Interviewed by Keith Reynolds
Barry O’Neill’s unionism began on Vancouver Island where he worked for several school districts and was rooted in workplace health and safety. He went on to hold elected positions in CUPE locally, provincially and nationally. He was proud of achieving the first gender-neutral job evaluation program in B.C. He felt the Operation Solidarity movement in 1983 was an opportunity for labour to act collectively. He recalled the fight against Bills 19 and 20 as one of the most satisfying and difficult campaigns in his union career.Upon being elected as President of CUPE BC in 1997 he oversaw many innovative campaigns that promoted union members’ involvement in their local communities and promoted the value of public sector work. He was vocal about autonomy of CUPE locals and how this necessitated that provincial leadership stay connected with union members, whether they agreed or not.
Keywords: CUPE [Canadian Union of Public Employees]; CUPE BC; HEU [Hospital Employees’ Union]; Bills 19 and 20; job evaluation; B.C. Federation of Labour; Operation Solidarity; Strong Communities; international solidarity; CUPE Works; Jinny Sims; Ten Percent Shift;