“With the death of Greg Blanchard, NUPGE and the entire labour movement has lost one of its strongest and most spirited leaders.” - James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (28 Aug. 2012) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is mourning the loss of Greg Blanchard, one of its founding leaders and long-time activists.
Greg and Anne Blanchard with family after he was awarded Life Membership at 1995 NUPGE Convention
Greg was President of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) from 1980 to 1994. He served as Nova Scotia Vice-President on NUPGE's National Executive Board for the 14 years he was President of NSGEU.
He passed away peacefully on Saturday, August 25, 2012 surrounded by his family.
“With the death of Greg Blanchard, NUPGE and the entire labour movement has lost one of its strongest and most spirited leaders,” said James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
“Greg was a remarkable leader and a wonderful person who dedicated his life to helping working people. He was a friendly, down-to-earth guy who you could always count on for support and thoughtful advice,” said Clancy.
Greg had a long and distinguished career as a union leader. He was instrumental in turning NSGEU/NUPGE from a civil service association to a union. Prior to 1982, NSGEU/NUPGE was the Nova Scotia Government Employees Association. In 1982, the organization changed its name to union and Greg was elected as NSGEU's first full-time President.
In 1980 when Greg first took over as President, on a voluntary part-time basis, the fledgling Association consisted of 8,000 members, all employed in nine civil service bargaining units. By the time he resigned in 1994, NSGEU had doubled its membership to around 16,000. It had become the lead union in the health care sector and had over 70 bargaining units in the broader public sector as well as the private sector. Workers employed with Moosehead Breweries and Simms Brush Factory in New Brunswick also joined NSGEU/NUPGE under Greg's leadership.
Greg led NSGEU's first legal strike against the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation in June 1990.
One of Greg's biggest achievements in his union career was his fight to obtain political rights for all government employees across Canada. In the early 1980s, Nova Scotia government employees, like their counterparts employed for the federal and other provincial governments, were not allowed to publicly voice their political opinions or run for public office. Under Greg's leadership, NSGEU/NUPGE successfully challenged the ban on political rights for public service workers all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where it was overturned in 1985.
Greg at the 2007 NUPGE Convention
Greg also played a critical role in helping lead change at the National Union. He helped write NUPGE's Futures Report in 1990 which set out a plan for modernizing the organization. He was a strong supporter of many important constitutional changes, including the name change from the National Union of Provincial Employees in 1992 to the National Union of Public and General Employees. He also helped lead the way on important structural changes to NUPGE's governing body, its National Executive Board, which resulted in NUPGE being the first national union in North America to have gender parity on its national governing structure.
As a long serving member of NUPGE's Finance Committee, Greg worked with National Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown to ensure the union's finances were on stable ground. He helped lay the ground work for a major change to NUPGE's dues structure in 1995 from a per capita to a percentage formula.
Greg with James Clancy at 2010 NUPGE Convention
Brown remembers Blanchard's direct and engaging manner. "There’s no doubt that Greg was a straight shooter, what he said was definitely what he meant,” said Brown.
“His leadership strength came from the combination of his skills, patience and steadfast determination to advance economic and social justice for working families.”
At NUPGE's 1995 Convention, delegates recognized Greg's long service and support to the National Union by unanimously bestowing on him a Life Membership.
Greg also played an instrumental role in recent years in helping to establishing the National Union's Action on Retirees' Concerns (NUARC) committee.
Clancy remembers Greg's deep love of his family. "In addition to his commitment to the labour movement, Greg was a loving and dedicated partner and father."
"On behalf of the National Executive Board and all members of the National Union family, I wish to pay tribute to Greg's remarkable life and work, and express our condolences to Greg's wife, Anne, and his two daughters, Seana and Anita (Greg was predeceased by his son Liam on August 5, 2012)."
“Our memories of Greg will never fade. We'll remember him for his warm personality and gentle strength. I know that many leadership activists within the National Union will continue to be inspired by his deep commitment for equality and justice.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE