Leadership, mentorship, strength: Remembering Bob White

The CLC’s 28th Constitutional Convention is dedicated to the memory of Bob White, and opened Monday morning with a moving tribute to one of Canada’s most well-known trade unionists.

“Sisters and Brothers, last Friday, and again this morning, we said goodbye to Bob White. He was a giant among us – who showed us what it meant to live by our principles in the service of working people,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff in his address to delegates. “We stand on the shoulders of Bob White and so many before him.”

“His spirit is very much in the room with us today,” said CLC Secretary-Treasurer Barb Byers as she introduced a video tribute to White. “He was more than any position or award or degree. He was a worker. He was a leader like no other. He learned from those around him and he was not afraid to lead and not afraid to learn,” she added.

A CLC video brought together some of the important moments in Bob White’s work as a labour leader, with a scene from the Caterpillar strike drawing cheers from the 2500 delegates assembled for the opening morning of the Convention.

The moving tribute remembered White not just for his own activism, but also for the work that he did behind-the-scenes to nurture, educate, and encourage labour activists across Canada and around the world.

Bob White’s words played through the room, as true today as they were when he spoke them: “Our question is not do we have enough wealth. We have more wealth than we’ve ever seen. The question is how we’re going to share it.”

Labour and progressive leaders including Buzz Hargrove, Unifor President Jerry Dias, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff, Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow and MP Peggy Nash spoke about White’s work, his fearlessness in the face of employers and governments, and how his commitment to working people drove his activism.

From supporting the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa to working for affirmative action here at home in Canada, to forming the Canadian Autoworkers on a model that included the rank and file, White’s work changed lives across this country. His support of diversity within the labour movement created the labour movement we see today.

Footage of former CLC Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Riche, who died in 2011, spoke to the CLC’s commitment to social justice: “The labour movement has the guts to stand up on affirmative action.”

Delegates stood for a moment of silence in memory of White, whose words will inspire the ongoing work of this convention and labour activism across Canada.

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