His Principles and Values*
Dick Martin was an outstanding personality and an extraordinary Canadian. He also had a set of principles and values that guided his work in the labour movement and Canadian society.
Dick Martin came to the labour movement with the core values that all trade unionist share. The dignity of labour means workers¬ rights and good working conditions such as a safe, clean, healthy and stress-free workplace. These are achieved by union workplace organization, activism at work and collective bargaining with the employer. Workers¬ ability to achieve their goals depended on political action aimed at good labour laws and safety standards.
One of Dick's major achievements in health and
safety was to take a leading part in the establishment of April
28, the annual Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured at
Work as a national, then international, event. He also took a leading
role as a Governor of Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and
Safety (CCOHS) in promoting the Centre as Canada's major national
organization for health and safety.
Dick's core values included this traditional approach
but his principles were wider and deeper. He believed in unions
that did far more than improve pay, benefits, rights, and working
conditions. He saw unions as social as well as industrial organizations,
which were active in the community, and which extended workplace
activism to goals that benefited communities and then the wider
For instance, he saw pollution as something that poisoned workers; but the same pollution also poisoned the local community and the general environment. As an environmentalist, he saw pollution as a social evil that concerned us all and had to be tackled in ways that benefited both workers and their communities. He was a pioneer in believing that unions had to work for environmental protection but his particular contribution was to see workplace action and social action on pollution as two aspects of one and the same thing.
In doing so, he again led the labour movement to new horizons. The idea of "sustainable development" arose in the public consciousness during the 1990's. The concept then had a rough ride in society, partly because there was little agreement as to what sustainable development meant and entailed, partly because it became a cliche, partly because the idea was coopted by parties who had no interest at all in sustainable development, no interest in social change. But dick grasped that the idea meant a new society in which economic development, environmental protection and social justice were all to be part of a single program - and that labour had a key part to play in all these aspects of sustainable development. He was a far-sighted advocate of what has become a mainstream progressive movement.
Canada has much to thank Dick Martin for, not only for what he achieved but also for what he stood for.