Labour Studies Index

Glen Makahonuk: union leader and social activist. Born September 15, 1951. Died December 10, 1997 of an inoperable brain tumor at his home in Saskatoon, age 46

Document type Article
Author Kossick, Don
Journal Briarpatch
Volume 27
Date 1998 Feb
ISSN 0703-8968
Pages 8

Abstract

Most people knew [Glen] as an active and seemingly tireless trade union leader, rather than as a historian, but it was his sense of history that shaped his activities. Almost from day one, when he joined the staff of the University of Saskatchewan and became a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1975, he was active in union affairs. As his local's grievance chairperson for almost 20 years, he handled over 1,200 grievances. He was later elected president of the local, a position he held for 11 years until his death. He also served -- simultaneously -- as one of CUPE's vice- presidents on the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (six years), as president of the 22,000-member CUPE Saskatchewan (five years) and on CUPE's National Executive Board in two different positions for the last six years. Glen believed there was more to unions than just collective bargaining and handling grievances. He was a strong proponent of social unionism, of working in solidarity with coalitions of community, anti-poverty, and social action groups. As National CUPE president Judy Darcy noted: "Glen was a trade unionist and a socialist in the true sense of both words. There was no problem too big or too small for Glen -- from defending a member's grievance to fighting for social and economic justice for workers in Canada and around the world." For Glen, the most important people at his funeral would have been his family, as well as the hundreds of working men and women who came to show their love and respect for him. Nonetheless, everyone was pleased to see three Saskatchewan cabinet ministers among the mourners. Each of them had been on the receiving end of Glen's blunt and frequent criticism of some of their government's policies. Despite that, they were there out of respect for his integrity and commitment to working people.