Interviewed by Patricia Wejr
Mary LaPlante was introduced to unions when she worked at a fish plant as a summer job. She later worked at the Prince Rupert Hospital where most staff were unionized, but not the administrative staff where she worked. Mary organized them into the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) and soon became Local Chair. This led her to increased activism and election to the union’s provincial executive. In the interview Mary discusses her early years, her challenges as a woman in leadership, and the many challenges the Union experienced with privatization, anti-union governments, the terrible impact on members, and a major union win at the Supreme Court of Canada. When she retired as Financial Secretary, the HEU established the Sister Mary LaPlante Award to recognize her mentorship of women in the union.
Keywords: Hospital Employees’ Union, HEU, fish canneries, Prince Rupert Hospital, Alberta Dorval, Operation Solidarity, Bills 19 and 20, contracting out, Gordon Campbell, Bill Vander Zalm, privatization, contract flipping, Bill 29, Supreme Court of Canada, The Heart of Health Care