December 10, 2019
Interviewed by Al Cornes and Bailey Garden
Born in 1932 in a small Saskatchewan town, Sheila Pither came to Vancouver with her mother after the death of her father. Sheila’s husband was a millwright in Vancouver, and she became active in the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) Ladies’ Auxiliary, where she learned about union politics. Sheila returned to school to obtain a teaching degree when her youngest son entered Grade One. She began her teaching career in Vancouver in 1967 at the age of 35. She worked in elementary classrooms and before long became involved in the Teachers’ Association. She eventually became President of the Vancouver Elementary Teachers Association and was also very involved at the provincial level at the time when very few women were active. Later she held a staff position with the BC Teachers’ Federation. In this interview, Sheila Pither talks at length about the many campaigns and issues she worked on, including bargaining, lobbying, working conditions, political action, job action and the shift to becoming a union. When she retired, she participated in overseas work assisting Namibian teachers in establishing a union. She also became active in the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations (COSCO), eventually becoming President, where she continued her advocacy work.
Keywords: BCTF; teachers; IWA Ladies Auxiliary; Vancouver Elementary Teachers; Agreements Committee; scope of bargaining; Operation Solidarity; VanderZalm; Teachers’ College; Bills 19 and 20; Industrial Relations Council; compulsory membership; professionals; bargaining; strikes; international unionism; Council of Senior Citizens Organizations