McGill recognized for pulling the council through tough times

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Don McGill, former president of the BC Building Trades and retired secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 213, was presented with an honourary life membership to the BCBT at the council’s convention in February.

Walter Canta, Local 213 secretary treasurer, presented the award to McGill for his “commitment to trade unionism and the struggle of working people.”

Canta told the delegates that McGill began his career in the construction industry with the purchase of his first truck when he was just a teenager. He worked in the far North, hauled fuel for Arrow Transport, and served as a business agent for the union. Within two years he was assistant to the secretary treasurer and shortly after that he held the top position. He went on to become an international VP for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

McGill was instrumental in restructuring the BC Building Trades council and hired its first executive director, Tom Sigurdson. And that’s what McGill wanted to talk about when he was called up to receive his plaque.

“The building trades were very close to not being here at all in 1997,” he said. “We went through one helluva lot in the late ’70s and early ’80s…Interest rates were 21% and nothing was moving. But when the industry came back together, the contracts went to the general contractors and from the generals to the subs and we had a helluva lot of control. But non-union companies started surfacing.”

That pressure, combined with the problem of having the council and the bargaining council headed by the same person, resulted in divisions among the affiliated members. “The council was about to blow up!” McGill said. “But once it came apart, it would never come back together.” McGill and the other principal officers came up with a new structure, “which we’re working under today.”

The day-to-day functions of the council are now managed by the executive director who remains at arm’s length from the bargaining council. McGill told the delegates, “I’m thrilled to see you today and still thriving!” Then, with a message to the leaders of the affiliated unions, he said, “You can come to that table, but it takes a leader to stay at the table, and I wish you well in the future.”

Executive Director Tom Sigurdson made a point of thanking Lynn McGill, Don’s wife, for her indirect support of the BC Building Trades during those very difficult years. "Lynn sacrificed a lot of family time with Don to make certain we could rebuild the council," Sigurdson said.

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