“Big Bob” McEllrath, centre in plaid shirt; Willie Adams, below Bob in gray toque; Colin Bonner, above Bob in cap; Steve Nasby, lower left in gray shirt; Jeannie Magenta, lower right in black shirt; me, in glasses beside pillar and myself.
By far the greatest benefit of being in a union is that there is no shortage of fellow union members willing to accept and support you from the first moment you meet them. We understand that we’re in this together, no matter where we come from or how we earn our living. The Canadian Labour Congress Winter School experience held every year in Harrison, BC, is a perfect example of this spirit of solidarity.
This year we sent Local 517 Steward Colin Bonner, and three Local 580 table officers: President Rick Janzen, VP Mike Molag, and myself (freshly-minted Inside Guard). Rick and Mike, after taking Bargaining Level 2 can now say in all modesty that their employers had better step up their game.
Colin and I joined a class packed with ILWU brothers and sisters, and took part in their awe-inspiring solidarity and dedication to improvement in the lives of all working people. The embodiment of “an injury to one is an injury to all” is a man named Steve Nasby, 2nd VP of ILWU Canada, and co-facilitator of the ILWU Leadership Course we attended. Steve and co-facilitator Jeannie Magenta go out of their way to ensure that affiliates like the RWU feel welcome and included in all things Longshore. Thank you, Steve and Jeannie.
And thanks to International ILWU President Robert “Big Bob” McEllrath and Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams who came all the way from San Francisco just to talk to our class and send home the message that if workers don’t have each other, we don’t have anything at all.
The CLC Winter School has perhaps the most respected curriculum in the Canadian labour movement. Just as valuable, though, is meeting sisters and brothers from all over, learning their stories, swapping advice, and toasting recent victories. I met nurses from Whitehorse, railway workers from Smithers, steel fabricators from New Westminster, and, remarkably, a union biologist from Victoria (who knew that even scientists can benefit from unions?).
So if someone asks you to go to Winter School, say yes.
Steward and Inside Guard