Former union head dies at 81

Tributes are being paid to Bob White, the founding president of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

Former union head dies at 81

A number of top union figures have been paying homage to Bob White – widely considered a giant in the Canadian labour movement – after the 81-year-old passed away yesterday.

“Bob was a true maverick in the Canadian labour movement,” said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor. “[His] legacy is a stronger and more equitable Canada, and a labour movement that stands up for Canadian workers.”

White spearheaded the campaign to separate the Canadian Auto Workers union from its American counterpart and later became the organization’s founding president.

"The CAW was born as a result of his determination and leadership,” said Dias. “It is thanks to Bob that we have grown into the strong national union that we are today."

White was also president of the trade union umbrella group the Canadian Labour Congress, a position he held for three consecutive terms before retiring in 1999. He was also the first Canadian president of the OECD's trade union advisory committee.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, also expressed his remorse and said White had been one of his heroes.

The feisty labour leader – who previously fought against free trade deals and cuts to social programs – became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990 and was granted honorary doctor of laws from several universities.

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