Sisters and Brothers of the Machinists Union:
Today marks the end of my career as a full time Representative for the IAM. Considering that this constitutes some 27.5 years of my life, I rise on a point of personal privilege, and I ask your indulgence through a few moments of solidarity and sentimentality. I wish we could celebrate one another in person, but circumstances prevent an in-person gathering at this time.
I started in my role as a Business Representative for the membership of Northwest District 250 in Vancouver, Canada on January 1, 1994. I later became Directing Business Representative and then Canadian Chief of Staff. I conclude my career as the General Vice-President for the Canadian Territory based here in Toronto.
Those 27 years have been a truly remarkable opportunity, and one for which I owe so much to the officers and members of the IAM – most especially the Canadian membership that I was blessed to serve. Along the path, I have had opportunity to meet in person with many of you across both of our nations; we have become solid colleagues and true friends in our efforts to advocate for the benefit of working people across North America.
In the latter part of the 80’s (yes kids, some of us started back before the internet!) I was invited by one of my mentors to become a shop steward and executive board officer in Local Lodge 692. I could never have imagined the journey from there. Or the truly remarkable gifts that Union advocacy would bestow upon me. I learned so much, about the law of Collective Agreements and Labour, about dealing with people on both sides of a bargaining table, and about the organization I have come to love.
My Union gave me training, so that I would be better able to represent and fight for our members. My Union gave me resources, and enabled me to undertake positions that I could not undertake alone. My Union allowed me to serve on the IAM Committee on Law for two terms, where I learned so much about our Constitution and process.
But mostly, my Union gave me the Solidarity and backing of the most amazing team of Representatives and Advocates and Members who walked alongside me through this journey.
I will not put forward names, as it would be a longer list than this page will allow; our solid Union Team knows who they are, and I hope they know I am forever grateful for their work and their devotion to the membership. Let me simply say that all the great things we have accomplished are achieved through those Representatives, Advocates, and Members. I cannot thank them enough, for although I have often been the recipient of high praise and accolades, they did the work:
Two years ago, I had the privilege of standing on a stage to receive the International President’s Organizing Awards. Let me clearly state that the work was done by Canadian IAM Organizers in the Field; without them, there was no stage, and there was no award. They did the work.
When I report to the Executive Council on the results of successful negotiations, or high-powered legislative lobbying sessions, or a precedent-setting arbitration ruling, I am reporting on the great work of IAM Representatives in the field. They did the work.
It has been my absolute privilege and opportunity to lead the Canadian Territory over the past 5 years, and I will be forever grateful to the Canadian membership for providing me with that opportunity. I have worked on the Executive Council of the IAM for these past 5 years, and I am forever grateful for their solidarity, their support, their wisdom, and their guidance. Another privilege that was accorded to me.
As I move out of this office, I remind you all that the Canadian membership have elected a new leader to replace me. They have elected a leader who will take the IAM to greater heights and successes over the coming term and beyond; he will lead us out of the pandemic experience, and I know he will build the IAM in Canada into a stronger and more successful Union than ever before.
I ask you all to accord to David Chartrand every assistance and support that you gave to me. I am certain he will be a stronger and more effective leader for the Solidarity you all put behind him. Keep on doing the work.
Finally, and most importantly, I must thank my wife, Donna Marina Pickthall, for the love and support she has shown me throughout this career. Donna gave up her own career when she joined me in Toronto, and I am forever grateful. She has been my confidant, my partner, my lover, and my very best friend.
I also thank my two daughters, Amanda and Vanessa, for their understanding and graciousness when I left Vancouver and moved to Toronto for these past eight years. And I must not forget Donna’s two sons, Danny and Tyler, who supported her when she joined me here over this phase of our lives.
Donna and I had two grandchildren (1.5 and 3 years old) when we departed in 2013. Today those two are aged 9 and 11, and we now have three more grandchildren to enjoy. We are moving back to our home in Vancouver at the end of this week, where we will get to know them better than ever. Life is good!
This transition is bittersweet, and I depart with a mixture of regret and anticipation. I will be forever grateful to the IAM and to the hundreds and thousands of activists and members I had the opportunity to meet. I will remain a forever friend and spokesperson of the Great Machinists Union, and I will always be no more than a phone call or a video chat away. I know that those who follow me and those who continue on will grow our great Union and build back better than ever before. Stay Rock Solid, always!
In Solidarity and Friendship,