Who We Are
Grain Workers Union Local 333 is an organized labour union whose history began on the Vancouver waterfront during the Labour Movement of the 1940s. For over 75 years the union has fought to improve the lives and working conditions of its over 750 members operating in the Port of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. Together the workers of GWU Local 333 have outlasted the co-operative pool companies, Canadian Wheat Board and endured the hardships of their industry including strikes, lockouts and droughts.
In the post-war period labour and trade unions were a growing movement brought on by the needs of workers in the industrialized workplaces across North America. The high demand for organizing bodies meant that there were many unions vying to bring workers under their charters. The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union was an American union who at the time was making efforts to expand its influence into Canada. Despite their gains in organizing supermarkets and retailers in southern Ontario the RWDSU faced challenges in penetrating those workplaces on the west coast.
Initially the RWDSU successfully organized the workers of Rogers Sugar but struggled in bringing more workplaces into their union without a local presence from the organizing body. They redoubled their efforts to gain a foothold on the west coast by opening an office in Vancouver and appointing an international representative of the RWDSU, one Gerald Emary.
Gerald Emary was the RWDSU’s boots on the ground when it came to organizing the Vancouver waterfront. He would often go door to door or seek out workers in the local parlours to discuss their concerns, wishes and the idea of unionizing. These clandestine methods were necessary for the organization effort, meeting at work or anywhere in view of the bosses was too risky for the workers themselves.
On November 24, 1946 Alberta Wheat Pool employees voted to elect executive members for the purpose of negotiating a collective agreement under the charter of United Grain Elevator Workers Union Local 501. Gerald Emary was also named to the bargaining committee since he was from their parent union.
Only 3 months later the workers from the United Grain Growers elevator would apply to be included in UGEW Local 501.
Local 501 remained with the RWDSU for almost 3 years, negotiating contracts with the Vancouver wheat pools year by year with the help of Emary. The RWDSU began to suffer its own setbacks in the late 40s, as many of its locals began to depart for other affiliations more relevant to their work spaces. This led to shrink in their administrative capabilities and subsequent shuttering of their Vancouver office.