Elmer McVey was born in Chapleau in 1920 and moved to Sudbury in 1931. Like so many men during The Depression, he found work at Inco, and he was employed there for 43 years. He was instrumental in the union drive of Inco workers.
He served on the bargaining committee for Mine Mill Local 598, and United Steelworkers of America Local 6500. He was president of the Sudbury and District Labour Council for 10 years. McVey was also an active member of the New Democrat Party, and served as an executive member of the provincial party.
He was a member of the Sudbury Hydro board of directors for many years, and served on the Ontario Hydro board. He was on the board of governors at Laurentian University from 1978 to 1987. A bursary was set up in his name at the university. The Elmer McVey Bursary is awarded to a full or part-time student in the labour and trade union studies program.
A president of the Sudbury Labour Council, McVey was one of the members of Sudbury 2001, a group of community leaders who came together to find solutions to Sudbury‘s economic woes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. McVey died in 1998.
From Northern Life, May 10, 2007
Sudbury Labour Council celebrates 50th anniversary
BY TRACEY DUGUAY
The year was 1957.
A surprise victory by Progressive Conservative Party leader John Deifenbaker over Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent during the federal election marked the end of 22 years of Liberal government.
The Progressive Conservative Party ruled provincial politics at the time too, with Leslie Frost at the helm as premier from 1949 to 1961.
It was also the year the Sudbury & District Labour Council (SDLC) was formed. The SDLC is celebrating 50 years of activism in the Sudbury community with an anniversary celebration May 26.
An open invitation is extended to anyone, or any organization, that has been involved with the labour council over the years. The anniversary celebration will feature guest speakers, including Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti, a video retrospective, dinner, and a dance.
With 50 years of history in the community, the role of the SDLC has evolved over time, but its primary mandate is to represent the national voice of labour in Greater Sudbury.
“We are the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in your community,” said SDLC representative Harvey Wyers.
The CLC was created in 1956 following the amalgamation of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour, the two major labour congresses in Canada at the time. The CLC passed a motion declaring all cities should have a labour council, and a year later the doors opened to the SDLC in Sudbury.
“In the early days the SDLC was actually an organizing vehicle,” Wyers explained. “But, as the unions became stronger, they took over the organizing aspect.”
The role of the SDLC is to provide strike support to unions, gather labour-related information on a national scale, and disseminate it to local unions, organize Labour Day and the national Day of Mourning activities, and assist in campaigns or movements involving labour, social justice and political issues.
ohn Rodriguez and Elie Martel at the national Day of Protest in 1976“We fight for social justice in the community, and we fight for all workers in the community,” said John Closs, vice-president of the SDLC and a long-time labour activist.
While there are 40 local unions, representing around 16,000 workers, affiliated with the SDLC, the work of the organization extends beyond rank-and-file union members. The SDLC has been involved in many milestone moments and movements in the community, including the recent $10 minimum wage campaign, which impacted mainly non-unionized workers.
In 1976, the SDLC played a key part in the local protest over wage and price control legislation, introduced by Pierre Trudeau’s government a year earlier.
Sudbury was just one city across the country that joined in on the national Day of Protest on Oct. 14, organized by the Canadian Labour Congress. Over a million workers stayed off the job that day in a show of solidarity against what they perceived to be unjust and unfair legislation.
“It was huge in the city,” recalled Wyers.
Another initiative in which the SDLC was heavily involved was the Sudbury 2001 conference, which took place from April 7-8, 1978. Then-president Elmer McVey co-chaired the event with Northern Life owner Michael Atkins. The goal of the conference was “generating action toward the diversification of Sudbury’s economy,” as reported in Northern Life on March 15, 1978.
It was the first time labour, business and local government put aside their own agendas and worked together towards a common goal.
“Back in 1977 there was a huge decline of jobs, mostly in the mining industry,” said Wyers about the impetus for the conference. “That partnership really got Sudbury moving in a different direction.”
One more long-term partnership the SDLC is very proud of, said Wyers, is their involvement with the United Way.
“The success of the United Way campaign is tied very much to the workplace campaign,” Wyers said. “The labour council has been supporting that for the over 25 years the United Way has been in the community.”
Not only does the SDLC get union members involved in the workplace campaign, which has raised millions of dollars over the years, they also provide representatives for the United Way board of directors and recruit member volunteers to help out during events.
The 50th anniversary of the SDLC provides an excellent opportunity to say “thank you” to the people who have helped ensure it remains a strong and vital organization within the Greater Sudbury community.
National Day of Protest, Oct. 14, 1976“We want to celebrate the contributions of people who have served on the SDLC, our community partners, and past executives,” Wyers said.