPE Rep.” This was the first mention of a woman working in the local, and she was likely a casual employee. It was reported with as much fanfare as was the June 1968 decision to end the local’s affiliation with the Religion Labour Council, or the July motion to allocate $40 for a new wig and beard for the Santa Claus suit. As negotiations proceeded in 1969, attendance at meetings improved. At four meetings in a row the attendants numbered

well over 100. One of the meetings was to consider a contract offer. The executive recommended rejection, and in a standing vote, the membership did just that – voting 166 to reject and just 3 to accept. In the final of the four meetings, the city had revised their offer. The offer was presented and acceptance was recommended. There was a secret ballot this time, and the vote was 94 in favour of acceptance and 57 against. In the 1960s, the local had the opportunity to celebrate their anniversary and look back at 50 years of accomplishments. In one of the last meetings of the decade, they made a small change and voted to leave a bit of the past behind: Moved, seconded, and carried that the local change their name from CEPA to CUPE Local 50.

chapter seven Change


n spite of Local 50’s internal complaints about apathy, the trade union movement was steadily making gains in Canadian workplaces. This became evident in the reactions of governments at all levels across the country and especially by the government of the province of B.C. The 1970s was a period of hostility between government and public employees, with employers trying to control contracts and union activities. Attendance at general meetings of Local 50 continued to be poor. A 1970 bulletin posted a familiar notice: “As per constitution of this Local Section (c) Quorum: Having failed to have a Quorum for two consecutive meetings therefore a meeting will be held on April 28, 1970 in the Union Centre Hall B, at 8:00 p.m.” Holding special meetings in order to conduct the local’s business became a common occurrence. A suggestion was made to forgo meetings in the summer, as these were the least attended. The idea was endorsed by the executive but was defeated as a motion. In May 1970, under the heading of New Business, a motion was made to write a letter to Local 388, the inside workers, to request immediate amalgamation. This was not the first time amalgamation had been considered. The two locals had much in common, but the two sets of negotiations sometimes had them playing against each other. The offer was debated at Local 388, but in August they replied indicating they wished to retain their autonomy.


In 1971 the local approved a motion to bring the Water Board back into the local. The Victoria Water Board Local 598 had originally been part of CEPA but was one of the groups that had gone their own way. If in the past, the unions resisted pressure to align themselves politically, the ‘70s became the decade of the political imperative. At the national and provincial levels, CUPE made it known that they supported candidates that supported unions. Local 50 had resisted pressure to provide endorsements in the past, but at a meeting in 1971 they discussed endorsing a local labour candidate. Jim Beaubien, a member of HEU 180, was running for council, and it was suggested that Local 50 provide some financial support for his campaign. It was pointed out that it had been a long time since there had been a labour-friendly council member. The 1970s saw a new focus on women in the workplace. A note in the local’s minutes indicates that, although there were no women in Local 50, the members were supportive of women’s rights in the workplace. “B.C. Fed re: Women’s Rights in the Labour Force … recommend that if and when women become members of this local that the Status of Women be applicable and this letter be placed on the bulletin board.” The local went on to demonstrate their support for women in joining pickets at Sandringham Hospital, where 28 women were

fighting for a first contract. The workers at Sandringham Hospital initially received support from many unions, but the strike was long and bitter, and the numbers on the picket lines dwindled over time. Local 50 ensured that the strike remained a topic of discussion at meetings and that their members provided support on the picket line. The strike proved to be the longest in Canadian history, bringing about not only a first contract, but a change to labour law. The minutes contain an interesting addendum to the Sandringham strike. The local had an unofficial policy of honouring any and all requests for charitable donations. The Salvation Army had been a long-time recipient of the local’s benevolence. When the Salva-

Local 50’s Henry Bertrand walks the picket line in support of striking Sandringham Hospital workers, 1971.

More about Jim Walker


im Walker (pictured, left, seated beside the podium) first became president of Local 50 in 1974, taking over from Bill Doherty. Walker downplays his ascent to the position of president in much the same way as the other presidents. “When I took over as president I thought I was just doing my part,” he says. While all presidents came to the position facing a multitude of challenges, Walker took the post as the local seemed headed for a major confrontation with the employer. “We had lots of grievances and it got to the point where we had to do something. We felt it was just unnecessary. The agreement, to us, to our lawyer, it was pretty straightforward. But they just pushed it all to arbitration.” He was proud of a case that went to the Supreme Court with a ruling in favour of Local 50, but was frustrated by the issues that the employer continued to carry to arbitration. “We just couldn’t believe what

they were fighting. We had an example of one, down at the Cook Street Village – a contractor, a private contractor put in, I think, it was a four-foot sewer drain, and down at the bottom they went too low in one area. So stuff would build up in the bottom and they would have to send people in. We would have to send our people in to get that stuff out, manually. And we had in the Collective Agreement – anybody working in raw sewage would be paid time and a quarter. Well, the city said anybody working ‘in a container with raw sewage’ … well the city didn’t think that pipe was a container. If that happens, you know, even the Chairman of the Board says ‘if it’s not a container, what is it?’ This was the stuff we were going through. Finally we got all that straightened out. It was a learning experience.” Walker describes the early negotiations as another point of frustration. Speaking about the pre-GVLRA days he explains, “so, before that, in nego-

tiations, Local 50 seemed to be the one to always go first and it didn’t suit one of the neighbouring locals. So there was a lot of name-calling back and forth, because in Esquimalt, the City of Victoria owns the waterworks. And the people out there, when our workers would go out there they’d get called names and stuff. So the next year we let them go first. And they couldn’t believe what you had to go through. So then the GVLRA came along and forced everybody into one and then that eliminated all that because everybody was at the bargaining table except for Sooke and Langford. But that was the difficult part, dealing basically, sometimes with your own people.” In 1975, with a strike threatening and negotiations going nowhere, Walker had to get educated quickly. “None of that you learn at school. You learn nothing about the labour code. Nothing about negotiations. You learn nothing about arbitration or how to deal with politicians or business people. That all had to be


learned quickly. The other thing was – if something came up that you hadn’t dealt with before, then you had to go and learn about it. “I would say that the strikes were the biggest things that happened. They were, every day for three months, 14 to 16 hours a day. I’d go out to the picket lines. See how it was doing.” Walker tells a story about a member of the public who couldn’t believe that Local 50 kept up pickets at the arena for 24 hours a day. “Why would they be out there? Because as soon as you turn your back, they go and turn all the lights on so everybody gets excited that something is going to be happening in there, and there’s no picket line.” Speaking with admiration, he says, “Everybody just held real tough there.” He describes another show of commitment, “We had one fella – he was a real good employee and after, he said, right in front of City Hall – he took a bunch of paper and ripped it up and threw it up in the air and he says, ‘I would have cleaned this up – before the strike – but now the way they’re treating us – THEY can come out and clean it up. Let them see what we go through when we’re down cleaning up the city.’ And I thought, boy, the guys are hanging right in there!” Not only did the local enjoy the full support of their members during the strike, they had the city hamstrung through secondary effects of their picketing. “A lot of the things that happened during that time we did not anticipate. Like Victoria’s gas system. All the gas for all the restaurants, the hotels – everybody had gas in Victoria. All that gas was shipped in on barge or by train car. Well, we had pickets on the Johnson Street Bridge so they couldn’t go under the bridge and they couldn’t go over the bridge. And we never even gave that a thought. I was at home one morning and I got a call that the train is down here at the bridge and won’t move because it won’t cross the picket line and can I come down. “The other one was behind the police station where the police department had the fuel tanks for all the police cars. So, again, I get a call to go down and we didn’t know that cars gassed up in behind. Nobody said anything. So … picket pass, picket pass, right away. Some stuff – we didn’t hesitate on it. Those were the kind of things, I’d walk away from them and think – why didn’t I think of them?” Walker was no stranger to complaints during strikes. He listened to phone calls and spoke face to face with citizens who disagreed with the strike.


He stood up to callers on radio shows and endured abusive comments on picket lines. It was what he expected as the president of a union local during a strike. He tells about receiving a parcel at the office one day. It was addressed to him, care of the local, so no one had opened it. When he got to the office he opened it and inside found two books – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. He also received two letters. Both letters, like the parcel, gave no indication as to the identity of the sender. Walker discarded the books and told no one. He has never shown the letters to anyone. The letters are vaguely threatening and all the more sinister for having anonymous authors. If anyone doubts there is a personal toll in assuming such leadership, this could be a lesson. It is a sobering reminder that there are still those who seek to demonize unions.

tion Army made their annual appeal in 1970, the usual donation was moved and seconded, but an amendment was made. It was suggested that the local not donate and that the executive send a letter asking why the Salvation Army was not supporting the Sandringham Hospital strike. Both the amendment and the main motion ended up being defeated, but a show of union conscience began to be more evident in the local’s decision-making. In 1973 there was a changing of the guard in Local 50. Jim Walker ran against incumbent Bill Doherty and took over as president. Doherty remained on the board, assuming one of the vice president positions. Other changes were happening. By 1974, Local 50 finally had a woman in the ranks. The Parks Department administrator proudly reported the hiring of the first female employee. Among the many agenda items at meetings was “communications.” Sometimes the letters were of complaint, sometimes they warned about chronically late per-capita payments, and sometimes they were notes of thanks. A meeting in 1974 was most notable for the many letters of thanks for the local’s support. They included the B.C. Federation of Labour giving thanks for supporting Okanagan Telephone workers, thanks for assisting in the Sandringham Hospital strike, thanks from Local 3253 United Steel Workers, thanks from Greater Victoria Regional Employees’ Union, and thanks from Victoria Express. Also of note at the general meetings was the agenda item of Accounts & Bills. The organizations to which Local 50 was affiliated had stabilized with the list including CUPE National, CUPE B.C. Division, Vancouver Island District Council, B.C. Federation of Labour, and the Victoria Labour Council. What had changed significantly were the per-capita payments. For example, in July 1964 the CUPE National payment was $238.25. In June 1974 the CUPE National payment was listed as $1,027. As negotiations for 1975 drew near, articles about the local and its workers began appearing in the papers. It was a familiar event prior to negotiations – articles suggesting that the workers were overpaid and underworked. The local began to be concerned that members of the public were falling for the ploy, along with some of their own members. During the 1975 negotiations, Local 388’s determination to remain distinct from Local 50 was evidenced in their first response to the city’s contract offer. Local 50 had been offered a 12% increase, which would barely compensate for existing deficits and a rising inflation rate. Inside workers were considering an offer of 15.75% despite Local 50’s advice that they wait out the city. Local media jumped on the differences in approach of the two locals and made the issues headline material: “City Hall Unions

Excerpt from Minutes of General Meeting, June 18, 1974. The CUPE National payment was listed as $1,027.

Disagree” (Victoria Times, January 2, 1975), “Victoria given strike notice – Rift developing in union locals” (Daily Colonist, January 3, 1975), and “Strike notice splits area CUPE locals – Further breaches likely” (Daily Colonist, January 5, 1975). When Local 388 President Doug Casey did bring the offer before the membership, it was rejected soundly: “More than 75 per cent of the 200 office, technical and janitorial workers who

Doug Hudlin and his overflowing inbox, ca.1975. During the strike of that year, the office was manned 24/7.


make up Local 388 … voted to reject the latest package offer” (Daily Colonist, January 7, 1975). After the vote, Casey indicated that he would resign his position of president but elected to stay on when given a vote of 99% confidence by members. (Victoria Times, January 7, 1975). The perceived cracks in solidarity had disappeared. Reporting in the media began to focus on speculation about the looming strike threat: would it actually happen? Who would it affect? How long would it last? Although there had been threats of strikes and walkouts, there had not actually been a strike by city employees in a very long time. In fact, the last official strike had been the one and only strike in 1954. While many in the city used this record as a sort of insurance that no strike would materialize, the members of Local 50 did not follow suit. As contract talks stalled, CUPE Locals across Greater Victoria began taking strike votes. They were all negotiating with the GVLRA and all coming to the same conclusion – that talks were going nowhere. Events played out in headlines in local papers:


December 20, 1974, Victoria Times

Lockout warned as strike answer December 24, 1974, Daily Colonist

If unions strike we’ll do battle, say two mayors January 2, 1975, Daily Colonist

Civic workers voting Monday on wage offer January 3, 1975, Daily Colonist

Victoria given strike notice

January 5, 1975, Daily Colonist

Strike notice splits area CUPE locals January 7, 1975, Daily Colonist

City inside staff reject 15% offer by 75% January 10, 1975, Victoria Times

CUPE Eyes Overtime Ban January 21, 1975, Daily Colonist

Urgent mediation will start today

Local 50 members became even more committed to their cause, and their distrust of the employer grew.

On January 27, 1975, after mediation had failed, Local 50 walked out and the strike began in earnest. Most city services were eliminated. The Johnson Street Bridge was left in its raised position. Soon after Local 50 walked out, the members of the Municipal Employers’ Co-ordinating Committee, as promised, issued a lock-out notice to all remaining CUPE locals. The lengthy strike and subsequent lockout that followed deepened the rift between the union and the city. Local 50 members became even more committed to their cause, and their distrust of the employer grew. When the members finally met to vote on the employer’s proposal in April, they delivered a good union result: 114 votes to accept the proposal and 90 votes to reject. It provided for a return to work, but demonstrated to the city that Local 50’s members were not happy. The many changes on the executive and the strike notwithstanding, the local continued with social activities. The children’s Christmas party continued to be held each December, and in 1976 the Entertainment Committee expanded to include what they hoped to be an annual golf tournament with a perpetual trophy.

“I was at home one morning and I got a call that the train at the bridge wouldn’t cross the picket line. They asked me if I could come down,” Jim Walker said of the 1975 strike.


chapter eight Under Attack


he 1980s were a decade of labour unrest. After years of wage controls, workers were fighting again to restore wage levels but were being outpaced by inflation and interest rates. Laws would be changed and new laws created, all with the intent of quashing what was perceived to be the growing and dangerous power of the trade union movement. Local 50, from its strategic location of the seat of government, experienced the attack firsthand. Local 50 was once again called upon to support and assist in fight-back campaigns. It became an era of political action, and the local played an important role. In the city of Victoria, the decade began with a strike. The 1981 strike may have been the most media-covered strike in


Small but effective Local 50 marine picket during 1981 strike. It consisted of two men with a strike placard in a small outboardpowered boat.

Victoria’s history. As usual, the local had to contend with more than just the employer – everyone seemed to have an opinion. Views were expressed through television, radio, and newspapers. Every aspect was debated – from the right to fair wages to the right to strike at all.

opportunity for political ambition and fodder for newspaper sales. One thing the strike clearly demonstrated was how important the work of Local 50 members was to the people of Victoria. The withdrawal of their services affected everyone.

Armed with a strike vote of 96%, the local announced a campaign of Work to Rule beginning May 15, 1981. Some suggested that the breadth of commentary illustrated how agitated the public was. Others saw the strike as an


Without a contract since December 31, 1980, and armed with a strike vote of 96%, the local announced a campaign of

Work to Rule beginning May 15, 1981. The campaign, which only slightly disrupted services, was interspersed with study sessions by different crews. While threats of lockout came from the employer, support poured in from the union side. Local 388, often regarded as soft when it came to the subject of striking, came back with a vote to walk out. The inside workers’ 84% strike vote sent a message to any who doubted their resolve. By May 23, seven CUPE units were poised to strike. Once the strike began in earnest, there was immediate distaste over the garbage that quickly piled up. People were concerned about whether sporting events

could go on as planned. At one point, City Hall was closed to the public, and everyone wondered about how to pay bills and apply for permits. There were many questions about the legality of strike-related activities, and considerable discussion took place about a particular picket line. The local had posted their first marine picket under the Johnson Street Bridge, consisting of two men with a strike placard in a small outboard-powered boat. It was clearly more of a statement than any kind of barrier. Although all union workers indicated they would respect the tiny marine picket, the fact was, most marine traffic had moved out of the harbour prior to the beginning of the strike.

The Saanich Local of CUPE reached an early agreement, with newspapers announcing a settlement on May 28. If the GVLRA thought that a resolution in Saanich would lead immediately to agreements and a return to work in the other CUPE Locals, they were mistaken. Even the Saanich members did not immediately return to work, refusing to cross picket lines set up by other locals and respecting “hot edicts� on trucks. The employer was kept busy running to the Labour Relations Board seeking injunction after injunction. As one contract was settled, another CUPE Local would step up picketing and members would be out on the street again. Local 50 fully supported their union brothers and sisters, walking off the job every time the lines


Local 388’s Cindy Reichert and Local 50’s Colin Graham, 1987. Local 388 would later merge with Local 50.

went up. The GVLRA approach that was supposed to provide organized bargaining turned into negotiating chaos. Unable to make any headway with the clerical workers, the GVLRA finally decided, in July, to deal with them outside of the joint process. When the schoolboard clerical workers finally came to agreement in August, many were questioning the viability of the GVLRA. In May 1983, Local 388 welcomed another group of unionists into the fold – workers at the United Way of Victoria. Members of the Victoria Branch of the SPCA joined Local 50 on February 20, 1987. There wasn’t much time to celebrate.


In the same year, the provincial government introduced Bills 19 and 20, effectively disrupting the education system and eroding labour relations in B.C. Bill 19 did away with the LRB and labour code and substituted a new entity with farreaching powers. The government’s actions prompted a Day of Protest on June 1, 1987. An estimated 350,000 workers joined the oneday walkout. In Victoria, workers assembled and marched to the Parliament Buildings. CUPE Local 50 members marched behind their familiar banner and lent their voices to the cries of outrage over the government’s attack.

chapter nine Reason


fter surviving a storm of attacks on labour rights, the local was hoping for a period of stability, but both Local 50 and Local 388’s contracts expired in December 1990. An early settlement did not look promising. When CUPE representative Jim Lamb arrived in Victoria in 1991 and was assigned the municipal sector, he already knew about Local 50’s reputation. He did not let the things he’d heard about Local 50 influence him. He explains that he puts such things at the back of his mind, meets with the new locals and new assignment and goes from there. Indeed he says he found Local 50 great to work with. Lamb came to the assignment just as Locals 50 and 388 were preparing to bargain. The locals had identified their key issues, one of which Lamb recalls was pay equity. The provincial government was already addressing pay equity with the BC Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU), and there was some concern at the city that they would lose members of Local 388 to the provincial government service if they didn’t also deal with pay equity. “… I talked to Local 50 and 388 and said we need terms of reference for this project. From my experience, I knew the pitfalls and the expectations of job evaluation and pay equity. So we spent eight months negotiating terms of reference with the GVLRA on the project. Most of it we worked out except for one issue. And the one that would bind 50 and 388 right to the end is that this project was not about taking money from maledominated jobs to give to female-dominated jobs. Pay equity was never about that. And in particular, the labourer’s rate of pay was not going to go down. We couldn’t get the city or the


50 and 388 were solid that the labourer pay rate was not going to go down to fund pay equity GVLRA to agree to those words. So it was left hanging. I’m not sure what the employer was thinking. But 50 and 388 were solid that the labourer pay rate was not going to go down to fund pay equity.” Lamb goes on to describe how the city decided to address pay equity through a Job Evaluation (JE) plan, something already successfully underway in Saanich with CUPE’s own Job Evaluation Department. “The City of Victoria had taken a different view. The city wanted the management consulting firm of Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson) and not CUPE to assist the parties.” Lamb still pushed for using the CUPE Job Evaluation Department: “They do great work and they’re free. So we set up a meeting in the Conference Centre in downtown Victoria. CUPE came with one of its JE staff from Ottawa and the JE rep from the regional office in Burnaby and made a pitch as to what the CUPE JE plan was all about and the services CUPE provided at no cost. Towers Perrin came and gave a pitch what their plan was all about. The city did not change its mind – it would still be Towers Perrin – to which the union said, ‘well, you’re paying for it.’” Having a management company as the consulting firm was a problem. Although the role of Towers Perrin was to guide and

do some technical testing, Lamb was looking down the road. “My bigger concern was that they’re a management consulting firm and if a management bias came through during the process, then this project was over. And of course it would be over for all the other locals and the other GVLRA employers too.” Lamb was able to convince the principals at Towers Perrin of the importance of being seen as independent consultants to a joint committee. “I said if you can do that, this can work – and the city will pay your costs. “In this case the City of Victoria would be paying the bill because the CUPE Locals had no interest in paying Towers Perrin when CUPE offered their services for free. And I would never ever recommend to a local union that they pay a consulting firm. And as it turned out down the road, I can’t remember what the city set aside – two million dollars or something – they ran out of money. The work wasn’t finished.” The CUPE Job Evaluation rep was asked to step in, taking over at the implementation phase. Lamb recalls speaking with one of the Towers Perrin consultant principals later and being told that the joint 50/388 management working committee was the best joint committee she had ever worked with. “Yeah. It worked. Because if you go back to ‘91 when I came here, Local 388 had many tentative arbitrations around classification issues, where people found their jobs had changed and they wanted more money. And my best guess at that time, as I recall, is that I said, ‘you’re looking at about $100,000 in fees to take these to arbitration. Why don’t we simply get the employer to agree to set these reclassification grievances aside? When the new job evaluation system is built, the joint working committee can rate them and what’ll be will be.’ And that’s what happened in the end. I haven’t had anything to do with Local 50 for many

years, but I understand there’s never been an arbitration case over a change of duties or responsibilities or pay issue because the new system takes care of it. And it’s a joint management union system. “And the job descriptions – the city agreed that the joint committee would rewrite the job descriptions for the City of Victoria. I think there were over three hundred of them, so instead of having generic classification specs that might cover a lot of people, they were done in a more specific job description for your specific job. They were all done jointly. All were agreed to. “Joint committees can work if you want them to work. If you don’t want them to work they’ll die. In this case – of course it became the pilot for the rest of the region too – there were some nuances within the others, but they too were successful. But that eight months in 1991–92 of hammering out what we were going to do paid off in the end. “The other issue was the employee definitions: whether you were a regular employee or whether you were a temporary or a casual. And that had gotten pretty much out of hand in the whole region. Employees who should have been hired as regulars were being called temporary or casual, thus being denied many benefits in the collective agreement. But they worked just as regularly as the regular full-time employee. So that issue had to be tackled. That’s a huge one for the employers.” Mediator Vince Ready was finally brought in to assist the parties in finding a settlement of this thorny issue and others. After two days of around-the-clock mediation, a deal was struck that avoided a strike. Vince Ready was also written into the agreement to resolve any disputes that may have risen in the future over employee classifications, i.e. regular or auxiliary status.

More about Colin Graham


olin Graham had been the president of Local 50 for about five years when Jim Lamb came to Victoria. Graham began working for the City of Victoria in 1980. The incentive to get involved in the union came when he attempted to have a pay issue resolved and saw it fall by the wayside. It was in the time of the Bennett government’s restraint agenda. The solidarity movement was just beginning. Graham describes it as high times for unionists. “Went to the

first B.C. Federation convention and saw all the players – the Jack Munros – all the big union leaders – and, oh, in those days the B.C. Federation Conventions were just unbelievable. They were a highlight. There was a lot of good debate – a lot of movement. Things actually happened. It was great. I just got tied up in it. So that’s what started me.” On January 29, 1992, CUPE Local 50 members, through a governmentsupervised strike vote, set labour history in Canada by voting 100% in favour of a strike.


According to Graham, “The 100% was probably the best set of bargaining we ever did. We got it in 1992 and we did terrific at bargaining, but we had a lot of things going our way. We had an NDP mayor, David Turner, who pretty well came to the Labour Movement for support. And in the end we had to actually drag him and his people down into the other building and explain to him that they were using Bill 19 on us and that the NDP was against Bill 19. “We went into 72–74 hours straight mediation with Vince Ready, and that mediation process got so bad that Ready actually kicked out the GVLRA – called all the politicians in, and all weekend we sat with all the mayors – everybody was there. All the mayors were downstairs at the Coast Hotel and we were upstairs at the Coast Hotel and we basically broke the GVLRA. They just threw up their hands and let the politicians deal with it. “We ended up getting a lot of changes – a good agreement. We were the first union to get seniority for auxiliary employees. We did really well. We even got the boots [safety footwear] that year. We did extremely well. We got a good raise. Our issue of casuals in the workplace – there were more and more casuals, so we got auxiliaries seniority rights. It was probably the most successful time I had at the bargaining table. Other than the IPI strike, which was successful in a different way.” “Most interesting was the contracting-out language. To me that was the biggest thing I was ever involved in.

Graham began working for the City of Victoria in 1980. The incentive to get involved in the union came when he attempted to have a pay issue resolved and saw it fall by the wayside.

We got that when Gretchen [Brewin] was the mayor, and we stuck it on the table and it came right down to – the employer wasn’t moving – so we modified our position a few times. We said, at least give us this attrition clause. They’d have nothing to do with that, so Jack Hughesman, he got a hold of Gretchen and she said, ‘well, your members don’t really support it.’ So we booked the Royal Theatre, got 800–900 people there – other GVLRA locals, people off the street – talked strike even though there was no intent or necessity.”

On January 29, 1992, CUPE Local 50 members, through a government-supervised strike vote, set labour history in Canada by voting 100% in favour of a strike. Here, the Public Works employees show their resolve.


In 1994, while Victoria was preparing for the Commonwealth Games, Local 50 and Local 388 were busy with negotiations. The proceedings had been underway for some time, but seemed to be slowing down. In March, Colin Graham told the Local 50 Executive Board, “Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t panic yet.” Victorians began to get nervous. In mid-April, Graham reported that there was no movement from the city and that the local’s priorities remained employment equity, fairness in promotions, and no-concession bargaining. By the end of April, a strike vote was mandated. As frequently happened with negotiations, the story was played out in the press. The city vied for public support, claiming Local 50 was reneging on a promise to not disrupt the Commonwealth Games. In the local’s view, work such as street repair, park maintenance, and garbage collection were not part of the Commonwealth Games. They may have agreed to not picket some game venues, but they had not given up the right to all job action. Talks quickly broke down. A mediator was called in. Mediation talks broke down. When the mediator and Locals 50 and 388 were ready to return to the table, the city was not – both the mayor and the acting mayor went out of town. Victorians were getting really nervous. The Times Colonist newspaper could find only one council member for comment, Bob Friedland.

“This labour dispute could have easily been prevented. It has been poorly handled.” Friedland said the labour dispute was poisoning labour relations between the city and its workers over a no-cost issue. “That to me is an utterly ridiculous situation,” he said. Friedland supported both the inside and outside workers’ demand for fairness in the workplace. “Council members were well aware of some of the problems with the Human Resources Department and its hiring and promotion practices and procedures,” said Friedland. “This is a fairness issue, not a financial issue; it has zero financial impact. If management cannot support the union’s demand for ensuring that promotion will not be on the basis of favouritism, nepotism, or other inappropriate criteria, they have a duty to come up with something better, and they have not,” Friedland said. In the end it took an industrial inquiry to settle the issues. In Local 50’s Outsider newsletter the following was reported: Industrial Inquiry Commissioner Vince Ready submitted his report and recommendations for resolution of the collective bargaining dispute (the Strike!). These “recommendations” are binding on both the local, and the City of Victoria. They now form part of our Contract and must be followed by management. All of the Local 50 issues were settled in favour of the union.


Most of the City of Victoria issues were turned down. Normally labour mediators tend to “split the baby” – they want both parties to feel as if they have won something and as a result often give you half of what you asked for. What the industrial inquiry so overwhelmingly found for Local 50 and against the City of Victoria is a complete vindication of our position throughout the negotiations – that management had no intention of being fair or equitable. As Vince Ready stated in his report: “In making these recommendations I have attempted to balance the interests of each party. I have been guided by the discussions I held with them … as well as the thorough and thoughtful submissions of the parties … ” Then Mr. Ready awarded all of the issues to the union! What management wanted » To no longer pay for three union members to attend to union business at arbitration hearings, grievances, or collective bargaining – Vince Ready said NO! to the city. » To only post vacancies that exceed six months instead of the present three months (to cut down on the workload at Human Resources!) – Vince Ready said NO! to the city. What management refused to agree to » Pay for the night watering crew unfairly laid off during strike – Vince Ready said YES! Night waterers laid off during the strike will get 50% of their usual wages for the time they were off. » Relief in more senior positions to be done by seniority – Vince Ready said YES! Relief assignments up to pay group 3 are now done by seniority, if the internal applicants are equal. » Internal versus external candidates when recruiting: the union wanted all internal applicants given preference over external candidates for vacancies – Vince Ready said YES! Current employees will be given first consideration. » Seniority for postings. The union wanted seniority for postings – Vince Ready said YES! As long as they have the ability to do the job, senior employees will get preference up to and including pay group 3. After pay group 3, if the internal applicants are equal, then senior shall be given preference. Because Local 50 was limited in their ability to take job action during the Commonwealth Games strike, they had to be creative. They were able to ban the use of radios and therefore not take work direction from managers, but the radios were still turned on. In November 1994, John Burrows was elected president. He tells the story of how a Local 50 member who, after hearing a manager on the


radio, would respond by somehow reproducing the sound of a flushing toilet. The more times the managers used the radio, the more times the flushing was heard. The Flusher, so dubbed by Local 50 compatriots, became a strike hero. The Local 50 members rallied around the person, but no one knew who the person was. Most importantly, the employer did not know who the person was. While management set out elaborate plans to trap the Flusher – purportedly even using a vehicle with a radio-detection device, Local 50 celebrated the person. Management never found out who the Flusher was. The Flusher became and continues to be a Local 50 legend. In 1996 there is a note in the minutes book indicating that the new city manager wanted to have bi-weekly meetings. Subsequently noted in the minutes: Local 50 showed up for the meeting. The new city manager did not. On December 29, 1996, it started to snow in Victoria. And snow. It had already snowed on December 23, and that snow had yet to melt. A single-day snowfall record was set on the 29th. High winds swept the snow into huge drifts. Victoria streets were impassable. The city was not well prepared to deal with the event. Their management of the snow coping and removal process combined with seniority and pay violations resulted in so many grievances that the local was still seeking resolutions to many of them over a year later. Victoria’s Monday Magazine ran a Russ Francis feature on April 17, 1997, chronicling the increasing divide between management at the City of Victoria and the unionized workers. When the city embarked on a new Corporate Training and Development Program, both Local 50 and Local 388 expressed their frustration. In the article, Colin Graham commented on the city’s workplace harmony initiative, saying, “I think the Moonies are in charge here.” Also quoted was Local 50’s recording secretary, Steven Curry, who said, “They’re spending time and money on images instead of on real job training. It’s all fluff.” Local 388’s Susan Jansen, then second vice president, stated, “For a CUPE local that has always attempted to resolve issues with as little conflict as possible, we are finding the only way we can deal with the employer now is by taking a hard line.” Amid the big stories that seemed to dominate the decade, there were often smaller stories – the kind of stories that enriched and strengthened the fabric from which the local was woven. The March 17, 1998 general meeting minutes noted under Good & Welfare: Dave Podmoroff wants to donate 2 ½ hours pay as he was sick when withdrawal of services took place in parks, donation to be forwarded to Women’s Transition House. Unwilling to benefit while his union brothers and sisters sacrificed, the Local 50 member donated his pay to charity.


Local 50 loses its home

Back in the 1960s, Local 50 answered the call and began purchasing shares for a proposed Union Building at the corner of Market Street and Quadra Street in Victoria. The building was eventually developed, but went into


receivership May 12, 1999 when the Victoria Building Co-Operative Union went bankrupt, leaving nothing for the shareholders. The building was purchased by OK Radio Group Ltd. and is now the home of The Q and The Zone radio stations.

chapter ten A New Era

Parks Department, Beacon Hill Horticultural Crew, 2007. Back row left to right: Mike Tench, Denis Oullet, Pat Meecham, Bernard Hopcraft, Joe Lachmund, Dale Doebert, Mike Ball, Terri Lee-Green. Front row left to right: Kendall Neilson, Lee Stemski, Roddy Walker, Paul Lecompte, Kirsten Doyle, Margaret Marsden, Stephanie Campbell.


he year 2000 might have been the start of a new millennium, but it was a return to the same old story as far as employers in B.C. were concerned. The passage of Bills 28 and 29, privatization, negating of contracts and introduction Public-Private-Partnerships (P3s) saw renewed efforts to curtail union activism. The executive of Local 50 recognized the importance of political action during this period, and the minutes note the many reports and discussions about efforts to counter the pressure. After many years of discussing the possibility, Local 50 and Local 388 finally amalgamated on March 9, 2004. Susan Jansen was president of Local 388 and for a period of time after the merger she and John Burrows served as co-presidents of Local 50. In discussing whether working together on the joint committee influenced the amalgamation of Local 50 and Local 388, Jim Lamb says, “I think it was the first step in having the two locals work together on a joint project. I would say that’s legitimate.” Agreeing that the two locals had very different personalities, Lamb goes on to say, “50, at least when I met them, they were a fairly political organization. They knew how to organize their members for a cause. I think it’s closer to the sort of the history of union activism.” Colin Graham talks about Local 50’s reputation. “I think Local 50, if you go back, there’s always been a problem. In 1975,


when they had the big strike – it left a lot of impression on people. But if you talk to people before that, there was always a problem with city management and the outside staff. In ‘75 there was the four-month strike and it left a lot of bitter feelings – a lot of mistrust. There’s still a lot of mistrust. “We would have wildcat strikes. Always on a Thursday of council days. Members seemed to think that would help. Esquimalt was just petrified of us. In the end they would be running to their administrators with all this stuff that ended up putting heat on the GVLRA. I can honestly say that CUPE Local 50 is the true CUPE Local in town. As far as militancy, as far as progression. Everybody sort of follows suit. “I remember at the bargaining table … the first time I went to the bargaining table as an observer … I think it was a year when we lost a lot of gains, and I remember 388 walking out of bargaining because they would have nothing to do with us. [Bill] Doherty was the president. I forget who was the vice president. Local 50 was hard-line, and it got to the point where 388 walked away so they split off from the JNC [Joint Negotiating Committee]. At that point we had joint municipal bargaining. And they walked out. They said they’d have nothing to do with it while Local 50 is there, and we were kind of upset, but then they went to bargain on their own and managers asked them for a 44-hour work week. Two weeks later they were back with us.

More about John Burrows


ohn Burrows was hired for the summer at the City of Victoria in 1973. He subsequently found work at Victoria Plywood. During his three years at the Mill it was not unusual to arrive at work and find a picket line. Burrows understood then that a picket line was never to be crossed but it wasn’t until he returned to work at the City of Victoria in 1977 that he began to understand the importance and true meaning of trade unions. After working at the City for ten years Burrows applied for the position of Painter. He was passed over. Not satisfied that the City had followed the selection process correctly, Burrows submitted a complaint to Local 50. He waited for a response. And waited. He later

discovered that the grievance had gone to the bottom of a drawer somewhere. Deciding he needed to get more involved in the Local, he let his name stand for an Executiveat-large spot at an election in May of 1993. By November of the same year he found himself on the Bargaining Committee along with the President Colin Graham. When the Vice-President position became vacant in late 1993 Burrows took on that responsibility. His move to the presidency came in 1994. The Local’s newsletter, The Outsider reported, “Brother Colin Graham stepped down earlier this month from his position as President of Local 50, a position he has held for over 8 years. As set out in the Local’s constitution, the 1st Vice

President, John (Rocky) Burrows took over the position of president until the regularly scheduled elections in 1995.” When the 1995 elections came around John Burrows ran, uncontested. He remains the President of Local 50 to this day, having been acclaimed in all but one election. A union leader for more than eighteen years now, he is widely credited with revitalizing the Local through his dedication to “noconcession” bargaining, maintaining public services, improving workers rights, communication, fiscal responsibility, and membership growth. The Local has accomplished a lot under his stewardship but he is quick to point out that many of the struggles are ongoing. The joint


approach that Jim Lamb was so proud of, for example, has all but disintegrated. Recounting his early days as president, Burrows relates a common theme – having to jump right in without much preparation. No amount of attending meetings can prepare a union member to face down a manager at a grievance hearing. Shop stewards do not immediately have the skill to advocate at arbitrations. Presidents aren’t suddenly knowledgeable negotiators. Burrows almost immediately had to face every capacity of a union local president’s position. The local was inundated with arbitrations. According to Burrows, “1994 was a union educators’ dream come true. My friend and predecessor Colin Graham and I were flying by the seat of our pants – first the bargaining, then the government mediation, then the private mediation, then an industrial inquiry. In between there were strike votes, work to rules, the strike itself, bargaining-in-bad-faith complaints filed at the LRB, then an essential-service hearing at the LRB … it went on and on. Among all this was the immense pressure from the public over the hosting of the Commonwealth Games. It was unbelievable. There was a lot to learn and it had to be learned on the go.” Privatization and contracting out have been issues the local has faced from the very beginning. Nowadays they are becoming more of a priority. John Burrows is proud that they’ve managed to keep as many jobs for the members as they have. He points to a significant factor achieved during his presidency – the “re-employment of auxiliary employees letter of understanding.” Known in the Collective Agreement as “Letter of Understanding #8”, it sets out the rules by which auxiliary employees are

to be called. The rules support the auxiliary employees’ progression toward conversion to regular status and thereby ensure that where there is need for a regular employee there will be a full-time position. The spin-off benefit is that it ensures that numbers in the workforce are maintained – an important factor in an era of downsizing and cutbacks. Garbage collection has been a popular target for the city’s cost-cutting efforts. Most recently the city made another attempt to eliminate backyard garbage pick-up, sending out a survey to residents that strategically did not include the status quo (full backyard service) as a pickup option. Burrows led sanitation workers in a fight-back campaign, and in the end the city was forced to change its direction. In a presentation to the mayor and City Council, he pointed out that the union understood the need for efficiency and cost-effectiveness as part of the responsibility to taxpayers, but suggested that there were other considerations – the environmental impact, the city’s demographics, the appearance of the city and, of course, the livelihoods of union workers. He warned against giving away city services. “Contracting out should also be of concern to council in terms of accountability for service delivery and loss of control of costs to the residents of Victoria.” Oddly, at the same time the city was throwing out numbers to justify privatizing and downsizing, Victorians could log on to the city’s website and read about how proud the city was that Local 50 members had cleaned 40 kilometres of streets, emptied 660 downtown garbage bins every day, and raised the Johnson Street Bridge three times a day.

Political satirists seized every opportunity to feature and lampoon local labour disputes.


“We used to have these JNCs and you’d have all these locals and all these meetings and all these issues and common issues. It was a long process but we sort of liked it at one time because we could keep our eyes on them, and I guess they liked it because they could keep their eyes on us. But that completely broke down in 1994 during the Commonwealth Games strike. We had an 11-day strike. That process broke down forever right there.” Speaking from the CUPE Local 388 perspective, Cindy Reichert agrees that there were concerns about Local 50’s militancy. Reichert was the first female president of Local 388 and at the time she was interviewed, had been working for the city for 35 years. In a statement of pride in her union job, she proudly displays a plaque

Other presidents and executive boards have been

We’ve been through numerous bargaining sessions,

dismayed by poor attendance at the local’s meetings,

arbitrations, grievances, etc., with the City and our sub-

concocting schemes and promotions to encourage

locals and John’s interest has always been what has been

members. Burrows comments, “As my friend and former

in the best interest of the members and for this local.”

colleague Colin Graham would say, and I continue to

Current Victoria Area Cupe National Representative,

believe, we are okay with the numbers and our attitude

Susan Jansen, shares Don Sutton’s opinion. “There is no

was and is philosophical. We take the low attendance

doubt that John Burrows is a fierce advocate for the Local

numbers as a vote of confidence – a sign that the union

50 members. Successes in negotiations, arbitrations and

leadership are doing things right.” He alludes to the

grievances tell us that. But he also has an understanding

“squeaky wheel” theory and reasons that if there were

of the context of those successes. He understands that

complaints, the members would be at the meetings

the successes are meaningful, because they bring about

making their concerns known.

improvement to the members and to the community in

Though negotiations have not always run smoothly

which they work.”

during his tenure, Burrows is proud to have never negotiated concessions. Most recently, in 2010–11, Burrows and the Local 50 Bargaining Committee led contract negotiations for members of all CUPE locals in the region with the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Board. Despite the tough economy, the local has won yearly increases in compensation, maintained their position of no-concessions bargaining, and continued or improved health-care-benefit coverage at a time when other union and non-union workers are having their wages cut and benefits reduced. In the last 18 years, Local 50 has more than doubled its membership. The addition of members from Gorge Vale, Royal Oak, City of Victoria Inside Workers and the United Way has helped to increase Local 50’s leverage at bargaining and arbitrations. The increased numbers have ensured financial security for Local 50’s future and enabled the Local to actually decrease dues in 2004. Don Sutton, 1st Vice President, states, “John has led this local since just after bargaining and the strike in 1994.

proclaiming her seniority status in Local 388 as #1. The social environment at the city inspired Reichert to get on the local’s Entertainment Committee. She was encouraged to take advantage of the union’s educational opportunities and attended courses and seminars, gradually becoming more involved. Reichert was involved in some of the marathon negotiations where Local 388 worked alongside Local 50. Facing off against the lawyers and labour specialists on the GVLRA side was a process she describes as arduous and exhausting. She recalls a combination of fear and distrust, initially of local 50, then real-

John Burrows and Tom Mulcair, the leader of the federal opposition, November 2012.

izing that Local 50 had achieved advantages through their no-nonsense attitude. Still, there was concern over Local 50’s readiness to put members on the street over any issue. Local 388 merged with Local 50 several years after Local 50 Recording Secretary Pete Mathews retired, but he remembers consideration being given to the idea of a merger. “We were never really happy with them [388] because they would settle for less than what we were asking for. But then they’d have a little rider in there saying ‘but we want whatever Local 50 gets,’ which didn’t help us at all.” “I’m not sure whether it was Jim

Walker or somebody after him, but we did propose to Local 388 that Local 50 and 388 merge, quite some years ago. And they turned it down. I think the only reason they got together was [that] the city, through the GVLRA, made them. “They were a little weaker, for sure. I guess, a lot of single mothers and that in the City Hall – you know it’d be deadly to go on strike for them. I can understand that. But still, you’ve still got to stand up for what you believe in.” Local 50 had already been supporting 388 in the fight against the arena deal. The local was unsuccessful in their bid for successor rights at the new facility, and all of the CUPE employees lost their


jobs. They were assured they could bid on the new positions once the arena was up and running, but when the union employees showed up at the RG Properties job fair, they were told to leave. The local issued a news release: “I am outraged,” said John Burrows, president of CUPE Local 50, of the rejection of unionized workers from the job fair. A private security firm attempted to block the unionized city workers’ access to the building. One security guard, presumed to be hired by RG Properties, told a union representative that they were not permitted to be in the


public building and that “they were not doing the applicants any favours” because any prospective employee possessing the union’s literature when applying for a job “would not be considered.” Although Local 50 did not strike over the arena deal, they were not strangers to the picket lines or protests. Whether walking with a single striking projectionist or protesting with a crowd of thousands, Local 50 was there – sporting buttons, wearing placards, or carrying the CUPE Local 50 banners. In April 2004

they marched in solidarity with HEU workers after the provincial government imposed a two-year contract with wage cuts and contracting-out provisions on the 43,000 hospital and long-term care staff. In the 2002 Day of Defiance and again in the 2005 Day of Protest, members stood with B.C. teachers as the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) protested having its collective bargaining rights limited and a contract imposed. A cause always supported by Local 50 is the annual April 28 Day of Mourning – a day set aside to commemorate deaths in the

workplace and to contemplate workplace safety. As a workerfocused event, the day has encountered attempts by the city to co-opt it, using it as a Worksafe / City of Victoria promotional opportunity. The local also continued to be involved in community and charitable events. The annual food drive, initiated by Local 50 in 1999 and run by Local 50 members, proved to be very successful. In ten years of operation, Local 50 collected nearly $300,000 worth of food for the local Mustard Seed Food


Local 50’s current home at 201 - 2736 Quadra Street in Victoria, B.C. Not only is the recently purchased building a sound investment, it is a home and legacy for current and future Local 50 members.

Bank. The city must also have thought the food drive was successful, because in December 2010 they claimed the charitable event and its long history as their own. They renamed it “The Annual City of Victoria Public Works Food Drive” and used that title in all press releases and advertising. No mention was made of CUPE Local 50. Local 50 has donated time and money to many others in the community. A glance at contributions in the 1950s, for

example, shows donations to the Senior Citizens’ Council for “Christmas Cheer,” to the Victoria Nursing Home to help furnish a room, and to a building fund for a Senior Citizens’ complex. There are records of donations to the Conquer Cancer campaign, to the Salvation Army, to the March of Dimes, to the Red Cross, to the Institute for the Blind, and to the Cerebral Palsy Association. Local 50 donated to striking International Chemical Workers, to striking Shipwright-Joiners-Caulkers, to the strike fund of the Painters and Paperhangers, to striking Meat Cutters, and to the Alberni Strike Fund. In more recent times, Local 50 has donated to the Queen Alexandra Solarium, to Help Fill a Dream, to the Women’s Transition House, to Scouts Canada, to the United Way, to ALS (in memory of Local 50 member Charlie Kiss), and to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. They have contributed to the Lower Island Figure Skating Club, the Island Selects Hockey Association, the Child Find BC Tournament of Hope, and the National Little League Baseball Association. They have provided funds to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, to the Community Solidarity Coalition (for the Day of Defiance), to the Anti-Poverty Coalition, and machines and muscle to community initiatives such as the Chamber Street Allotment Gardens.

Local 50 members in front of the Chamber Street Allotment Gardens in Fernwood. Back row left to right: John Burrows, Delson Amaral, Carlos Flores, Troy Hubin and Don Sutton. Dan MacBeth in front.


Local 50’s Social Side

Golf Tournanment, 2007. Clockwise from top left, Oly Moilanen & Gord Duke; Jay Chudleigh; John Lindsay & Daryl Arbour; Don Sutton; Bob Holness, Phil Norton, Chuck Coell & John Lindsay; Louie Macedo & Chuck Hickman.


Local 50’s Social Side con`t


Golf Tournanment, 2007. By column, starting on left side: Phil Norton and Chuck Coell; Don Sutton, Paul Lecomte & Lori Stewart; Les Harrigton & Don Sutton; Martin Havelka; Margaret Marsden; Joe Lachmund, Pat Meechan & Martin Havelka’s son; Dennis Andersen, Oly Moilanen & Chuck Hickman; John Burrows & attendee turned assistant, Keely Cook, Kids’ Christmas Party, 2007; Carolyn Bradey, Christmas party organizing.


chapter eleven The Future


s rumours of amalgamation, downsizing, and contracting out swirl around the city, Colin Graham is not surprised that the same issues reappear year after year. “When I went to the Victoria Labour Council – I was at Labour Council eight years – Steve Orcherton [former Secretary Treasurer of the Victoria Labour Council and former MLA for Victoria-Hillside] told me, ‘the first thing at Labour Council is go through the minutes from 1917. You’ll see everything is the same, it just changes its name.’ He was right. There were motions dealt with in 1925 we were dealing with in 1995.” John Burrows agrees with Graham about the same issues reappearing year after year. He points out how many times his predecessors have expressed frustration over the types of issues that go to arbitration. Bill Doherty spoke of it in his interview. Jim Walker mentioned it. Graham believes the challenges facing the local are substantial. “Every-

Local 50 members in front of Victoria City Hall. Left to right: John Burrows, Don Sutton, Shon O’Hanley and Phil Battersby.

thing in the union is done in the courts now. Everything is so legal. Pretty well you have to have politicians onside but have to keep them onside. The hardest thing in the world is to hold a municipal politician to their word. It’s very tough. You have to do your lobbying but you also have to depend on your members an awful lot. When they see public support around something it’s different.

“It’s tough for the union movement these days when everything is so legal. Employers now use the courts every chance they can. Public sector employers are out of control as far as costs go. I’m sure John [Burrows] will tell you that. It’s tougher representing people now.” Jim Lamb offers this perspective: “I hope it’s just a pendulum and it swings

Loyalty and solidarity are key to all union movements. “The workplace is no place for a rat.”


Local 50 members at the 2012 Day of Mourning for Fallen Workers.

back the other way and soon. But we hear so much anti-union talk in the media and from governments and employers– about unions being not as relevant today. And I say they are even more relevant than ever before. The need for having a spokesperson or a voice, for bargaining working conditions, to stand up for you on these issues – accommodation issues – the whole gamut of issues, including pensions and workplace safety, is just as important today. It hasn’t changed – it’s being camouflaged while the gap between the rich and the rest of us is getting wider. And the middle class – which includes union members – is shrinking. “On a final note, now that I am retired, I continue to be very concerned about the failure of our governments to endorse defined benefit or indeed pensions at all. The lack of federal government support for expanding the CPP and its change to the eligibility age for OAS are shocking in and of themselves. The next generations of retirees will need these benefits just as we have today and the retirees from previous years. Unions need to continue this critical fight as do workers across Canada. It is in their interest to do so.” Today, with Secretary-Treasurer Carolyn Bradey at the financial helm, Local 50 is in sound financial shape and proudly displays certificates that attest to the passing of all financial audits. Not only is the recently purchased building


a sound investment, it is a home and legacy for current and future Local 50 members. The local continues to provide and encourage labour education opportunities for up-and-coming activists and have included on the local’s Executive Board a position of Youth Representative. Support and charitable works continue to be a significant focus. Through their international solidarity initiative, Local 50 provides a spotlight for union struggles in other countries. The local has donated to the Central America Support Committee and to the Nicaraguan Relief Fund through Oxfam. Spearheaded by executive member-at-large Carlos Flores, the plight of workers in Central and South America finds a voice at Local 50. In addition to bringing information on international workers to Local 50, Flores brings Local 50 to other countries – travelling with the CUPE banner, the Local 50 spirit, and the union message. It is not all work and no play at Local 50. Social functions have always been a part of the local. The tradition of family picnics and Christmas parties carries on. A much-loved annual event is the Local 50 Golf Tournament. Attended by cur-

rent members as well as many retirees, the tournament has run uninterrupted for many years. Responsibility for running the tournament has fallen to different members over the years, and some of the early organizers such as Phil Norton and, later, John Lindsay, still participate. In recent times, the event has been run by Jay Chudleigh. These days, although there is still friendly competition to win the tournament, everyone goes home with a prize. In 2012, for the first time in a very long

time, there was no tournament – Local 50 cancelled the event in protest of the layoff of more than 15 fellow CUPE restaurant staff at the golf course. CUPE Local 50 is a solid union organization. Relationships with their meaningful affiliates are strong. The local may struggle with attendance numbers at meetings, but the work continues to get done, as always, by a core of dedicated and enthusiastic unionists. The general membership comes out and steps up to the plate when it counts. The local will celebrate their 100th anniversary in this decade. There is a temptation to describe it simply as 100 years of unity, but that would be a disservice to those who had to fight the many battles the union faced throughout the years. The local has faced challenges on every front: from employers, governments, and private companies that have sought to rule over them, to internal issues such as ethics, finances, and commitment. Remarkably, they have survived it all, growing from a small group of men meeting in a rented hall to a diverse group numbering in the hundreds – and owning their own building. In 2010, after being passed over yet again for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball Players’ Union organizer Marvin Miller remarked that it was an “amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out.” The more the employer seeks to exclude, attack, or circumvent the local, the more the local fights back. The more they fight back, the stronger they become and the more they gain. Efforts to marginalize Marvin Miller have made him famous. Efforts to marginalize Local 50 may just ensure their longevity. So, what will the future hold for Local 50? “I sometimes wonder where a lot of these unions are headed,” says Pete Mathews, “but as long as Local 50 is around they’ll fight for members.” When asked to write the closing remarks for this book, John Burrows produced a letter from Sister Brenda Jordison of Hospital Employees’ Union CUPE 6142. The letter sums up, in simple poignancy, what Local 50 stands for. Reproduced on the following pages in its entirety, it describes CUPE Local 50 as no other closing remarks could ...


Local 50 fights for members



An act of unity, not charity by Carlos Flores

“International solidarity is not an act of charity: It is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective.” – Samora Machel


hroughout our proud history – first as a City Hall Employees’ Association to our modern version – CUPE Local 50 has understood the importance of international solidarity. The labour movement recognizes international solidarity as a fundamental step in achieving social justice and democratic rights for every worker on this planet, and supports and encourages union members to help others achieve what we want for ourselves. Our oath reads in part: “I will strive to improve economic and social conditions for my fellow members and for working people generally … and


strive to extend the democratic right and liberties to all working people …” International solidarity is not neutral or apolitical, and it doesn’t limit itself to short-term aid that, important as it may be, doesn’t address the fundamental causes of injustice and oppression. Our solidarity commitment sides with the working poor, with the exploited, and with those whose lives are a daily struggle brought about by an unjust and unfair world economic order. The economic and political realities of our times require that a united international front be developed to counterbalance the

globalization of capital and its sequels of unemployment, poverty, war, low wages, and discrimination. In 2005, the United Nations proclaimed December 20 as International Human Solidarity Day to celebrate unity in diversity; however, our local has been practicing international solidarity for many years prior to that proclamation. In the early 1900s, two Italian immigrant labourers – Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti – were wrongly convicted and executed by U.S. authorities and the employers. The international campaign to save their lives also reached our local, who made a solidarity financial contribution to their defence fund. However, at the end, the employers and the government executed them. Around the same time, we also provided support for striking workers in Olympia, Seattle, and other nearby locations. In more recent times, our local has provided support for other international solidarity causes, such as the international campaign to end the racist regime in South Africa, which culminated in the collapse of the apartheid regime and the advent of Nelson Mandela as the first black South African president of that nation. We have also supported trade unionists from Colombia and their international efforts to expose the role of multinational companies – Canadian companies included – in the displacement, exploitation, and outright killing of trade unionists who are trying to organize to defend their rights. In 2007, Local 50 co-sponsored a visit to our city by Sister Liliany Obando, a trade unionist and human rights advocate working for an agricultural union. Subsequent to that visit, Sister Obando was arrested and charged with rebellion. During her imprisonment, our local supported her defence

fund and her plight for justice and due

in the military coup and economic

process. Sister Obando was released in

sabotage against the elected and

elderly sister of a worker Catholic priest

2012 without ever being found guilty of

popular government of Venezuela.

assassinated aboard the Esmeralda

anything. Our local has also supported the

In more recent times, our local

Thanks to Local 50’s support, the

was able to travel from her residence

was prominent in the funding of a

in Spain to Victoria to confront and

democratic process and the popular

Chilean earthquake-relief campaign.

denounce the crimes committed on

Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.

In conjunction with the Victoria Central

that ship. Her visit received extensive

America Support Committee and

national and international media

travelled to Venezuela as a fraternal

the Global Emergency Society, CUPE


delegate to attend the first anniversary

National and CUPE B.C. shipped 14

of the failed military-employers coup

tonnes of humanitarian aid to Chile

assassinated on the ship expressed

against the democratically elected

to assist the victims of a powerful

their gratitude for a very successful

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez.

earthquake that devastated many poor

campaign that exposed Canada and

neighbourhoods in Valparaiso and El

the world to the Chilean Navy crimes


and its friendly ties with the Canadian

In 2006, a member of our local

On that occasion there was an opportunity to meet the vice president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a former

Similarly, our local was prominent in

The relatives of the victims

government, as the sponsor of this

bus driver and transit union organizer,

denouncing and financially supporting

who was pleased to hear about our

the campaign against the visiting to

municipal union and our commitment to

Victoria and Vancouver of the Chilean

represents a way to express our

international solidarity.

Navy torture schooner Esmeralda.

humanity through concrete action. Our

During the U.S.-supported Chilean

challenge – in a profoundly egotistical

event, our local was active in a national

dictatorship of General Augusto

and individualistic culture – is to transmit

grassroots campaign demanding

Pinochet, the vessel was used as a

our collective sense of duty to future

the return of taxpayers’ money given

floating torture centre to rape women,

generations so they can take the task

by the Canadian government to an

torture trade unionists, and assassinate

of building a better world beyond our

organization that actively participated

religious and political leaders.

own borders and particular interests.

Subsequent to that anniversary

unwelcome visit. Undoubtedly, international solidarity

Letter from Sister Liliany Obando while imprisoned in Colombia in 2009. Translated, the letter says: Women’s Prison of Bogota, Columbia August 15, 2009 To my good friends of CUPE Local 50. I’m grateful for your moral and material solidarity. I sensed your support here in prison and it has empowered me to continue my commitment to the construction of Colombia with social justice and peace. My best wishes to you in your efforts to achieve better conditions of life for the workers of your country. Fraternally, Liliany Obando Political prisoner, Colombia


CUPE Local 50 Strength in Numbers



The Leaders of CUPE Local 50 1919 I. Byers, President; W. Wright, Secretary 1920 J. Ramsdale, President; I. Byers, Secretary Treasurer 1932 S. Howard, President; W. Farmer, Secretary Treasurer 1934 A. Murray, President; R. Betts, Secretary Treasurer 1935 W.J. Cobbett, President; R. Betts, Secretary Treasurer 1936 James Robertson, President; R. Betts, Secretary Treasurer 1937 J. Watson, President; R. Betts, Secretary Treasurer 1941 A. Fraser, President; R. Betts, Secretary Treasurer 1942 J. Watson, President; G. Fletcher, Secretary Treasurer 1943 J. Watson, President; R. Betts, Acting Secretary; G. Fletcher, Secretary 1947 R. Betts, President; J. Hopper, Secretary Treasurer


1954 C. Holt, President; L. P. Anderson, Vice President; Duncan, Secretary Treasurer 1955 C. Holt President; then L. P. Anderson; J. Banting, Vice President; J. Bleakley, Secretary Treasurer; R. Johnston, Recording Secretary 1956 L. P. Anderson, President; then W. Wild; Unwin, Vice President; J. Bleakley, Secretary Treasurer; R. Johnston, Recording Secretary 1957 W. Wild, President; R. Johnston, Recording Secretary 1959 W.Wild, President; C. Thompson, Vice President; R. Johnston, Secretary 1960 W. Wild, President; C. Thompson, Vice President; P. Scott, Treasurer; R. Johnston, Secretary; then L. P. Anderson 1961 W.Wild, President; C. Thompson, Vice President; P. Scott, Treasurer; F. Gardner, Secretary

1962/63 Albert Woods, President; then C. Thompson (Woods later returned to complete term); Henry Bertrand, Vice President; P. Scott, Treasurer; F. Gardner, Secretary; then L. P. Anderson 1963 - 1964 C. Thompson, President; R. Johnston, Vice President; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; P. Scott, Treasurer 1966 R. Johnston left Vice President position to take over President from C. Thompson; I. Wightman, Second Vice President; T. Virture, Treasurer; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; D. Hudlin, Recording Secretary 1967 R. Johnston, President; I. Wightman, First Vice President; E. A. Duncan, Second Vice President; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; C. Henry, Treasurer; D. Hudlin, Recording Secretary 1968 R. Johnston, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; E. Bowden, Second Vice President; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; P. Mathews, Recording Secretary

1969 W. S. Smith, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; D. Davies, Second Vice President; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; C. Henry, Treasurer; P. Mathews, Recording Secretary 1970 W. S. Smith, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; L. P. Anderson, Secretary; P. Mathews, Recording Secretary 1971 W. S. Smith, President; then W. Doherty; J. Walker First Vice President; After General Election W. Doherty, President; B. Johnston, First Vice President; T. Drysdale, Treasurer 1972 L. P. Anderson, President; Duncan, First Vice President; J. Walker, Secretary 1974 J. Walker, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; E. Pickard, Recording Secretary; S. Croft 1975 J. Walker, R. Davidson, R. Hoy, C. Henry, R. Young, S. Croft, D. Hudlin, T. Drysdale 1976 J. Walker, C. Henry, R. Davidson, S. Croft, S. Powell, K. Gabriel, J. Barlow, W. Doherty, P. Mathews, D. Hudlin

1977 Walker, Wood, Neeste, Nickolas, Quan, Johnson, Thomas, Henry, Hudlin, Mathews 1978 Walker, Thame, Fetterly, Quan, Wood, Hudlin, Bertrand, Thomas, Neeste 1983 W. Doherty, President; T. Snow, First Vice President; Mike Matthews, Second Vice President; Pete Mathews, Treasurer; Bussiere, Secretary 1984 W. Doherty, President; Colin Graham, First Vice President; Mike Matthews, Second Vice President; P. Mathews, Treasurer; B. Hoy, Secretary; J. Walker, Recording Secretary 1985 Colin Graham, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; M. Matthews, Second Vice President; P. Mathews, Treasurer; B. Hoy, Secretary; J. Walker, Recording Secretary 1986 Colin Graham, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; P. Mathews, Treasurer; Steve Curry, Second Vice President; B. Townsend, Secretary; D. Nichols, Recording Secretary

1987 Colin Graham, President; W. Doherty, First Vice President; Steve Curry, Second Vice President; P. Mathews, Treasurer; B. Townsend, Secretary; D. Nichols, Recording Secretary

1995 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Shon O’Hanley, Second Vice President; Pete Mathews, Recording Secretary; Colin Graham, Secretary Treasurer

2009 - 2011 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Carlos Rocha, Second Vice President; Carolyn Bradey, Secretary Treasurer; Steve Curry, Recording Secretary

1988 Colin Graham, President; Steve Curry, First Vice President; Bruce Bunting, Second Vice President; Brian Townsend, Secretary; Dan Nichols, Recording Secretary

1996 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Shon O’Hanley, Second Vice President; Colin Graham, Secretary Treasurer; Pete Mathews, Recording Secretary

2012 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Carlos Rocha, Second Vice President; Carolyn Bradey, Secretary Treasurer; Steve Curry, Recording Secretary. Members-at-large (SubUnits): Mark Gignac, Gorge Vale Golf Club; Bruce Grahame, Royal Oak Burial Park; Kim Manton, United Way; Erika Paul, BC SPCA. Member-at-Large (Young Worker): Geoff Pakos, PW - City. Members-at-Large: Carlos Flores, PW - City; David Luzzi, Engineering - City Hall; Dan MacBeth, Parks - City; Kyle McMorran, Parks - City; Michelle Smith, PW - City; Bud Van der Meer, PW - City. Trustees: Chuck Bass, Pat Meechan, Rick Sawchuk.

1989 - 1990 Colin Graham, President; Steve Curry, First Vice President; Pacheo, Second Vice President; Bunting, Treasurer; Brian Townsend, Secretary; Dan Nichols, Recording Secretary 1992 Colin Graham, President; Steve Curry, First Vice President; D. Little, Secretary; Pete Mathews, Recording Secretary 1993 Colin Graham, President; John Burrows, First Vice President; Steve Curry, Second Vice President; Herring, Treasurer; Pete Mathews, Recording Secretary 1994 Colin Graham, President; then John Burrows; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Colin Graham, Secretary Treasurer; Pete Mathews, Recording Secretary

1997 - 2003 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Shon O’Hanley, Second Vice President; Steve Curry, Recording Secretary; Colin Graham, Secretary Treasurer 2004 - 2005 John Burrows, President; Susan Jansen, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Michele Smith, First Vice President; Shon O’Hanley, Second Vice President; Carolyn Bradey, Secretary Treasurer; Colin Graham, Secretary Treasurer; Steve Curry, Recording Secretary 2006 - 2008 John Burrows, President; Don Sutton, First Vice President; Shon O’Hanley, Second Vice President; Carolyn Bradey, Secretary Treasurer; Steve Curry, Recording Secretary


Pilot, unofficial guardian of the Local 50 archives during the writing of this book.