Interviewed by Ken Novakowski
Patrice Pratt was born in Ohio in 1948 and grew up in Arizona in a staunchly Catholic family with five children. She attended Catholic schools and moved to San Francisco to attend the University of San Francisco, a Catholic Jesuit university. It was located two blocks from Haight-Ashbury, a neighbourhood made famous by the hippie movement of the time.
Patrice met her husband while at university and she moved to Canada with him in 1969 because he did not want to serve in Vietnam. They first settled in Winnipeg where Patrice got a job with the Manitoba Health Commission as a claims coder. Patrice’s thirty years of union activism and employment began at this job when she became a shop steward. She went on to be elected as second vice-president and was subsequently hired as an employee relations officer by the Manitoba Government Employees’ Association.
Patrice moved to British Columbia in 1976 when she was offered a job with the BCGEU as a staff representative. She held many positions in the BCGEU over her nearly 30 years with the union, including being director of every department. In the interview, Patrice shares her memories and thoughts on many topics. These include:
• The sexism she experienced as a young staff representative at a time when few women held such positions in the union movement. She was often the only woman in the room.
• Being the Victoria coordinator of Operation Solidarity in 1983.
• Working as education officer, introducing the principles of popular education in the education programs and courses she developed for the BCGEU and for the CLC Winter School.
• Being an employee of a public sector union while being an officer of the NDP. Patrice became president of the party when it formed government in 1992.
Patrice has also been a director and chair of many boards including the Vancity Credit Union, the Canadian Cooperative Association, and the United Way (Lower Mainland). She is also one of the founders of the Canadian Association for Williams Syndrome.
Manitoba Government Employees’ Association, Manitoba Government Employees’ Union, BCGEU (BC Government Employees’ Union), BC Federation of Labour, Operation Solidarity, clerical workers, sexism, successor rights, organizing, NDP, CLC Winter School, union education courses, popular education, shop steward education, United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW), Nanaimo Commonwealth scandal, IWA (International Woodworkers of America), Vancity Credit Union, credit unions, City of Vancouver, disability movement, Translink, Association of Women in Finance, United Way, Vancouver Foundation, Four Pillars, safe injection sites, Canadian Association for Williams Syndrome, Stand Up for Mental Health, Canadian Cooperative Association, John Fryer, Tom Sandborn, Gary Doer, Maureen Headley, Jackie Koroscil, Gordon Hanson, Charlie Peck, Bill Bennett, Lech Wałęsa, Art Kube, Cliff Andstein, John Shields, Moe Sahota, Gary Steeves, Vaughn Palmer, Rick Arnold, Bev Burke, Ian Aikenhead, Mike Harcourt, Sam Wagar, Robin Blencoe, Ken Georgetti, Jack Munro, Jim Sinclair, Rod Mickleburgh, Geoff Meggs, Sam Sullivan, Tim Louis, Bob Williams, Dave Mowat, Tamara Vrooman, Art Reitmayer, Jordanna Pratt, Sharon Prescott