MPP Percy Hatfield Honours Bob White

February 22, 2017

Queen’s Park – In a statement on the floor of the legislature today, Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield honoured the founding president of the Canadian Auto Workers and the former national president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Bob White, who passed away this week at the age of 81.

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The following is MPP Hatfield’s full statement in the Ontario legislature:

“Earlier today, we in this house held a moment of silence on the passing of a great Canadian, Bob White. We honoured Bob White because of his enormous contributions to social justice and for his leadership within the Canadian Labour Movement. He dropped out of school when he was 15 and got a job in a furniture plant in Woodstock. He became a shop steward, the president of his plant’s United Auto Workers’ local, and soon became an International UAW rep., and in 1978…the UAW’s Canadian Director.

That’s when I first met him.

He was in Windsor often in those days. In a city built on the auto industry – as reporters, we covered every word he said. Of course, sometimes we had to bleep out some of them. I well remember the NFB’s 1985 documentary Final Offer and the acrimonious split from the American union leadership that followed that round of contract talks. The internal fight to form the Canadian Auto Workers union was not an easy one. Without Bob White I doubt it could have happened back then.

He was a visionary who made it easier for women, immigrants and people of colour to assume leadership roles.

He went on to lead the Canadian Labour Congress.

He’s an Officer of the Order of Canada.

He has honorary degrees from the Universities of Windsor, Toronto, York, and St. F X.

I last saw Bob a few years ago tearing up the dance floor at a banquet in Windsor, I think for the Unemployed Help Centre. He was a hero to many of us – especially the rank and file members – and retirees because he never forgot where he came from.

I am pleased to say we were friends.

My condolences to his family – and to all of those whose lives he touched over these many years.”