“Glen Makahonuk was a trade unionist and a socialist in the true sense of both words” said Judy Darcy, National President. “There was no problem too big or too small for Glen from defending a member’s grievance to fighting for social and economic justice for workers in Canada and around the world”.
“Glen brought both vision and rank-and-file activism to the National Executive Board. He was tireless in his defence of workers and sought no personal gain”, Darcy added. “No-one has devoted their heart and soul to CUPE members more than Glen Makahonuk.”
Makahonuk displayed an unwavering commitment to the struggles of working people. As the chairperson of his Local’s Grievance Committee, Makahonuk handled more than 1,200 grievances on behalf of the members since 1978.
For Makahonuk the union concept of “an injury to one is an injury to all” was not a mere slogan. He consistently put this philosophy into practice with his presence at picket lines to show solidarity for striking or locked out workers and at protests against social program cutbacks.
Makahonuk felt that there was more to unions than just collective bargaining. He believed very strongly in the concept of social unionism that unions had a larger role to play in fighting for equality and social justice for both organized and unorganized workers.
Makahonuk believed the labour movement should work in solidarity with coalitions of community, anti-poverty and social action groups and stressed the importance of organizing non-unionized workers. He was a strong advocate for the “rank-and-file” and worked hard to promote greater membership activism and union democracy.
As president of CUPE Saskatchewan, Makahonuk was a strong voice for progressive changes to labour legislation in the province. Through numerous letters to government ministers, newspaper commentaries, and media conferences, Makahonuk vigorously lobbied for anti-scab legislation, pay equity, a higher minimum wage and other policies that would improve the lives of working people and the unemployed.
Makahonuk was elected President of CUPE Saskatchewan in 1992. He served as the President of CUPE Local 1975, University of Saskatchewan support staff, for the past eleven years. He served as a Vice-President on the executive council of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour for the past six years.
On the national level, Makahonuk represented CUPE members in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba as a General Vice-President on the union’s National Executive Board since 1993. He also served as a Regional Vice-President representing Saskatchewan on the National Executive Board from 1991 to 1993.
Makahonuk was also an accomplished labour historian. In 1976 he earned his master’s degree in history at the University of Saskatchewan with a thesis on the Estevan coal strike of 1931. He worked as a senior library assistant at the U of S and published several articles on labour history in scholarly journals, such as Saskatchewan History, and in local publication like Briarpatch magazine.
Just prior to his illness, Makahonuk completed a comprehensive history of the struggle for labour legislation in Saskatchewan. The 69-page booklet, Class, State and Power: The Struggle for Trade Union Rights in Saskatchewan, 1905-97 was recently published by CUPE Saskatchewan.
The University of Saskatchewan recently set up a $20,000 scholarship fund to honour Makahonuk. The Glen Makahonuk Scholarship Fund, to be administered by the union local, will provide $1,000 a year to a CUPE member for training or professional development.
Information on funeral arrangements and memorial services will be provided as soon as they become available.