Interviewed by Ken Novakowski and Bailey Garden

John Shields was born and raised in New York City by Irish Catholic parents who were both union members. He pursued a life in the Catholic church clergy, but left after disagreement with the direction of the church. He moved to Vancouver and became a social worker, and continued his social activism, eventually becoming President of the B.C. Government Employees’ Union from 1985- 1999. In this interview, Shields talks extensively about how his beliefs intersected with his union activity. He reflects on massive shifts in the union’s internal democracy during his time on the executive as well as increasing emphasis on making the union a tool to organize workers.

Keywords: American Federation of Labour [AFL]; American Nazi Party; Bargaining; BC Federation of Labour; BC Government Employees Union [BCGEU]; Bill Bennett [former BC Premier]; Bill Vander-Zalm [former BC Premier]; Brooklyn, New York; Capital Regional District [CRD]; Catholic Children’s Aid; Catholic church; Children’s Aid Society; Civil Rights Act [U.S., 1964]; Civil rights movement; Collective bargaining; Collective rights; Congress of Industrial Organizations [CIO]; Corbin Commission; Daycare Workers of Vancouver; Father Daniel Berrigan; Indigenous communities; Kelowna Accord; Labour movement; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Negotiations; New Democratic Party [NDP]; New York City [NYC]; Nisga’a First Nation; Operation Solidarity; Pay equity; Privatization; Public sector (industry); Religion; Social Credit Party [SoCreds]; Social justice movement; Social Service Employees Union [SSEU]; Social work (industry); Solidarity Coalition; Solidarity Movement [BC, 1983]; Southern Christian Leadership Group; Spirituality; Strikes; Vancouver; Victoria;

Download transcript.

John passed away on March 24, 2017, at the age of 78.

See also:

Shields, J. (2020). The Priest Who Left His Religion. Monkfish Book Publishing.

‌John Shields on Webster! (BCTV), 1985-09-05 [recorded] Item AAAA7605,

John Shields on Webster! (BCTV), 1986-02-18 [recorded] Item AAAA7705,

John Shields on Webster! (BCTV), 1987-04-07 [recorded] Item AAAA7868,