‘It’s a tremendous loss’
Carmie Erickson remembered as driving force of local labour movement
Cape Breton labour has lost one of its strongest and loudest voices.
Carmie Erickson, a longtime fixture in the local union scene, died unexpectedly on Saturday, just weeks shy of her 60th birthday.
And as news of her death spread over the long weekend, tributes began appearing on social media sites in remembrance of the Sydney woman who was two years into her term as president of the Cape Breton District Labour Council.
On Tuesday, many of those who worked closely with Erickson remembered her as a driving force in the local labour movement.
Cape Breton regional Municiaplity Dist. 11 Coun. Kendra Coombes called Erickson a friend and referred to her as an influential supporter in the October 2016 municipal election.
“She was very dedicated and committed to moving the labour movement here in Cape Breton — you could always count on Carmie to be at a protest or a rally,” said Coombes.
“She was always one the loudest voices and one of the strongest voices — it was a pleasure to work with her and it was a pleasure to have known her for the few short years that I did.”
Erickson also commanded respect off the island.
“I’m still in shock,” said Tony Tracy, a Halifax-based trade unionist who spent countless hours with Erickson at rallies, protests, conventions and on the phone.
“It’s a tremendous loss to the labour movement — she was tireless, she was never pained to do that kind of work, she took it on with a sense of, well, just getting on with it.
“She was very modest, she wasn’t in it to pad her resumé — she took on those roles with a sense that the work just needed to be done, she was very active, super-active.”
Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, echoed the consensus that Erickson was a mover and a shaker in provincial labour circles.
“Carmie was a voice for all workers and somebody you could call on anytime — you could count on her at the drop of a hat,” he said.
Along with her position at the labour council, Erickson, whose maiden name was Hawco, also served as the chair of the communications and education committee of CUPE Local 5050, the chapter representing some 1,100 workers with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
According to local president Mary Jessome, Erickson was a longtime school board employee at Sydney Academy and had previously served in other capacities within the union.
“We sat at the executive table together for many years — I’m still shocked, it was just in May that we shared a room together while at the Canadian Labour Congress convention in Toronto,” said Jessome.
“She was also a family person, a private person who loved her son and daughter and her grandson — they meant so much to her.”
Erickson was also an active member of the community with a history of volunteering in activities such as Girl Guides, TBall, minor baseball, and high school cheerleading. She was also involved in the local dance scene and, with friend Kim Gushue, owned and operated a dance studio.
Visitation will be held today from 2-4 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m. at Sydney Memorial Chapel.