Jim Downie is the father of Lodge 359. He had been on opposite poles from the shipyards’ Boilermakers Union Local #1 since its formation in 1927 as he was a member of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge 194 since the First World War. Local #1 was formed by a renegade group of his fellow Scots.
During the depression years neither Local #1 nor Lodge 194 had much employment. The few boilermakers who did have steady employment were working in the railway shops.
During World War Two the shipyards boomed and Local #1 grew to become the largest local Union in Canada. It was plagued by dissension, but nevertheless, it ruled the roost in the shipbuilding industry.
Industrial shops were another sector where Local #1 (Marine workers) and the Steelworkers Union were in competition for members. The construction industry was at a near standstill as far as boilermakers was concerned. The exception was a ferry built at Kelowna in 1935, a boiler at Ocean Falls in 1938, the odd tank here & there and some waterline work. Lodge 194 Boilermakers had tough going.
Figure 2: Ocean Falls – 1938
At war’s end the province was poised to enter a construction boom and Jim Downie was determined that the Boilermakers would be represented by construction Boilermakers. Lodge 194 was dominated by railroad boilermakers and the shipyard boilermakers were under the thumb of Local #1.
Lodge 359 came into being as a result of an organizing meeting which took place in the Elk’s Hall in North Vancouver. Present were a crew of Boilermakers working for C.C. Moore & Co. at the BC Sugar Refinery on the Vancouver waterfront. Jim Downie chaired the meeting and signed the crew into the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. Subsequently a charter was issued on March 15, 1946 naming the 21 charter members. Lodge headquarters was established in the Labour Headquarters building located at 529 Beatty Street. Lodge 359 soon became an affiliate of the Vancouver, New Westminster and District & Construction Trades’ Council.
Figure 3: 1948 Tank project in Vancouver.
Jim Downie was elected the first President of the Lodge. After the first year of operation without an agent, Downie became the Business Agent and was partially paid by the International. He was 62 years of age, but his years of experience in inter-union rivalry was a valuable asset to the young Local Lodge. There was other organizations who had aspirations of taking over the boilermakers jurisdiction, so the new Lodge needed strong guidance. It would take a man like Downie, with a lot of dagger wounds in his back, to give the leadership required.
Figure 4: John Hart Dam, crew members on the surge towers.
Horton Steel Works came to the province in 1946 to do boilermakers work at the John Hart Dam on Vancouver Island, some of whom came out of Local #1, but who had joined Lodge 359. The Easterners, out of Lodge 271, Montreal, decided to stay on the coast which was a boom for the new boilermaker Lodge as their expertise helped to establish a good reputation.
Soon other Hydro electric projects such as the Bridge River Project were undertaken as well as new grassroots pulp mills at Port Albernie, Harmac and Duncan Bay, all were underway by the end of 1949. The giant ALCAN Project got rolling in the early 1950’s as did a paper mill expansion at Powell River.
Crew of Boilermakers going into one of the tunnels at Kemano, once the largest construction project in the world. Local 359 membership peaked out at 800 people during this time.
One of the three refineries constructed in the Vancouver Lower Mainland during Jim Downie’s time.
New Petroleum plants were built in the Peace River country: at Dawson and Taylor. BA Oil built a new grassroots oil refinery at Port Moody, by the end of the decade (1959).
The above projects took place during Jim Downie’s time in serving Boilermakers as a Local Lodge President 1946-1957, Business Agent 1947-1950 and 1950 – 1959 as a District Representative.
Lodge 191 was re-charted in 1951 under the guidance of Brother Downie and IVP Harry Gomes. In 1957 after Lodge 359 was in trusteeship for two and half years an election was held, Brother Fred Butler who also had a big hand in the Local Lodge was elected President over Brother Jim Downie.
Brother Downie soon retired. If Brother Jim Downie did not step forward to lead 75 years ago there would have been no Lodge 359 and maybe no Boilermaker construction trade in British Columbia.
There is no known relatives of Brother Jim Downie in Lodge 359.
Lodge 194 established in 1898 at Vancouver B.C. serving railway, shipyard, fabrication shops & some construction. At its peak of operation there was 1600 members, the local merged with 359 in the early 1990’s with 4 members.
With much appreciation these images and the story lines were supplied from the Robert MacIntosh collection.
Maurice Hadley (1952-1962)
Lodge 359 was so busy in 1952 that Jim Downie needed help in the office. It was decided that the Secretary-Treasurer would go into the office on a full time basis to enable the District Representative to attend to his other duties. Lodge 191 in Victoria had been re-organized in 1951 and this Lodge required his attention too. Maurice Hadley began his duties as Business Manager in 1952.
Robert Macintosh (1962-1966)
Maurice Hadley was appointed to the position of Staff Representative by International President Russell K. Berg in 1962. An election for a replacement in the office of Business Manager ensued with three candidates in the running: Fred Butler, Robert Macintosh and Clare Rowa. Macintosh was elected and his running mate, John MacAulay was elected as President.
Clare Rowa (1966-1972)
International President Berg appointed Robert Macintosh to the position of International Representative near the close of 1966. Clare Rowa ran unopposed for the office of Business Manager. He brought to the office the first full-time Shop Representative, Robert McElroy. John MacAulay replaced Ed Lee as dispatcher.
Don Vinoly successfully challenged Clare Rowa in the 1972 elections to be declared Business Manager. His running mate Dave March was elected President. When March left on an extended holiday, Bert Ford was elected to take over the chair. When Ford later left to accept a position with the Workers’ Compensation Board, Dwight Harris was elected to the office.
Both Vinoly and Harris won successive elections together until Harris was appointed to the International Staff by International President Charles W. Jones, in 1989.
The Vinoly Administration lasted seven consecutive terms, the longest continuous run of any Business Manager in Canada. It was, in fact, exceeded by very few others in the whole Brotherhood.
In the Vocational School, Fred Butler held down the job as Chief Boilermaker Instructor until his retirement, he was replaced by Joe Kiwior. Others helped out on a temporary basis from time to time; Gordon Spicer, Lou Fandry, Ben Anderson, John Dowell, Mickey Prendergast, Richard Macintosh, Robin Page, and Kerry Neilson.
Quality Control Council of Canada
In 1971, Lodge 359 and UA Local 170 working jointly organized a group of non-destructive testing technicians and subsequently negotiated a collective agreement covering the Province.
Soon it was extended to cover most NDT contractors in British Columbia. It was on to Alberta next where the Boilermaker and UA local unions had an NDT Agreement in place in 1973. Ontario was targeted next with success and this led to the formation in 1973 of a national council; the Quality Control Council of Canada (QCCC).
Lodge 359 has participated in the QCCC in an executive position ever since.
The 1970’s Photo Gallery
(1993 – 1998)
Following more than two decades of service, Don Vinoly was defeated by Brother Frimen Tomsic in the 1993 election of officers. Prior to this election, at the 28th Consolidated Convention in 1991, a resolution was approved by delegates to extend the term of Canadian Business Managers from three to five years. Newly elected Business Manager Tomsic became the first in Lodge 359 to serve the longer term.
The mid-1990s proved to be a challenging period for the construction sector Boilermakers of Lodge 359. Business Manager Tomsic negotiated a concessionary agreement with the hopes of increasing man hours, but unfortunately, the desired outcome was not achieved. As a result, Business Manager Tomsic was defeated in the subsequent election.
(1998 – 2008)
In the 1998 election of officers, Brother Carl Ellsworth successfully challenged Business Manager Tomsic and became the new Business Manager. He served two terms before being unseated in 2008.
During his tenure, Business Manager Ellsworth was able to regain some lost ground in negotiations with the construction sector employers after Brother Tomsic’s term. However, in the following round of negotiations, tensions escalated, leading to an unauthorized strike that was not supported by the International. Business Manager Ellsworth received instructions to end the strike and resume work.
Throughout his time as Business Manager, Ellsworth sometimes clashed with the International. In fact, he faced Constitutional charges filed against him by members of Lodge 359 during his second term. After a lengthy process, the charges were eventually withdrawn.
(2008 – 2012)
Brother Phil Halley assumed the role of Business Manager in 2008. Prior to his election, Brother Halley had worked in the Union’s office as a Dispatcher and later as a Business Representative, under the guidance of Managers Tomsic and Ellsworth.
During his tenure as Business Manager, Brother Halley’s term was largely uneventful. However, after only four years in his position, Manager Halley chose to resign, followed by retirement, and later accepted a position with the International.
(2012 – 2018)
Following Manager Halley’s resignation in 2012, Brother Martin Nicholson was elected as the interim Manager. Remarkably, after just one year, Business Manager Nicholson was re-elected, driven by his ambitious objective of selling the Dawson Street property and procuring a suitable building for the Union. This new facility needed to have ample space for an office, meeting room, and an exclusive training center.
With the support of the membership, Business Manager Nicholson obtained the necessary approval to proceed with the sale and acquisition of a new facility. The Dawson Street property was successfully sold in 2015, and shortly after, the purchase of the Langley property was finalized. After approximately six months of dedicated renovations, Manager Nicholson, alongside his diligent staff, relocated to the esteemed Lodge 359’s new home.
Having achieved his primary objectives of securing a new residence for the Union members and successfully negotiating a long-term agreement that brought stability to the construction sector for six years, Business Manager Nicholson made the conscious decision not to participate in another election. Shortly thereafter, Brother Nicholson retired from the trade in late 2018, leaving behind a legacy of triumphant accomplishments.