David Fairey


Interviewed by Dan Keeton

David Fairey’s parents were working class immigrants from the U.K. His father was a carpenter and cabinet maker and his mother worked in domestic service, sewing at home, and in furniture and aircraft factories. After he finished high school, David started an apprenticeship in Toronto as a wood pattern maker in a medium-sized heavy manufacturing plant.  During his apprenticeship, he had his first experiences with unions. He became active in Local 28 of the International Molders and Allied Workers Union, including serving as the local’s recording secretary and delegate to the Toronto and District Labour Council. He later worked in non-union facilities which he tried to organize.

After an industrial accident, David decided to pursue his interest in labour economics and enrolled in York University as a mature student. During his time there, he continued his activism by organizing mass pickets at struck plants in Ontario. After finishing an Honours BA at York in 1972, he attended the University of British Columbia to pursue a master’s degree in labour economics and public finance. In 1973, after completing his master’s, David accepted a job offer as a researcher at the Trade Union Research Bureau in Vancouver. He became director of the bureau in 1989 and continued working there until it closed in 2012.

In this interview, David recounts some of the history of the Bureau, which had its roots in 1937 when the U.S. National Labor Bureau set up an office in Vancouver. In 1946, it reorganized as an independent, locally owned research bureau. He describes the changes and challenges faced by labour over the years. These influenced the types of work the bureau did, the unions they worked with, and the context within which it operated (for example, the 1950s Red Scare).

Of interest is his recollection that the bureau in the early 1970s was one of the first labour organizations to buy a computer, which was first used to computerize the membership records of the Fishermen’s Union.

David’s work at the bureau included services related to labour policy, collective bargaining, labour relations, arbitrations, job classification systems and pay equity, employment standards, migrant workers, and organizational research and advocacy. He has worked with many unions in B.C. and other provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta). David has published and collaborated in publishing research papers and submissions on many labour and employment law issues.

David was one of the founders of the CCPA (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) and continues to be one of its research associates. He is also currently one of the co-chairs of the BC Employment Standards Coalition.

Key words
International Molders and Allied Workers Union Local 28; wood pattern maker; Toronto and District Labour Council; Hogg’s Hollow Disaster; workplace safety; organizing; Reliable Toy Company; labour economics; collective agreement costing; compensation and job classification systems; pay equity; organizational studies; computerization of union offices; sectoral bargaining; employment standards; Trade Union Research Bureau; Pacific Coast Labor Bureau; CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations); IWA (International Woodworkers of America); International Longshore and Warehouse Union; Marine Workers & Boilermakers Industrial Union; International Union of Mine Mill and Smelter Workers; United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union; Grain Workers Union; Saskatchewan Government Employees Union; United Nurses of Alberta; Hospital Employees’ Union; Amalgamated Transit Union; Canadian Union of Public Employees; Health Sciences Association; United Food and Commercial Workers; Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative (CCPA); Vancouver and District Labour Council; Commission to Investigate Property Taxation; Employment Standards Act; West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association; BC Federation of Labour; BC Employment Standards Coalition; farmworkers; migrant workers; domestic service; Temporary Foreign Workers Protection Act; Migrant Workers Centre; anti-scab legislation; Teamsters; United Auto Workers; Wagner model; enterprise bargaining; Henry Melnikow; Bert Marcuse; Emil Bjarnason; Fred Wilson; Tania Jarzebiak; Seth Klein; Syd Thompson; Bruce Yorke; Moe Sahota; Mark Thompson

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