The origins of the FFAW

Earle McCurdy and Richard Cashin used the resources, finances
and confidential information from the UFCW to join the CAW

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In the late 1980s, the FFAW broke away from the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) to join the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers). The split was stormy and bitter. The following was copied from a UFCW document, filed with the NL Labour Relations Board in St. John’s, that outlines some of the actions undertaken by Richard Cashin and Earle McCurdy, FFAW leaders at the time.

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(12) As to the whole of these matters and so that the Board may be fully advised of the background in this matter the Intervenor (the UFCW) states the following:

(i)  That as a result of internal difficulties and the frustrated ambition of Richard Cashin in 1986 Richard Cashin, the President of Local 1252, initiated with Earle McCurdy a plan to sever Local 1252, the Intervenor herein, from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (“UFCW”) and establish it as a local of the CAW with whose leadership Cashin has close personal and political connections. The plan involved the following elements:

  1. To disregard the provisions of the Constitution governing withdrawal of Canadian locals from the UFCW or withdrawal of individual locals; 

(b) To unlawfully declare Local 1252’s disaffiliation from the UFCW and affiliation with the CAW, and to immediately proceed to operate Local 1252 as an affiliate of the CAW; 

(ii) In September of 1986, Cashin met with Robert White, President of the CAW to begin laying the groundwork for affiliation with the CAW. On or about February 23rd, 1987, Cashin again met with White to obtain assurance that the CAW would grant an affiliation charter to Local 1252 if Cashin and McCurdy declared it to be a CAW affiliate. Cashin received such assurance. He and McCurdy then met with the CAW Executive Board on March 4th, 1987, and were advised that the CAW would grant Local 1252 an affiliation charter with the CAW. On or about March 10th, 1987, Cashin and McCurdy caused the rest of the Executive Board of Local 1252 to be contacted and informed them to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the next day for a meeting. No agenda or information as to the topic of the meeting were provided to members of the Executive Board of Local 1252; 

(iii) At the meeting of March 11th, 1987, in contravention of the UFCW Constitution and in breach of the Charter and Bylaws of Local 1252, at the urging of Cashin and McCurdy, Local 1252’s Executive Board proposed to pass an informal resolution to disaffiliate Local 1252 from the UFCW, to adopt a new Constitution and Bylaws and to accept the Charter from the CAW as the Newfoundland, Fishermen, Food and Allied Workers Union, Local 465 (“NFFAW-465”). The “new” union publicly identified itself as Fishermen, Food and Allied Workers Union, Local 465. Cashin subsequently made a public announcement of the fact that he knew this action was unlawful, and violated Local 1252’s Constitution and Bylaws but was necessary because the International would use strong-arm tactics; 

(iv) Cashin and McCurdy did not at this point resign as members of Local 1252 or of the UFCW. They, in fact, continued to purport to administer the affairs and property of Local 1252 as if it were, NFFAW-465;

(v) Using the cash flow and assets of Local 1252, Cashin and McCurdy began a campaign to vilify the UFCW as undemocratic and to persuade Local 1252’s members to transfer their support to the CAW while keeping secret from the membership the fact that there were constitutional procedures for disaffiliation of Canadian UFCW locals which Cashin himself had proposed and the International Convention had implemented;

(vi) That Cashin and McCurdy caused a Petition to be filed with the Labour Relations Board for the Province of Newfoundland on or about March 11th, 1987, requesting transfer of thirty-six (36) of Local 1252’s certifications to the NFFAW-465. This Petition was based on the knowingly false affidavit that the Constitution of the local union had been amended “by motions duly passed” to delete all references to the UFCW and to change the local’s name to NFFAW, Local 465. Cashin and McCurdy also caused Local 1252’s employees to actively campaign against Local 1252, to raid units represented by it in Nova Scotia, and file petitions with provincial labour boards in Prince Edwards Island and Nova Scotia for certification of the CAW or to transfer Local 1252’s certifications to the NFFAW-465. 

(vi) On March 11th, 1987, Cashin mailed to Local 1252’s membership a notice that it had disaffiliated from the UFCW and affiliated with the CAW. The address for NFFAW-465 was shown as the same post office box, Box 880, and street address, 2 Steer’s Cove, St. John’s, Newfoundland, as Local 1252. 

(viii) In early April 1987, the UFCW International Union commenced an action in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland to restrain the breaches of the UFCW Constitution and the Charter and Bylaws of Local 1252. On or about April 8, 1987, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland granted an interim injunction ordering local 1252, Cashin and McCurdy to cease acting contrary to the Constitution and Bylaws of Local 1252; 

(ix) Cashin and McCurdy disregarded the terms of the interim injunction and continued to contravene Local 1252’s Constitution and Bylaws by continuing to direct staff to campaign amongst the membership to gain support for the affiliation with the CAW;

(x) When it became apparent to Cashin and McCurdy soon after the April 8th, 1987, injunction that they would not be able to carry out their plan to disaffiliate Local 1252 as originally planned. They then developed a revised plan which had the following elements:

  1. to set up a “new” union which would use the name by which Local 1252 is recognized, the “Fishermen, Food and Allied Workers Union” (“FFAW”); 
  2. to have the entire staff and officers resign and go to work for the FFAW;
  3. to attempt to usurp the bargaining rights of Local 1252 which it had rendered temporarily helpless by mass resignations, attachment of assets, removal of valuable files and information from the offices and the issuing of cheques for amount greater than they knew to be in the bank accounts of Local 1252; 
  4. to have Local 1252’s staff prepare petitions to decertify Local 1252 which would be distributed among Local 1252’s membership simultaneously with announcement of the “rebirth” of the Fishermen’s Union;
  5. to have their agents or employees file decertification petitions with the Newfoundland Labour Relations Board, who would assert that such petitions were caused by Local 1252’s failure to represent its members;

    (xi) On April 20th, 1987, Cashin, McCurdy and the entire staff of Local 1252 resigned and moved to new premises the following day; 

(xii) On April 22, 1987, upon learning of the resignations of Local 1252’s officers and staff as hereinbefore set out, the UFCW Executive Committee placed Local 1252 in trusteeship in accordance with the UFCW Constitution to insure its continued operation;

(xiii) On taking possession of the offices of Local 1252 it was determined that:

  1. the IBM System 34 computer of Local 1252 had been sabotaged in an attempt to render it inoperable;
  2. a list of Local 1252’s membership had been printed and removed for the use of FFAW;
  3. Certain of the assets and property of Local 1252 had been removed and automobiles costing in excess of $250,000 were still in the possession of Cashin, McCurdy and the former staff of Local 1252; 
  4. Many of the files essential for the functioning of Local 1252 and the representation of its members had been removed from the offices, among them all of the files involving collective bargaining agreements and certifications, etc. had been removed and were only returned on May 21st, 1987, thirty (30) days after their removal; 
  5. Cashin and McCurdy had used Local 1252’s funds to pay for certain of the expenses of their meetings with the CAW and their campaign to attempt to disaffiliate in contravention of the UFCW Constitution, and their subsequent attempt to create a “new” union to challenge Local 1252.

(13) That as to the whole of the Application as filed herein, the Intervenor states:

(a) The Applicant has used the resources, finances and confidential information which it improperly and unlawfully obtained from the Intervenor to assist it in this raid;

(b) The Applicant has intentionally confused the members of the Intervenor union who are the subject of this Application by using the name which the Intervenor union is known by and has been known by for many year; 

(c) That coercion and intimidation has been used in obtaining signatures to support this Application. 

(12) The Intervenor requests a hearing so it may adduce evidence in support of its position and requests that should the Board find it appropriate following such a hearing that a vote be conducted, that because of the confusion surrounding this matter then such a vote be conducted only after a hearing so that the fishermen in question have an opportunity to be fully and properly informed.

Dated at St. John’s, in the province of Newfoundland, this 16th day of July, A.D., 1987

Ian Reilly