Gil Levine, giant of Canadian labour, passes away
Crucial figure in union merger that resulted in the creation of CUPE in 1963.
by Blair Redlin
Brother Gil Levine an inspiring leader of Canadian public sector unionism - died on November 16th, 2009 at 85 years of age.
Gil was arguably the founder of modern labour research in Canada. He was the first Research Director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Prior to that, Gil was a crucial figure in the merger of the National Union of Public Employees and the National Union of Public Service Employees that resulted in the creation of CUPE in 1963.
Gil Levine motivated many who pursued the vocation of labour research. He provided the crucial direction for development of the CUPE Research Department that eventually became the largest and most comprehensive of any union in Canada. He was a mentor to many important contributors to the CUPE Research Department (including Larry Katz, Jane Stinson, John Calvert, Morna Ballantyne, Richard Balnis and Margaret Evans amongst many more) as well as to many elected leaders of CUPE including Judy Darcy and Paul Moist.
| || ||After retirement, Gil remained an energetic social activist and a contributor to his community. |
Gil had high standards and was strongly principled. For many years, his office door was emblazoned with a sign that said "Just the Facts". Gil acted on the view that artfully marshaled facts and information are a fundamental strength of unions, whether for collective bargaining or when unions advance their political and policy agenda. It was under Gil's leadership that CUPE began to publish The CUPE Facts which provided core information and analysis for the Canadian labour movement for many years. During his tenure as Research Director, CUPE pioneered the use of computer databases to track collective agreement information through the System for the Analysis of Labour Agreement Data (S.A.L.A.D.).
Gil was also an exemplar of staff leadership in the union movement. He knew that, especially when it comes to options and analysis, full-time staff are an important complement to elected union leadership. Gil was fully engaged in the debates and evolution of the union.
After retirement, Gil remained an energetic social activist and a contributor to his community. He deepened the documentation of labour history, especially through his biography of Patrick Lenihan, a crucial public sector union leader from the Calgary Civic Employees (CUPE Local 37). He remained engaged in all the major issues facing CUPE and was the only person to have attended every CUPE National Convention since 1963.
In his home community of Ottawa, Gil contributed in many diverse ways, whether through organizing the annual Canadian Dimension dinner every May, or as a volunteer with the Ottawa Folk Music Festival to name just two examples.
Gil was a strong and solid support to his family through all his years. As his obituary puts it, he was: "Caring and steadfast husband to Helen Zivian Levine for 62 years, adored and proud father to Ruthie Tamara (Larry Katz) and Karen (Michael Enright) and devoted Zaide to Rachel Levine Katz and Gabriel Enright Levine."
Gil Levine was a profound example for our whole movement. He is deeply missed.
Blair Redlin is a Research Representative for CUPE based in Burnaby, BC.
Links and sources
Obituary in Ottawa Citizen
Posted: November 19, 2009
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