‘It’s a tremen­dous loss’

Carmie Erick­son re­mem­bered as driv­ing force of lo­cal labour move­ment

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY DAVID JALA

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.


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