CUPE and the Canadian labour movement have lost a great leader and trade unionist.
Stan Little, CUPE’s first National President, died on Monday May 15th at the age of 89.
Little led CUPE for twelve years, from its formation in 1963 until 1975. Over that time, CUPE quickly grew from 78,000 members to the largest union in Canada with 210,000 members.
Through the years, Little worked tirelessly in the interests of public sector workers, promoting the benefits of unionization and creating a greater role for public sector unions within the CLC.
Little was a hydro worker in Local One in Toronto and then Local 8 in York Township, before becoming a full-time union representative for the National Union of Public Service Employees (NUPSE) in 1951. In 1961, he was elected NUPSE’s president.
From 1957 to 1963 he passionately pursued his goal of creating one big union for public sector workers, overcoming countless obstacles. When NUPSE merged with the National Union of Public Employees to form the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1963, Little was elected to a four-year term as national president. He was re-elected in 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1973, retiring in 1975.
In a 1981 interview with Public Employee, a forerunner of Organize, Little said: “We must never stop telling our members the benefits they’ve gained through unionization. We can’t let today’s unionists forget the battles of the past.”
In retirement he served as a worker representative on the board of the CNR and other bodies, continuing to defend workers’ rights and promote a strong public sector.
Little was last seen by many CUPE members at the 1997 National Convention in Toronto. Suffering with cancer, he was unable to attend the 1999 convention in Montreal.
Funeral services will be held on Friday May 19 at 2:00 p.m. at the Woodlawn Mount Cheam Funeral Home, 45864 Hocking Avenue, Chilliwack, BC. The CUPE delegation will be headed by National President Judy Darcy, National Secretary-Treasurer Geraldine McGuire and former National Secretary-Treasurer Kealey Cummings.
The family would welcome donations to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Cancer Society.
We all join in expressing our deepest sorrow to the members of Stan’s family and extending our solidarity to all our Sisters and Brothers who worked with Brother Little to build this great union.