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Prior to 1955 there was no national organization of public employees. Some municipal, educational, health care and social service workers were unionized but only on a local basis.

It took the vision and organizing skills of Pat Lenihan of Calgary to first pull together these locals into a national union, of which he became the president. In many ways, he must be considered the father of CUPE.

This autobiography, drawn from personal interviews by Gil Levine, CUPEs first Research Director, is told in Lenihans own Irish storytelling way. It chronicles a lifetime of rebellion, protest and organizing against the major economic, social and political struggles of the 20th century.

In his youth, Lenihan fought against British rule in Ireland. Escaping arrest, he immigrated to the US where he was active in radical union activities. In the Depression years in Canada he became the leader of the Calgary unemployed. He led the fight that resulted in the highest welfare rates in Canada. Lenihan displayed a rare courage and an unwavering commitment to social justice.

Constantly watched, repeatedly arrested and often imprisoned, Lenihan emerged time and again as a leader in the cause of the downtrodden, the working poor and the unemployed. Lenihan not only saw the major events of his time, but he was front and centre at the On to Ottawa Trek, the work camps of the 1930s, the radicalization of the Western mining towns, the Cold War, and the building of public employee unions.

Written in an unadorned, engaging style, this book is far more than the history of one of Canadas most influential and colourful figures. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of state repression, union organizing, and how Canadas largest union came into being.