Sunday, June 16, 2024

For My Dad.


Those of you who have been stopping by here for awhile now may be asking....

Why this post again? 

Because... It's a tradition - that's why!

As for the photo at the top of the post...Our Dad, with one of his favourite dogs at, possibly his favourite campsite in his favourite public campground, ever...Just one downhill jog and a quick snorkel to....Moon Snails!

Happy Day of the Fathers, et cetera, everyone!


My old man was a Union man.

And the folks in the Union fought like bastards...and they fought constantly, usually for the tiniest of things in each successive contract...things like an extra quarter percent on a COLA clause, or one little add-on like an extra free filling per year on the dental plan.

And when I was a kid, especially during that time when I was a barely no-longer-a-teenager-aged kid, I thought the folks from the Union were just a little bit off their nut....all that energy going into what, exactly?

After all, it was the 80's, and Dave Barrett and the Socialist Hordes were long gone, and the Wild Kelowna boys were rolling along, and Unions were bad, and Expo was coming, and Trudeau was going, and John Turner was hiccupping, and Mulroney was lurking, somewhere off in the distance....

....And if you were a half-bright, apolitical science-geek kind of kid like me, breezing your way through college and thinking about graduate school, you laughed when you saw the boy wonder from Burnaby, Michael J. Fox, shirk his Family Ties and ape the young Republicans while making fun of his willfully neutered Leftie of a Dad on the TV screen...

....And if you were that kid, you thought that you were living in a golden age that was tied, not to the social democratic reforms of the past, but to the coming of Free Trade and the promises of the Reaganites from the South...

...And from that perspective you sure as heck didn't always get the irony of Bruce Springsteen singing about the plight of the working class in 'Born in the USA'.

But now that I have spent a good chunk of time in USA where I started a family of my own before coming home, I do get it.

I understand that my Dad spent his entire adult life hauling logs up and down the West Coast, working his guts out to help keep the robber baron families rich because he had to make a living to support his own family....

....And I get the fact that, because of the Unions, my family's standard of living gradually improved, bit by bit, over the years so that by the time I had grown up to be that callow young man described above my parents had saved enough to help me go to University....

....And I get the fact that I was the first one in my family who got to go to University....Ever.....And it wasn't because I was so damned smart....

....And I get the fact that, while my parents' limited financial help and support was important, it would never have been enough to get me into the same good schools if I had arrived on the scene a single generation earlier or, perhaps, later....

....And I get the fact that those Wild Kelowna Boys, and all the other neo-cons that have come since, have been doing their damndest to destroy the dream of a University education for all, and instead have instituted an elitist education for some and one-trick-pony Technical training for everybody else.....

....And I get the fact that, if it wasn't for folks like my Dad and the other lefties of his time, my current world, one in which I make a living with my eyes and my mind wide open, would not be what it is today.....

....And most of all, I now get the fact that my Dad was, and is, my hero.



Graham said...

Traditions. I think this is a good one you have here and by the time it comes around again I need to reread it to remember exactly how it went again. This time around it seems even more apropos because the times are changing. They are changing to get us back to the period your dad and others were fighting so hard to get us out of. That was a time where each had to fight for their own, where the very best went to those with the very most, where, if you didn’t have the bootstraps, no one was going to give you a hand up. There are many who are actively trying to get us back to those days. And under the guise of “freedom” and living and being a part of a society that is in no way related to socialism because socialism is communism which is really Marxism and so we can’t have those types of ‘isms.
There are those who want us each to fight it out on our own because they can most often beat us, any of us, on our own. It’s when we get together that we can really upset the little apple cart they’ve built for themselves. Unions are but one way we can get the proper supports one should get while on the job and in your pay packet.
I have been in two unions so far and one may have been the one your dad was in, the IWA, the first one. My first real job at 16 was down at Eburne saw mills, conveniently located behind the Fraser Arms hotel and pub, for the summer. As I was a new guy and sort of an extra pair of hands to have around I got to work all over the mill doing different jobs helping out here and there. I loved the variety. I also liked and appreciated the emphasis on safety, from day one. That was because of the union. Safety was always top of mind and that one should watch out for themselves, be careful. The pay was great too, for a young guy.
Anyway, it was that union and the fishermens union that I was also in that I learned these unions are there to represent its members. They were to get the best it could get for them when it came to bargaining or when representing during discussions about working conditions or safety on the job or mechanization or rules and regulations etc.
There are people, companies and governments that don’t want that for workers and the usual complaint is cost. It costs too much they say. That’s why many things get made elsewhere because they can pay less there and have a workplace that has lower standards than we would expect for our workers here. There are some who want to undo all that your dad and others fought for. There are some who would give that up because they think it’s not needed anymore. There are some who think these rules and fair pay are an impediment to our businesses and they would vote for someone who pledges to water those rules down or get rid of them.
They don’t realize that it’s because of people like your dad that we even have the luxury of this conversation and were it up to some we wouldn’t be and never will again.

JP said...

I enjoy reading it every year!

It's a reminder to hold on to your values and keep up the good fight.

I'm currently working on getting my local out of eastern controlled bureaucratic/political disaster of UNIFOR and into a more traditional style situation.

Hard road but I think it's worth the effort for the youngsters.

RossK said...


A whole lot of folks have been bamboozled into doing things that are ultimately against their best interests.

My Dad, if I remember correctly, was in the Merchant Service Guild...And the 'fight like hell' time that I think I'm remembering was 1970 when a whole lot of IWA members, including leader Jack Munro, and the Teamsters supported the Guild when the owners tried to use supervisors and scabs to circumvent their strike and the feds cracked down

If I'm wrong about the specific strike my Dad will correct me but you can read more about the 1970 situation here (scroll down or use search term 'towboat').

As for the Fraser Arms...Given the changes down on that part of North Arm's edge, many of them good, the FA is not the place it once was...The liquor store, albeit private, is still a reasonable stop for off-sales in a pinch though.



Good luck with all that and keep fighting the good fight.

The youngsters will thank you and then, most importantly, they will do the right thing for the next lot!


e.a.f. said...

Thank you once again printing the Father's Day post. I enjoy it and it reminds me of what B.C. was once like and those who fought to improve the lives of working people. Without unions we would not have had three weeks vacation back in the day, after 5 years of work. It was unions which negotiated for extended health plans, equal pay for equal work and then equal pay for work of equal value. The increase in wages was noticeable. Bit by bit the standard of living for unionized workers improved. By the 1970s some parents were able to purchase lots in the Gulf Islands, parents could purchase gifts for their children, which at one time they would not have been able to afford.

While growing up we always knew when the parental units collective agreement was ratified and what the increases were. From an early age, we knew what we had was because the parental units worked in unionized work places. I grew up to be a Union Business Agent.

Thank you again, for the reminder.

RossK said...


Tell us some UBA stories!


Chuckstraight said...

Enjoy reading this every year.
Without unions many of us would not enjoy the retirement pensions we receive.

GarFish said...

It is an oft repeated saying by some people, that "you will get more conservative as you get older". The thing is though, it's the exact opposite for a lot of other people. Like you,I was young and naive, and the Kool-Aid was there to be drunk. I believed in the power of the markets, and of the burgeoning technologies in Silicon Valley. It was going to be a "Golden Age", and Unions had no place being there, they'd just hold us back.

My dad was a Union guy too, he was a firefighter in the Oak Bay Fire Department. He worked there many years, retired at 55, was dead at 59, a day short of his sixtieth birthday. I've been in more than one argument with clueless people that say that firefighter's pensions are too generous, to that I reply " well the actuarial tables say that most firefighters don't live very long past retirement, that's the reason that the pensions are so generous" "Oh" they say. The thing that gets most firefighters is Cancer, my dad was no exception, he died of an aggressive form of brain cancer. I have been told that things are slowly getting better for firefighters, there's more recognition of the hazards of the job, but it is only because of the union pushing for change.

There is a lot of anti-union rhetoric out there. We have a history of dangerous resource extraction industries, with employers that have traditionally regarded their employees as an expendable mudsill (especially in BC). Like you say, people have been bamboozled into believing things that are not in their best interest, and anti union propaganda surely ranks near the top of the list. People must understand that in our adversarial system, labour unions are more important than ever.

RossK said...


I'm working backwards and I think your Dad might have been a senior guy at that firehall when my brother started there.

As for all that Kool-Aid...I spent a good chunk of time just north of Silicon Valley when the first dot-com bubble was building...It was bizarre all the things people thought we would no longer need in that so-called brave new world.


GarFish said...


My Dad retired from the OBFD in April 1988, he was Deputy Chief when he retired. I still remember the retirement ceremony well. Ken Dobson (sports guy from CFAX radio) was the MC. What little I remember of the ceremony was a lot of politically incorrect humor, stuff that would never fly today. When did your brother start? I had another relation (by marriage) who worked there as well, but that's another story.

RossK said...

Ken Dobson!

Now that's a name that had left my memory bank...But now that you mention him, I can hear his voice in my head.

I think my brother started right around there...He retired a few years ago after 30 years I believe - I'll check.