DOWN HOME NO MORE
Dedicated to Eric Fitzpatrick, a Strait of Canso trawlerman who chose the wrong union
On a brilliant morning last July, two cars swept along the Trans-Canada Highway where the green hills of Cape Breton roll down into Bras d’Or Lake. Edison Lumsden, a Canso fisherman who had recently become a full-time organizer for the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union, drove the red fastback. The green station wagon belonged to Con Mills, another UFAWU organizer. Their nine passengers were fishermen from Canso and Mulgrave, heading for Sydney and a plane to Vancouver.
Fifteen months of struggle to be represented by the union of their choice had ended. They had fought not only the international corporations that employed them but also the courts, the churches, the media and the government. Twice they brought Nova Scotia to the verge of a general strike. In the end, the companies had outflanked them by exploiting the divisions within the labor movement itself.
Eric Fitzpatrick rents a bungalow just outside the straggling bayside village of Mulgrave. The night before he flew west we talked in his kitchen about being a working man in Canada. A hefty blond-haired man of 37, Fitzpatrick has worked hard since he left his native Newfoundland at 18. “I used to think there was a halfway respect at least in this country for democratic rights,” he told me, shaking his head. “I thought you had a democratic right to the union of your own choice. Now, when the politicians talk about democratic rights, why it just makes me sick to my stomach. There aren’t any democratic rights in this country. Not for fellows like us.”
As we talked, Eric watched Gail Fitzpatrick feed the six children he wouldn’t see again before Christmas. Would the family head west eventually? “Well, right now we don’t have any plans at all,” Eric shrugged. “Just get some food for the kids, that’s all. And clear off the debts.”
Eric’s story begins in 1947, when the Nova Scotia Labor Relations Board certified the Canadian Fishermen’s Union as bargaining agent for Lunenburg’s trawlermen. On appeal the courts held that the fishermen were not employees but “co-adventurers” who shared both risk and profit with Lunenburg Sea Products. The CFU organizing drive died. Twenty years later, Atlantic trawlermen were still unorganized.
On a trawler, wrote Catholic priest Thomas Morley, who spent eight days on one, “you can work steadily for 20 hours as long as the fish-finder needle keeps pointing out fish. And when the fish are slack and the boat changes course, even then rest is not assured. There are fish to be cleaned and put in the hatches, ice to be shoveled, bottom-damaged nets to be mended. One of our crew was on his feet for over 30 hours. Add to this the wind and the frost, the snow and the sleet of winter trawling, the open
decks, the bare hands and the exposed machinery of running winch and speeding steel cables, and you get a faint idea of the hardest life by which men still earn their daily bread.”
The boats carried only rudimentary medicine chests; when a cable ripped off three of Gerald Collins’ fingers, he could only be given cotton batting to staunch the bleeding and a bottle of rum to ease the pain. A hydraulic hatch cover once pinned Eric, pressing down on his back till his leg broke in eight places. “When you get hurt on a dragger on the East Coast,” he says, “it’s, oh, you’re not hurt, it’s just pinched.” The dragger made another twohour tow, and only 23 hours later did Eric arrive in Antigonish hospital. He was laid up seven months.
When a trawler docked, the company weighed and graded the catch and calculated its value. At Acadia Fisheries in Canso and Mulgrave, deckhands were paid four dollars a day, plus a share in 30% of the catch. At Booth Fisheries in Petit de Grat, the share was 37%, with no guarantees. A man might make $150 on an average 12-day trip. A trawlerman working steadily makes about $3,000 to $5,000 a year — but he works eight hours on and four off, putting in twice as many hours a year as the average industrial worker. In heavy fishing the men spend five days in six away from home.
Acadia Fisheries was one of more than 60 subsidiaries of the Boston Fishing Group of Hull, England, and Booth a subsidiary of Chicago’s Consolidated Foods (1969 sales more than a billion dollars). Acadia had tapped^ the provincial treasury for loans totaling nine million dollars.
The Canadian Labor Congress has given jurisdiction over fisheries to the Canadian Food and Allied Workers’ Union, which had been chartered by Chicago’s Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen. But in 1967, before the CFAWU — “the Meatpackers,” as Eric scornfully calls them — started in Nova Scotia, the United Fishermen, a militant non-CLC union which represents a large majority of West Coast fishermen, sent a two-man organizing team east. Soon the UF had members in Halifax, Lunenburg — and Canso Strait. By late 1969, 250 fishermen in the Strait locals were ready to ask the companies for recognition.
Acadia Fisheries’ manager A. L. Cadegan — “Donnie” Cadegan, as he is known in the industry — paces back and forth in his modern office in the six-million-dollar Canso fish plant. Canso smells of fish everywhere, but in the manager’s office the reek is overpowering. “This plant doesn’t smell bad,” says Cadegan, surprised. “You ought to have smelled some of the old ones.” Cadegan works hard, angers easily, and speaks bluntly. / continued on page 40
DOWN HOME from page 38 He is saying that he knew from the beginning that the choice was recognition or a bitter strike. “I’m not antiunion,” he snorts. “I thought they should have a union. But not the UF.”
Why? In a huge advertisement, Booth Fisheries once described the UF as “irresponsible and unreliable.” Moreover its president, Homer Stevens, is a Communist Party member. In May, 1970, the Canadian Labor Congress annual convention in Edmonton voted two-to-one against admitting the UF except by merger with a CLC affiliate — part of the Congress policy of creating fewer and bigger unions. Then CLC President Donald MacDonald attacked “sinister efforts to pervert the labor movement” particularly by “the Communist Party of Canada.” As masses of delegates protested the smear, MacDonald roared, “If the mukluk fits, wear it!” In midstrike, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald resurrected the story: BC UNION LACKS TOP CLC BLESSING: COMMUNIST
LEADERSHIP IS FACTOR.
“This is another way they have of scaring the people,” Eric shrugs. “There’s lots of religious people around Nova Scotia, and if you’re a Communist you’re not supposed to believe in God or truth. They say in this country you got a right to be what you want to be — well, if Homer Stevens is a Communist, that’s Homer Stevens’ business. As long as he don’t tell me what church to go to, thads okay.”
In fact, Acadia’s British parent company regularly bargains with Communist-led unions. “The UF would have demanded ruinous prices from the industry,” Cadegan says. The issue was not Communism, but money and power.
In early April, 1970, the fishermen polled the crew of each incoming trawler. The men voted overwhelmingly to strike. By mid-April picket lines surrounded the fish plants in all three ports. “You’ll be out there till snow flies!” Cadegan predicted. They were.
On April 19, Booth used the companies’ ultimate threat to industrystarved Nova Scotia: either the union would pull out or Booth would. Since when, retorted Homer Stevens, putting the whole point of the strike in a capsule, did anyone but the fishermen have the right to choose their union? On May 11, a fish-laden Acadia truck drove through the Canso picket lines, headed for Halifax. Mulgrave fishermen intercepted it at Guysborough, and five were arrested. The incident publicized the strike, and the union stepped up its campaign for funds.
Meanwhile Booth Fisheries met its commitments from its numerous plants in Newfoundland and the eastern United States. For much weaker Acadia — the only Boston Group company in America, with no other plants than those in Canso Strait — members of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers’ Association arranged to cover market commitments and raised a cash subsidy for the duration of the strike.
On May 21, Judge Nathan Green was appointed a one-man federalprovincial commission of inquiry into the strike. A week later the companies accepted his interim recommendation that the fishermen return on the old terms while the inquiry continued, but the fishermen overwhelmingly rejected it.
So, out at the eastern tip of mainland Canada, where the tiny shingled houses of Canso lie scattered among the boulders, the Lumsdens and the
Gurneys and the Richardsons walked the picket line. Men and women whose ancestors had sailed out of the Maritimes’ oldest fishing village for centuries would split a few bottles of beer in parked cars, banter among themselves and taunt company officials as they came and went. Cadegan says he’s heard some rough language, but none rougher than some that the women hurled at him. When you ask the fishermen’s wives about it, they just chuckle.
In all three ports, the fishermen had found the Mounties taking pictures, and on June 4, as the strike moved into its third month, they found out why. Supreme Court Justice D. J. Gillis awarded the companies ex parte injunctions — court orders based on the company’s arguments only — prohibiting the UF and 37 of its members from picketing the three plants. The fishermen, their wives and supporters gathered in the union halls and de-
cided to risk contempt of court charges by ignoring the injunctions.
For two weeks, the law was silent. Twelve UF members, including Stevens, Con Mills and Everett Richardson, went to Ottawa, where Tommy Douglas promised them support.
Back in Nova Scotia, the National Farmers’ Union was sending truckloads of fruit and vegetables. Money came from pulp workers in BC, electrical workers in Amherst, firemen in Sydney. Houses, cars and clothes were plastered with UF stickers. Members of the Halifax New Democratic Youth joined the picketers, sleeping in the Mulgrave union hall. “There’s no way I could describe what those young people did for us,” marvels Eric. “It was really wonderful. They walked the picket line, they went to meetings with us, they went to negotiations with us, when we had to go to Halifax they kept us under their roofs. When I first heard about them, I figured that they were, you know, like the papers described them and television — they were just a bad bunch of people. Then I got to know them, and I think they’re a great bunch of people.”
But the courts had not forgotten, and on June 19, Eric and 11 of his comrades from Mulgrave found themselves in a Halifax courtroom, facing contempt charges. “I felt pretty nervous,” Eric remembers, “looking at the old judge there. When he wanted us to apologize — well, really to apologize to the companies — and we said we wouldn’t apologize, he broke off for a 15-minute session to give us time to talk about it. The judge figured he was kind of scaring everybody — and he was, the way he was coming around about it. He figured that we didn’t know what was going on, you know, he figured somebody got to explain it to us. The problem was a very very serious problem to him, I guess.
“Homer simply told us what we were up against, and the lawyer briefed us, and Homer said, ‘Well, you’re facing something now that I faced, and you could possibly wind up getting a year in jail. It’s in this judge’s hands now, and God knows how he’ll judge you. But I don’t want you to go in there feeling that you don’t know all about it. I want you to understand it.’ I don’t know whether I was the first guy, or whether Jim Lundrigan was the first to say, ‘Well, we’ll take our chances.’
“When we went back in, I was kind of nerved up, but I was still going to go through with it. If it meant a year, well, I was going to take a year, and I think all the fishercontinued on page 42
DOWN HOME continued men felt the same way. We never went into it ignorant or anything, we knew what was going to happen.”
Chief Justice Gordon Cowan gave them 20 and 30 days each. Three days later 16 Canso fishermen came to trial. “I saw smiles and laughs over the sentences on Friday,” Judge Cowan told them. “This is not going to continue. Picketing has got to stop.” Fie asked Everett Richardson whether his defiant comments in Ottawa meant he would continue picketing. Richardson wouldn’t say. Furious, Cowan sentenced him to nine months, holding the other Canso men over to see whether Richardson’s sentence would stop the picketing.
In Port Hawkesbury, 2,400 pulp mill and construction workers walked off the job in protest. In Sydney, 3,000 miners wildcatted. Near Pictou, construction workers left the Scott Maritimes site. Hundreds of sympathizers descended on the Canso Strait ports to walk the picket lines with the fishermen’s wives and children. The Rt. Rev. W. W. Davis, Anglican Bishop of Nova Scotia, “deeply regretted” the sentence.
The Nova Scotia Federation of Tabor had been lukewarm to the strike, its fellow - feeling for the strikers countered by the official CFC hostility to the union. Now it slammed Attorney-General R. A. Donahoe, who had ordered the contempt proceedings, for his “open bias against all working Nova Scotians, in favor of foreign corporations who are exploiting our natural resources and who have clearly indicated their total irresponsibility to the people of this province.” Halifax’s opposition paper, The Fourth Estate, ran a full-page editorial headed CONTEMPT FOR THE
LAW: WHAT ELSE COULD AN HONEST
MAN HAVE? Jeremy Akerman, leader of the Nova Scotia NDP and the only politician to give the strikers full support, damned the government and the courts “which claim to be impartial yet continue to be the tools of the corporations.” Tabor Federation Secretary-Treasurer J. K. Bell suggested Acadia Fisheries be nationalized, and within three days of Richardson’s sentencing, with over 7,000 workers still out, the federation president, John Lynk, was discussing the “strong possibility” of a general strike.
Faced with this unprecedented solidarity, the government put off the remaining contempt trials until October 27, and the fishermen already in jail were released on bail. Returning to Mulgrave, as calls for a special session of the legislature to amend the co-adventurer law echoed around the province, Eric Fitzpatrick was jubi-
lant. “The people are 100% behind us,” he said, “and we’re going to win.”
As the summer rolled on, Tory Tabor Minister Thomas McKeough agreed with Judge Green’s remark during a hearing that the fishermen’s demand for a union was “fair and just,” and opined that the law would be changed “within a year.” In early August, the government got around to asking the Supreme Court for a ruling on whether it had the power to change the law. The companies remained obdurate; a union maybe, but not the UF. In late July, Booth Fisheries ran several large newspaper ads attacking the UF and threatening to leave Nova Scotia. Acadia bought similar ads, and Cadegan gave sub-
stance to the threats by declaring in August that Acadia’s Mulgrave plant was permanently closed. “Fishing,” he pronounced, “is finished in Mulgrave.”
The Mulgrave fishermen were undaunted. “Fet them pull out!” cried Reg Carter. “Fet them get out and good riddance!” In Petit de Grat, however, Father Georges Arsenault was getting worried. Months had gone by; people were suffering. “After six months, it was getting too long,” he frowns. “The one thing we couldn’t stand was to see Booth leave. And the company was staying only if there was a CFC union.” As Booth’s August deadline approached, shore plant union president Albert Martell and others conducted a poll: should Booth stay in Petit de Grat? Not surprisingly, only one of 273 employees voted No. Interpreting the
poll as a repudiation of the UF, Martell began firing off telegrams to provincial and federal governments demanding “positive action” to “remove Homer Stevens and his coworkers from our province.”
For the moment Martell’s work went for nothing. Strong as ever, the strikers held fish sales and rallies in Halifax and Sydney. The Mulgrave union hall was papered with letters of support. Wives took the story to construction workers in Cape Breton. Whole families turned out for demonstrations and marches. When you ask Eric what he especially remembers about the strike, he says he thinks a lot “about the women and the part they took in it, going down there when we were in jail. They went down and stood on the picket line there, and they defied the law and the courts and everything else. I feel kind of proud about them.”
Gail put in 20-hour days for weeks on end, picketing and collecting money, baking bread and pies and cakes for sale in a nearby store until her health gave out and the doctor ordered her to rest. Eric pitched in around the house, somewhat clumsily at times, helping with the kids and the housework. Union men and women came and went in what they both recall as a warm glow of comradeship. Once Homer Stevens and Glenn McEachern, the UF business agent, were coming for supper. The Fitzpatricks were living on $20 a week strike pay plus what Gail could earn, and there was nothing in the fridge when Gail went out to work. When she came back, “Homer and Glenn had filled the fridge.” Her face lights up, and in the rich tones of her native Cape Breton she says, “I think it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.”
Having fought the companies and the law, Gail says she is less reluctant to tangle with Eric. “I used to be scared all the time. But now I’m not frightened of things. I stand up for myself.” Eric feels the two are closer than ever. “Gail stood right by me,” he muses. “I’ve got much respect for her.”
On the eve of a general sympathy strike planned by the Cape Breton Trades and Tabor Council for August 21, Judge Green brought down his report. His findings: the law gave the fishermen no right to a union, but the law should be changed. In the meantime the fishermen should form an ad hoc committee to negotiate with the companies, leaving the question of recognition until after the new legislation. At first the fishermen angrily rejected the report. Recognicontlnued on page 45
DOWN HOME continued tion was, after all, their main demand. But after consulting with the Federation of Labor, the fishermen agreed to elect an ad hoc committee of four fishermen from each of the ports. Under the chairmanship of Labor Minister McKeough, talks began in Halifax early in September. Everett Richardson was there and so was Eric Fitzpatrick, facing experienced top management. Not surprisingly, communication often broke down.
On one memorable occasion, Eric blew up. “We’re here, I said, talking to a bunch of men that’s got 20 years of negotiating these things, and you got 20 years of experience of screwing the rich and the poor. You got a bunch of fishermen in here now, I said, and you’re tryin’ to walk all over them. You should be ashamed of yourselves. This is a disgrace to the community, and it’s a disgrace to the whole country.” Everett recalls that when Eric was done “there wasn’t a drop of blood left in any of their faces.” The company men got up and walked out and had to be talked into returning.
Just before the provincial election in October the fishermen signed a contract which gained them higher fish prices, grievance procedures, some improvement in working conditions. Cadegan denies that the agreement contained anything new, aside from the fish prices. But the men sailed under the first collective agreement they had ever had. A few days later, Nova Scotia handed the Liberals a bare 23-21 victory — and gave two seats to Akerman’s NDP. The fishermen’s lawyer, Leonard Pace, became the new AttorneyGeneral and Minister of Labor, and the Liberals were pledged to “seize jurisdiction,” as Pace puts it, by changing the Trade Union Act. After that the trawlermen could have their union certified, whether the companies liked it or not. As Christmas approached the fishermen had things to celebrate.
“The men were back to work,” says Pace in his lawyer’s modulated bass, leaning back in his desk chair in the Attorney-General’s cavernous office overlooking Halifax harbor. “No one was unduly handicapped by a delay, and the first opportunity we got to bring in the legislation in a responsible manner, we did.” But by then it was March 18, and for the fishermen the delay had been catastrophic.
Welcomed by the companies, blessed by the CLC, the Canadian Food and Allied Workers had begun raiding the UF locals almost be-
fore the ink dried on the October agreement. “There is a community of interest,” admits a CFAW official, “between the government, the companies, and our union.” In Petit de Grat, the CFAW contacted sympathetic people like Albert Martell and Father Arsenault, and signed up not only trawlermen but shore plant workers as well. On December 23, 1970, Booth Fisheries granted CFAW voluntary recognition and a union shop. Anxious to keep Booth in Nova Scotia, most trawlermen fell into line.
In January, CFAW organizers Jim Bury and Jim Coles moved into the Acadia fleet. They avoided Canso and Mulgrave at first, signing up trawlermen who lived in Linwood, in Glace Bay, in Guysborough and elsewhere. “We did it rather quietly,” -re-
calls Bury, 55, smooth and assured, fully at home in his modern Don Mills office. “But we signed up a majority.” On March 9, Acadia granted voluntary recognition to CFAW, and three days later signed a union-shop collective agreement for the trawlermen.
But who are the Acadia trawlermen? They come and go, making anywhere from one or two trips a year up to Eric’s 27. The CFAW claimed 57 signed membership cards, but the UF fishermen insist that many of them were signed by men who had made only occasional trips, months or even years before. Before March 18, however, CFAW was under no legal obligation to prove to anyone that it represented anybody: it had only to satisfy Acadia.
Trawlermen landing in Canso were told to join CFAW or quit. About 80 of the 112 crewmen walked off, and
65 filed complaints of unfair labor practices with the Labor Relations Board. When Bill 11 was signed into law March 18, Acadia and CFAW lodged their agreements with the board; if the board accepted them, CFAW was automatically certified. Naturally the UF challenged the agreements, filing 87 signed cards. Over the next four months the board held several hearings on the disputes, while the adamant trawlermen stayed ashore.
“It had something to do with Homer,” Eric concedes. “To think that for 20 years, the only man that had guts enough to come to Nova Scotia to try to organize the fishermen — well, you just couldn’t turn coat on him. I’d rather starve than join the CF. I didn’t like the principles of it, I didn’t like the way they came in there. Another thing about the UF, it’s an all - Canadian union. I don’t see why we have to have the Meatpackers come up from Chicago to organize fishermen on the East Coast. I just couldn’t join the CF, that’s all there is to it. I don’t think I could sleep at night — and I like my sleep.”
Once again the fishermen were living on what they could raise themselves, and on donations from sympathizers. As seasonal workers, they could not draw unemployment insurance, and local officials were denying them welfare, despite threats and promises from the provincial cabinet. On May 21, Bishop Davis finally buckled to heavy pressure and announced that Father Ron Parsons, who had supported the fishermen all along, would be relieved of his job in Canso August 31. “I didn’t think you could be fired from a church,” Parsons muses, “but I have been, so I guess you can.” Even the NDP, closely tied to the CLC, was emitting what Parsons calls “silences that could be heard across the province.”
While the board deliberated, a citizens’ Committee for a Free Vote for Fishermen appointed a five-man panel headed by three college presidents to supervise a vote of every available fisherman who had been employed by Acadia on March 9. On May 3, 69 of the 112 men chose the UF in a 66-3 landslide. Jim Bury and Donald MacDonald denounced the vote, with Bury charging election irregularities and UF intimidation. MacDonald went on to warn that “if the people of Nova Scotia wish to usher in a decade of violence and confusion which could spell ruin for the fishermen, the way to do it is to permit the UF to grab control of the industry.” Homer Stevens had always said
DOWN HOME continued that temper was a luxury, and even now, as the desperate fishermen tried to dramatize their grievances, they remained nonviolent. On June 4, 14 UF members boarded the Acadia Gull, warped her out from the dock, and held her until five carloads of Mounties hauled them off and charged them with mischief, a charge later dismissed on a technicality.
On June 25, the Labor Relations Board came to its final conclusions. “The board couldn’t hear evidence on anything that happened before the eighteenth of March,” explains a source connected with it. “All it could do was see that the CFAW had a majority as of the nineteenth and after.” A legalistic view, the board’s critics retort; it could have held a vote had it wished to. In any case, the UF fishermen had already been ousted by the nineteenth, so the CFAW certainly did have a majority. As for the unfair labor practices, the board held that the men were fired not for belonging to the UF but for failing to join the CFAW. It dismissed the complaints. Since there is no appeal from a board decision, the companies and the CFAW had their way.
Five days later, in a last flash of defiance, a handful of fishermen and a crowd of supporters shouted slogans from the gallery of the legislature and hurled abuse at the government, fading away before the police arrived.
Was it over? Several fishermen thought so, and signed CFAW cards to get back to sea. “It’s going to hurt me more to sign that card than it did to sign my father’s death certificate,” one told Edison Lumsden. “But what the hell else can I do?”
But some of the UF’s strongest supporters could not get jobs with Acadia anymore. Cadegan denied that there had ever been a blacklist, but he declared that “Acadia has the right to hire who it wants, when it
wants, where it wants. And the boats are fully crewed. I admit there are men I wouldn’t want back. But Eric Fitzpatrick is strong UF, and I’d hire him anytime.”
Some of the men found fishing jobs elsewhere; others went to Ontario. A good many took the UF’s offer to lend them air fare and find them berths in BC. Meanwhile, Acadia Fisheries itself was actually in trouble, looking for a buyer for its plant and trawlers. On July 21, a mimeographed letter informed plant workers that the company had gone into liquidation. A. W. Suddaby, one of Acadia’s British directors, blamed “the disastrous financial effect” of the strike, and assailed the provincial government for not putting up more money. The government coolly replied that the Boston Group had left the company undercapitalized and badly managed for years. Cadegan says the Boston Group put four million dollars into Acadia and never took a nickel out. But, if Acadia couldn’t survive the strike, why didn’t it settle? In November the plant at last prepared to reopen under the management of H. B. Nickerson & Sons of North Sydney, subject to a federal grant through the Department of Regional Economic Expansion.
From Mulgrave to the hospital in Antigonish is nearly 40 miles. Gail Fitzpatrick’s health is still not good, and today she is to have a barium X-ray. Since the Fitzpatricks can’t afford a car, she faces a $12 taxi ride. But I have a car and things to do in Antigonish, so we drive in together. The doctor has denied her morning tea, and she feels “right owly.” All the same, she seems her usual outgoing and cheerful self. She needs a new washer, but the Fitzpatricks won’t have any credit in Port Hawkesbury until Eric’s money comes
in. Meanwhile she’ll try to get a job.
The strike was the best thing that ever happened, she says. It brought people together, showed them how things really worked, and made them feel they could do something about it. She says that if they have to move to BC, why they’ll have to, that’s all. But she wouldn’t want to. Her family and Eric’s are in Mulgrave, and so are all her friends. A Port Hawkesbury firm plans to build some new houses you could get on a low down payment, and maybe — “A house of our own,” she says. “Now that’d be something. Or one of them big trailers — I’d love to get one of them.”
“If you’re going to fish, this is the only place to fish,” Eric says, standing on a Vancouver dock. “You got so many opportunities for to make a dollar, you know?” He thinks of taking the whole family out this year. He likes BC, and Canso Strait families are arriving all the time. He wonders what Gail thinks, and says he thought of phoning a couple of times, but didn’t want to run up the bill.
“I miss the kids an awful lot,” he says wistfully. “I see kids sometimes, and I start to feel lonely then. I think about Jeanie an awful lot, you know — I suppose because she’s the youngest in the family. I think of her smile and then I’d give anything, you know ...” His voice trails off.
But he doesn’t regret the strike. “When I tell some people I’d do it again they say, Oh no, Eric, you wouldn’t — but I would, because of what I learned through the strike. And standing up for something you believe in, and standing by it — this is one thing I’m happy about. During the strike Gail used to say, ‘I know we’re having it hard but you’re standing up for something you believe in.’ I got to give her a lot of credit.
“I don’t think anybody can figure we lost, because we got bargaining rights, and the only place in North America where the law gives bargaining rights to fishermen is in Nova Scotia today. I guess a lot of things went on in that strike that’ll go down in history and be talked about for years to come. It puts me in a kind of bad position, but I don’t regret it, and I’d do it again.
“There’s another thing I took into consideration,” said Eric, pausing for a moment. “I think that when the kids grow up, they’d like to figure that their father stood up for something he believed in. I figured sometime the kids would say, ‘Well, Christ, my old man stood up for something he believed in, one time. So maybe I’ll do the same.’ ” ■