Robert White 1935-2017

Gerry with Bob WhiteFebruary 20th 2017, It is with great sadness that we share the news of Brother Bob Whites passing. Bob White was an inspirational leader to an entire generation of activists. Bob redefined the role of Canadian Trade Unionist, gave workers the courage to form the Canadian Autoworkers Union and built the Port Elgin family education centre. Brother White visited local 199 many times and will be missed. Rest in peace Brother White.

Greg Brady,
President Unifor Local 199

On behalf of all Local 199 members.

Bob White 1935 2017

BOB White 1935-2017

Unifor Local 199 regrets the passing of one of the most important Canadian Labour leaders ever.  Because of Bob White we were able to withdraw from the UAW to form our own Canadian union and do so in a way that kept our solidarity intact, gave us the largest strike fund of any union in Canada,  rebuilt our Port Elgin Education Centre into a world class complex and most important, under his leadership Canadian auto workers made more progress in negotiations then ever in our history.

Brother White had a long history with local 199. It was in the 60s as director of the organizing dept he used our old local union offices on Carlisle St. (it was Chestnut St. then), as a base of operations when trying to organize the workers at Thompson Products. Betty Kerr former local union office assistant told the story of how the company put out a leaflet saying “when the dot on this paper turns blue, UAW promises will come true” and how she, Bob and others, stayed up all night colouring the leaflet’s dot in blue.

After he became Canadian director and vice president of the International UAW,  Bob made a number of visits to local 199. He toured the foundry in the early 80’s to see for himself the conditions that foundry workers had to live under. When we were fighting for Canadian Content legislation our then president, Gerry Michaud, was part of the delegation led by Brother White that met with Prime minister Pierrre Trudeau and Minister of Trade, Ed Lumley when they dumped the hundreds of thousands of signed petitions favouring content legislation on the table. Trudeau was only supposed to make a quick appearance at the meeting, but such was Bob White’s charisma, Trudeau got hooked on the presentation and stayed for the full time they were there. It is thought that had Trudeau not gone for his famous “walk in the snow” and remained prime minister, we could have had content legislation with all the benefits that would have provided to the auto workers in Canada.

Brother White personally conducted union wide education classes for the leadership on important issues like our campaigns against free trade and the issues over concessionary bargaining that triggered our split from the UAW. Accompanied by his staff which included assistants Bob Nickerson, Buzz Hargrove and Economics expert Sam Ginden, he made sure the leadership knew the ramifications of the issues of the day were to the workers of our union.

In 1995 he became president of the CLC representing workers nationally. Following his retirement in 1999, Brother White continued to donate his time in seeking justice for working men and women. His sense of social justice was legendary.  All his life he fought not only for better wages, benefits and working conditions for his members, but also for every working Canadian on a broad scope of issues;  rights for women, racial & sexual minorities, guaranteed incomes and public pensions for all workers, funding for women’s shelters, the fostering of food banks, international aid and so much more.

Local 199 is proud to have played a part in the life of Brother Bob White and we are truly grateful for his visionary leadership. To his widow  Marilyne, children Todd, Shawn and Robyn, his sister Rachel and three grandchildren,  the leadership and members of local 199 offer our sincere condolences on the loss of an unusually good man.

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