In Memory of Dave McPherson

November 13, 2013

It is with great sadness I have to inform you Dave McPherson passed away late yesterday afternoon at his home in Mission. 

Dave McPherson was a long-time labour activist and union representative. During his time at MoveUP he was a Senior Union Representative for ICBC before moving over to the organizing department. Dave fought hard for our members on issues like employment equity and equal pay, and brought several workplaces into the fold of labour including BCAA, Yellow Pages and AMS Security.

Dave was, quite frankly, a mad genius. He was the definition of a lateral thinker, someone who could see new angles to a problem that has stumped everyone else, and who would come up with creative and bold solutions not possible to be born of anyone else.

He had some of the most coveted traits of an excellent negotiator – he was incredibly insightful about the people he sat across from at the bargaining table, yet managed to be completely inscrutable to them. It’s no doubt attributable to the fact that he started out in the labour movement with the BCGEU very early, in his early twenties, which turned out to be just the beginning of a very long and successful career, including time spent at CAIMAW. He was a strong supporter of younger, newer activists and many of his colleagues owe him for his encouragement and mentorship over their careers.

These skills and others were what made Dave also one of the most coveted campaign managers in the NDP stable. On each campaign he gave of himself one hundred percent. Politics inspired and engaged him like no other topic. He believed the New Democratic Party and the labour movement were the two tools most likely to bring positive, lasting change to the lives of working people.

Dave had been in a battle with cancer for over a year, a year his doctors initially told him that he wouldn’t have. Dave was a fighter and he fought this cancer tooth and nail, winning him another year with his family, friends, his much beloved animals, and most of all, his wife Jenn.

David Black
MoveUP President

Dave and his wife, Jenn, set up an animal shelter and food bank society. Cheque donations in Dave’s memory can be made out to:

c/o MoveUP
2nd Floor
4595 Canada Way
Burnaby BC   V5L 3T6

This page will be updated over the next few days with rememberances from Dave’s friends and colleagues.

Dave McPherson – what can you say about someone so dedicated to changing the world? He was a funny, passionate man who worked as hard to find cats homes as he did to get politicians elected.

Dave was an ideas guy – he generated more ideas than we could possibly process during a campaign. He would phone to “run things” by me – which usually I had to say “no” to then often find out later that he did it anyway – and that it worked! Or, at least, no one got arrested.

Dave was also one of the first managers to spot a trend on the ground during a campaign and start looking for innovations to tactics that we would then spread around the province. He wasn’t just focusing on what he needed to do – he was thinking about how the whole machine needed to move. Such a rare quality.

Organizers don’t always get the credit for their work that they deserve. Dave was tireless – he never said no to going where he was needed the most, no matter how long he would be away from home and how much he would miss his partner. He did what he felt he needed to do for the cause. Always there, always thinking.

We were lucky that Dave let us celebrate his life before he passed so he could hear how much he meant to so many people and to an entire movement. You will be missed, brother.

– Nikki Hill, former Director of Organizing for the BC NDP

The day after the Stanley cup riots in Vancouver there was going to be a rally for the postal workers on strike downtown. The BC Federation of Labour had asked that we get as many MoveUP members to the event as possible, so Dave asked me to leaflet the BC Hydro/Accenture office downtown. But he gave me strict instructions that at every office in the area, before handing out the leaflet, to inquire about the safety and well-being of the staff at offices near the riots. He really cared about the members and their well-being.

– Melanie Greenlaw, MoveUP executive board member

At MoveUP he was always one of the first staffers in the office. You could find him having a coffee and poring over the newspapers, always happy to chat about the union, organizing, social justice issues, between sips of coffee. Then all of a sudden he would bound out the door saying he had to make some calls – morning is the best time to talk to the members, before they start working! But he had just made you feel like he had given you all the time in the world. And I knew he did the same with our members. He cared so much about the labour movement and the people who need it. Even during his struggle with cancer he would light up while chatting about labour and where we need to go and how we should get there.

I also worked with Dave and his partner with his animal rescue/food bank society. He cared deeply that people should be able to keep and care for their pets even if they lost their jobs. His goal was to find a way to help them and their pets.

– Joanne Banfield, MoveUP staff

Of all the wonderful people I’ve worked with in the labour movement, Dave McPherson was one of the best. Integrity mixed with a fierce desire to do anything he could to advance the cause of MoveUP members.

I learned an incredible amount from him, as he was constantly pushing me to do more and different things. While working with him he taught me to do Freedom of Information requests and appeals, EI Board of Referee hearings, all kinds of picket and online actions, labour board hearings, and, in one case, made me lead negotiations for one hour at a table where the workers (BCAA) had already been on strike for six months (just keep things going Lou, don’t let anyone walk away from the table, I’ll be back later – YIKES!)

And, he was just a lot of fun to work with.

I’ll miss you Dave.

– Lou Arab, former MoveUP staff

During the BCAA strike Dave got our activists to put stickers with a message supporting our workers on their paper money. I actually got a few bills back with the stickers! No idea was too crazy for Dave; he was constantly thinking of inventive ways to get support for our people and get to the employer at the same time.

Dave started at OTEU – now MoveUP – just a couple of years after I did, well over 20 years ago. I echo the sentiments of others who call him a “mad” genius; he was exactly that. He was also a caring, giving, smart, funny man.

I will miss him terribly.

– Karen Caston, MoveUP staff

Once day Dave drove with me to my daughter’s baseball tournament in Mission. During that drive we talked about stuff that we normally don’t talk about at work. He told me all about his animal shelter and what they do there. I got to see where he lived with Jenn and all his pets. Funny enough, it’s not what I ever would have imagined of Dave. He was a hardcore labour activist and such a big supporter of the NDP. His dedication to both will be dearly missed … as will be the sight of him in his Tilley hat.

– Yudon Garie, MoveUP staff

Dave was campaign manager in my 1988 election for Member of Parliament in Prince George – Bulkley Valley. I felt the campaign was going well until one night of canvassing when I got a number of complaints about our phone calls. We headed back to the campaign office and I was going to raise this with Dave. Let me tell you I was!

We got back and I asked to speak to Dave in his office. “We’re going to lose!,” I said. “I’m getting all these complaints about too much phoning!” Dave looked at me with that smile of his and, without a bit of emotion, said, “Well, I don’t think we are phoning enough. We will have to pick up the pace.”

Nothing like taking direction from a manager.

And we won the election.

– Brian Gardiner, humble candidate

Dave’s name is all over the ICBC collective agreement, literally. His dedication and passion for working people can be seen not only on the pages of the collective agreements he negotiated but also in the lives our members now live through better wages, working conditions and benefits. 

Thank you Dave.  We are in your debt.

– Annette Toth, Vice-President, MoveUP

Farewell to the chess master.

Much has be written and spoken about Dave’s prowess, deservedly so, as a negotiator and an organizer. To me, Dave was the chess master. Those who know Dave knew that he loved playing chess, and that he started competing while still at school. But that is not why I think of him as the chess master. Dave approached his assignments like a master strategist. His was not that easy two dimensional game played by Bobby Fischer, nor the simplistic three dimensional versions on Star Trek. Dave played real life four dimensional chess where he would take success from the past; integrate them with his visions of the future into strategies for today.

And when I say strategies, I mean many. If you asked Dave for an idea or an opinion, stand back: you would get more than you bargained for. As has been noted by others, the sheer volume of ludicrous, mad, hare-brained schemes he came up with were astounding. But Dave had complete faith in them all. The crazy thing is that amongst this retinue of madness a whole bunch worked. The “mad genius” has on many occasions risen to, and above, the task.

And now it is checkmate. All I can say is, game well played, brother.

– Andy Ross, former MoveUP president

I first met and worked with Dave in the early 1980s, while he was still in Kamloops. Naturally, the verve and the imagination of his actions came through quickly and very strongly, especially during the Tranquille campaign. Over the years I saw a lot more of that incredible drive and truly original imagination for tactics, messages and actions that nobody else would ever think of. Not surprisingly to some, some of those proposals were too wild or weird to utilize “right now” and Dave would take a “no” with resignation, go back to the drawing board and almost always come back with a good idea. 

After my forty-plus years of campaigning, I now know that Dave was one of the most committed, most original and most hardworking people that I have ever seen. On top of that he was a great guy in more personal terms, had lots of fun (some of us sometimes forgot to do so until he reminded us) and he truly cared about family, friends, and “our people.”

Much appreciated, much loved and much missed.

– Gerry Scott, former BC NDP Provincial Secretary

I first came across Dave as the Senior Rep leading ICBC bargaining. I was a new MoveUP (then OPEIU) member and executive councilor who’d been working for several years at ICBC and was finally feeling comfortable in the ICBC culture. You can’t explain it to others, but if you’re part of it, you know what I’m talking about. My wife called it a cult. What impressed me about Dave is that as bargaining progressed and he explained positions that our union was taking, he clearly spoke the ICBC language and understood the ICBC culture. He knew all the crazy acronyms, all the odd peculiarities about claims centres and head office, and was familiarizing himself with the new licensing offices, compliance operations and Victoria head office languages and cultures being transferred over from government. Despite having never worked a single day at ICBC, he was at least as in touch with the everyday work experience of the members as any steward or councilor, and I was immediately struck by how powerful and effective this made him on behalf of our members.

Working with Dave on things with other bargaining units made me realize that his ability to put himself in the everyday members’ shoes wasn’t unique to ICBC. He did it with BCAA, Yellow Pages, a veterinarian hospital, a liquor distribution centre, a sugar refinery, a casino and many more disparate worksites and work cultures. Dave always identified with the workers, no matter where they came from, who they were, or their particular cultures, and I learned a tremendous amount from him. I will miss one of my mentors, a visionary, a kind and compassionate man, and most of all, a friend of working people.

– David Black, MoveUP president

Dave has made a difference in so many lives. His problem solving and political and union organizing techniques were unique. He loved a challenge of any kind and always committed his full energy and passion to whatever he did. Dave’s warm personality and welcoming smile will be remembered by those he left behind. Thanks for being you, Dave. We’ll miss you – rest in peace.

– Jerri New, former MoveUP president