Local 500 organized a celebration in late September to honor the 1966 coming together known as “amalgamation” that brought many smaller locals into one, big united Local 500 that now represents 1318 union members and 1422 casuals in Vancouver, B.C.
Local 500’s Education Chair Steven Ross envisioned the 50-year anniversary as a week-long educational opportunity for union members, pensioners and the community. That dream was realized by dozens of volunteers who created museum-quality exhibits.
“What Local 500 members did to create their own exhibition was awesome and inspiring,” said ILWU Librarian and Archivist Robin Walker in San Francisco.
The Local 500 exhibit was so extensive that it required a large hall at Vancouver’s Maritime Labour Center. One exhibit featured a large-scale model of a ship’s bow. Other exhibits displayed the wide variety of cargoes handled by longshore workers over the years, including wine barrels, wheat and other grains, lumber, sand and gravel. Smaller scale-model ships from every era included sailing vessels to modern container carriers. A large collection of longshore hooks used by old-timers were a popular feature. Documents, videos and photos helped explain the history of longshore unions in Vancouver and the growing influence of solidarity that brought Locals 501, 506, 507, 509 and 510 together. An especially emotional exhibit displays the names of 50 longshore workers who have been killed on the job.
Admission to the exhibition was free and the hall was open long hours to accommodate the public. “It’s important to remind ourselves of this history, and just as important to try and reach the public who is fenced off from our docks and can’t see the work that we do,” said Ross.
The week-long exhibition was downsized on the final day to make room for a dinner and dance that was held in the hall on September 24.
Union members, pensioners and families joined labour leaders from far wide who arrived to pay tribute to Local 500’s history of solidarity.
Local 500 President Rino Voci said, “The whole event was a great success. Many of the pensioners came and enjoyed all the exhibits. Members and casuals showed up to see the history of our local and to learn how previous generations struggled for the benefit of our current workforce. The dinner was sold out and a great time was had by all. I would like to thank all the brothers and sisters that came from out of town to celebrate our 50 years. I would also like to thank Steve Ross, his service committee, and all the volunteers for their hard work to make this event happen.”
International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams brought greetings from throughout the ILWU family to Local 500 President Rino Voci, ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, and Local 500 members and pensioners.
“We are all tied together in a garment of destiny. Our hands are joined across oceans and borders, and our pulses and heart beats throb as one,” said Adams.