Doucette, Bud

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             Local Native Played Part in Turbulent Canadian Labour History


Bud Doucette, a former Chatham Head resident, who became a controversial figure as a labour leader of the now-defunct Canadian Seamen’s Union after World War II was a guest on the CTV morning news hour, “Canada A. M.” He appeared Thursday morning with Madeline Parent, another labour activist and Gloria Montero, author of the book “We Stood Together”. The book is composed of first-hand accounts of dramatic labour events in Canada’s history.

By 1949 Bud Doucette, at the age of 20, had already became a veteran seaman. He spent some time in Europe and knew England quite well. He was living in Montreal at the time working as a union dispatcher. With the union’s consent he hired on as the quartermaster on a diesel electric ship called the Beaverbrae. “Toward the end of March 1949, after several unsuccessful starts our ship left for England, and by this time every Canadian seaman knew they would have to strike,” he said in the book.

Bud Doucette remembers every detail of this last trip. “When the dockers in London came to remove the grain we were carrying, we told them that a strike had begun world-wide,” said Bud… “The situation became very complex. The dockers there don’t shy off from a fight. They were being fed two very different versions of the story. One was that the official union recognized by the ship-owners, the Canadian Government and by everyone but a small handful of seamen was the Seafarers’ International Union led by Hal Banks. They were told we were an outlawed group of subversives – who were disrupting the shipping industry,” said Bud as he explained how the CSU and the SIU conflict escalated into an international affair.

The history of the Canadian Seamen’s Union was an untroubled-some and successful story from its beginnings in 1936. The members agreed to no strike actions during World War II. However, problems emerged in the late forties with the introduction of Hal Banks and the Seafarers International Union.

“The CSU was a certified bargaining agent and the SIU had no certification,” said Bud… They were known as red-baiting racketeers. Hal Banks was a rogue, scoundrel and thug. He had been arrested in the United States for criminal activity and he should never have been allowed into Canada.”

Bud Doucette has definite views of the parts played by Banks, the Seamen’s International Union, the ship-owners and the Canadian Government in the finial downfall of the Canadian Seamen’s Union. “Banks was a scoundrel the SIU had brought into Canada to act as a strike-breaker,” said Bud…”He had a notorious reputation in the States. Banks was used by ship-owners and others to launch this final blow. Banks ultimately managed to ruin everything that had been accomplished since 1936. When he was finally brought up on charges, Banks skipped bail and left the country.”

Gloria Montero said she decided to write “We Stood Together” because there is certainly an anti-union bias in Canada. “Stories, told on a first-hand basis, such as Bud Doucette’s account of the fate of the Canadian Seamen’s Union can show the Canadian people what really went on,” she said.

“When the Canadian Seamen’s Union had their certification revoked in December of 1950 about 80% of the CSU memberships were blacklisted,” said Bud… “It has been close to 30 years since any of us have sailed the ships but in our hearts we are still seamen.” Like Bud Doucette most took shore jobs, earning a living as best they could.

Bud is still a behind-the-scenes worker for various causes and unions.

“My life’s ambition is to get a better deal for the working class people,” said Bud. He left Chatham Head in 1941 to join the Canadian Merchant Marine. Bud (Gerald) is a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Fred Doucette of Chatham Head.

Source: Northumberland News - January 02, 1980


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