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Dave Callaghan, IATSE Local 58

Beginnings are important. I should begin by mentioning that I am nearing my retirement, so I have been at this for a long time. I started as an IATSE member with my apprenticeship as a film projectionist in 1971, when I was finishing high school. My father weighed in, “It’s a good summer job, but do not make a career out of it.” Plainly, I did not listen to my Dad – and I have no regrets on my career choice.

I am a proud IA member and see the value of unions to this day. My beginnings as an activist; I see this as also starting from my teenage years. I only recognise my beginnings as an activist decades later and I feel humbled that so many worked, just from hope, thinking of me and that maybe something might come of their efforts. 

My parents and my teachers did their best and then crossed their fingers – what kind of human being would I turn out to be? Well, I hope they would be pleased that their lessons and their intentions for me and my future would become a part of me and remain a part of my life, all these years later.

I did not choose my high school, my parents did, and it is a choice for which I now feel grateful. The founders of my high school – and some were among my teachers – were from a Catholic religious order; the Holy Ghost Fathers from Ireland. As to their activism? I recall two campaigns of these priests. The first was to engage the student body with César Chavez and the grape boycott on behalf of the farm workers. The second was the plight of the Igbo people during the Nigerian civil war. One of the doctors engaged in that humanitarian crisis was Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who went on to found Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). If you have ever supported MSF – you continue to support the good work of a doctor who saw a need, spoke up and made a change.

I was a teenager from Scarborough sharing that history of activism, but it was adults – my teachers and my parents – who showed me the way. Today, I am a Labour Delegate serving the membership of IATSE Local 58. Collectively, our voice is louder, so I participate whenever I am able to. I have joined the rally for a living wage, the campaign for $15 and Fairness, and the Day of Mourning on behalf of workers who were injured and killed on the job. I was there to protest on International Women’s Day after the Ryerson Students Union fired a mother on maternity leave. Every week for two months, I marched in solidarity with the United Steel Workers on their picket line at Crown Holdings. These workers had won awards for productivity and safety and ended up walking a picket line for about two YEARS. This generation is not doing better than their parents. The time for change is now. If I can be there to lend support to a cause, I will be.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and I am also a Jr.!) wrote from a jail cell in 1963, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” However busy our lives, our sisters and brothers of the human race need our help. Every day you go to work, you share your life. Whether half a world or half a continent away, or even in our backyards – we share our lives as human beings.

That is the great lesson that my teachers and my parents – the adults in the room – imparted to me. Now that I am an adult, I live the most important lesson that they taught me. I am a human being, so I am an activist, and I hope to impart that same lesson to the next generation.