Interviewed by Phil Legg
Mark Gordienko was born and raised in Victoria, B.C., and this is where he began longshoring at age 18. He worked in Victoria at Ogden Point in longshoring for eight years. After getting married, and due to the shortage of work in Victoria, he decided to relocate to Prince Rupert to continue longshoring there.
Mark worked in Prince Rupert for 10 years. At the time, the Prince Rupert local, Local 505 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), was a very small local, which Mark described as being run by favouritism. He worked there for five years as a casual. Mark was accepted as a member in 1985 and 1.5 years later, he was elected president of the local, with the support of others who wanted to reform it. He set about expanding the membership and doubled it in his first term. He also had to resolve a human rights complaint filed by a woman seeking longshore work.
When Mark got out of office after three terms as president of Local 505, he relocated to the Lower Mainland where he first worked out of Local 502, which represents workers on the Fraser River. He then worked out of Local 500, which represents workers on Burrard Inlet and in Howe Sound.
After five years working out of Local 500, he was elected to its executive board. He served on the executive for five years and then was elected as secretary-treasurer of ILWU Canada. After a couple of terms as secretary-treasurer, he returned to longshoring for eight years. In 2012, he was elected president of ILWU Canada. He retired from that position at the end of his term in 2016.
In the interview, Mark talks about the ILWU’s history in Prince Rupert and Vancouver. He explains how membership and work is obtained in the ILWU through its board membership and dispatch system. Over the course of his long career in longshoring and his elected positions in ILWU Canada and Locals 500 and 505, he worked to improve the union’s pension plan and conditions for casual workers.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU); ILWU Locals 500, 502, 505; ILWC Canada; strikes and lockouts; scabs; membership dispatch board system; casuals; pension plans; indexed pensions; enforcement of labour laws; government interference in labour disputes; Prince Rupert; Ridley Island; human rights cases, sex discrimination; NDP activist; Tom Dufresne; Dan Miller; Harry Bridges; Bill Kemp; Gerry Stoney; Ravi Kalhon