John McCracken | CUPE Communications

In 1980, Warrick Cluney took a job as a heavy equipment operator for the Town of Conception Bay South (CBS), Newfoundland, and became a member of CUPE 3034.

At the time, CBS was a small coastal community. It is just outside St. John’s on the Avalon Peninsula. The local consisted of public works and office employees and had 15 members.

This February, Cluney stepped down as president of CUPE 3034, after serving in that position for 32 years. His local now has just under 170 members.

As a young adult, Cluney got introduced to unions while working in the mines in northern Quebec as a USWA member. “The union quickly got in my blood,” said Cluney.

Asked about highlights over his presidency, Cluney said “Keeping our defined benefit pension plan in our last round of bargaining was a big win for us. But getting the local in the pension plan (TRIO) to begin with 28 years ago was also a huge accomplishment.”

He attributes his long reign as president to a healthy relationship with the employer and the membership. “All in all, there’s been good cooperation on both sides, and of course a lot of give and take.”

His advice to young activists and leaders is simple “I learned a long time ago that you can only get a little piece of the pie at a time. You’re never going to get the whole pie. Patience wins the game.”

He should know. His local has had a string of contracting in successes, including the town stadium and fire department. Three years ago, CBS brought its solid waste operations in house – collection and disposal, with four new trucks servicing the 35,000 town residents.

Cluney’s not fading into the sunset quite yet. He’s the local’s new vice president. Like he said, it’s in his blood.