'His work, his passion for social justice, his humour and his caring will never be forgotten.' Updated
Ottawa (18 Nov. 2009) - Gil Levine, a tireless labour activist who helped found the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), has died following a brief illness at age 85. Born Feb. 3, 1924, he passed away on Nov. 16 after being stricken by acute leukemia.
In announcing his death, his family recalled him this way:
"Gil loved life. He fought long and hard to make the world a better place. He was a pioneer trade unionist and long-time research director of (CUPE). He was happiest when he was fighting for change, winning rights for workers and organizing everybody.
"He loved Yiddishkeit, the woods, Canada, biking, winters in San Miguel, the CBC at its best, oral history, his maple tree at the Arboretum, playing Upwords, big band music, hootenannies, tennis and bad jokes. He mentored and befriended many and brought people together in remarkable ways. His work, his passion for social justice, his humour and his caring will never be forgotten. Gil wanted to live forever. In all of us who loved him, he will."
Paul Moist, CUPE's national president, and Claude Genereux, the union's national secretary-treasurer, described Levine as a visionary who will be missed by CUPE and the labour movement as a whole.
Levine joined the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), one of CUPE's two predecessor unions, in the 1950s, and was present when NUPE merged with National Union of Public Service Employees (NUPSE) in 1963, the year CUPE came into being.
"Few people were as dedicated to Canada's working people as Gil Levine," the two leaders said in a statement. "Gil has truly been the heart and soul of our union and its predecessor for over 50 years. His passion and innovation has not only benefitted CUPE, it has been an immeasurable contribution to the labour movement as a whole."
"On behalf of over 600,000 CUPE members from coast to coast to coast, we send our deepest condolences to Gil's wife Helen, his children Karen and Tamara and his extended family. He will be greatly missed."
Jeff Rose, a former national president, described Levine as "a deeply intelligent and passionate individual" who was unwaveringly principled in his support of working people.
"No one has had as much influence on the development of CUPE as Gil Levine. He was a good friend and a giant of Canadian labour history," Rose said.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, in the atrium at CUPE National Office (1375 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa).
"Donations in honour of Gil may be made to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Canadian Jewish Outlook, or Breast Cancer Action Ottawa. Or... plan a hootenanny."
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