|Following a 46-year career with the IBEW, First District International Representative Larry Schell retired, effective Dec. 1.
Employees at Electrohome, a consumer electronics firm, had only recently voted to join Kitchener, Ontario Local 804 when Schell started work there and joined the IBEW in October 1969. His father had previously served as treasurer for the company’s employee association.
The younger Schell worked in Electrohome’s engineering department, using lathes and milling machines to make prototypes of new products before they went into manufacturing.
“Our tolerance level was thirty-thousandths of an inch,” Schell said. “All of this is done by computers now, where we did it by hand using micrometers for our final sizing.”
As a member of Local 804, Schell worked on committees dealing with organizing, leadership and negotiating. He also was active in his local’s Community Outreach program.
Schell became a full-time business agent in 1973. “We had grown to 3,300 members and had 18 units with almost 30 collective-bargaining agreements,” he said, which spanned a number of utilities, manufacturing and service industries. “I was servicing and bargaining from the start.” Schell said he brought in four companies the following year.
In 1978, Schell moved to Edmonton, Alberta, to work as the first full-time organizer for Local 424, which represents a number of trades in that province’s capital city. “And I never looked back,” he said. “My average was 10 new companies a year and 440 new members.”
Six years later, the Alberta Government appointed Schell to its Labour Board, where he served for 27 years. In addition to presenting hearings to the board, Schell’s experience there led him into arbitration work.
“I loved sitting on the Alberta Labour Board and I was on many high-profile cases,” he said. One such case — which dealt with a meat-industry employer charged with trying to take money away from his company’s defined-benefit pension plan — was found to have breached Alberta’s Labour Code.
“Sitting on the Labour Board was beneficial to the IBEW and me,” Schell said. “I learned so much about the code and cases that affected labor in Canada.”
Working on the board, Schell said, gave him and then-First District International Representative Vair Clendenning the chance to prepare schools designed specifically for “salts” — union members who work on non-union jobs to organize those workplaces. The schools eventually were made available for locals in all of Canada’s provinces.
“People had learned why they needed to organize,” Schell said, “but they didn’t know how to organize a worksite.”
Schell recalled that he and Clendenning, who retired in 2007, went on the road in the early to mid-1990s to teach locals about unfair labor practices and how to organize. The two of them prepared schools on presenting to tribunals for labor, arbitration and trial boards.
“Canadian law allows our members to use lawyers if they are charged under the IBEW Constitution,” he said. “The trial board school was designed to teach executive boards how to handle lawyers.”
In 1993, then-First District Vice President Ken Woods recommended Schell for appointment as an international representative.
“A high point for me was organizing new members and companies,” Schell said. “That will never go away.”
In his spare time, Schell was active with the Strathcona County, Alberta, Special Olympics committee, serving for a time as its president. He also has volunteered with Ride for Sight, a motorcycle charity in Canada that collects donations for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
In addition to spending more time in retirement with his wife, Jan; their children, Jason (an electrician with Local 424) and Katrina; and their four grandchildren, Schell plans to continue to conduct organizing classes, and he’s excited — on principle — to remain a dues-paying IBEW member.
The officers, staff and membership thank Brother Schell for his career serving the Brotherhood and wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement.
|Forty-five years after voting to join the IBEW as a young GE appliance technician, Darrell Taylor retired Nov. 1 as the union’s professional and industrial regional organizing coordinator for western Canada.
Taylor began working for GE in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, in 1970, earning $100 a week repairing toasters, mixers and coffee makers and other small appliances that people today toss and replace. One day, a coworker asked for a raise, telling the boss that GE appliance technicians in Calgary were being paid more for the same work. “That’s because they’re union,” the boss replied.
His offhand remark ignited an organizing drive that led Edmonton technicians to vote in 1972 to join Local 424. They had to revive their campaign a few years later when mergers brought two new groups of employees into the GE appliance division.
Taylor, by then a journeyman repairing refrigerators, washers, dryers and other major appliances, helped organize the technicians, followed by office staff and shipping and distribution center workers. Winning them over was imperative: “We were making more money and had better benefits,” he said. “We didn’t want to go backwards.”
Taylor’s smaller unit was outnumbered but won the vote. “The company fought it all the way, but we won,” he said. His coworkers elected him unit chair, a position he held for 25 years.
“Darrell was huge in us being able to make contacts and persuade the folks to get on board with IBEW,” said Larry Schell, then a Local 424 organizer who’d tapped Taylor to help lead the fight. Three decades later, he urged Taylor to join the IBEW as a full-time organizer.
“I recognized his talents then, and years later I knew he still had them,” said Schell, who retired recently as a First District international representative. He described Taylor as a natural, a master of the “cold call.”
“He had that ability to walk up to anybody and be able to talk to them. He was so good at it. He also had that personality — people could warm up to him very quickly. He had all the ingredients we needed for a good organizer,” Schell said. “I loved working with him.”
After five years as IBEW’s lead organizer in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Taylor became the regional organizing coordinator for western Canada in 2012. His territory spanned from Ontario’s western border to the Pacific Ocean.
Over the years, he’s organized everyone from water treatment workers at Alberta’s oil sands and telecom workers in the Northwest Territories to tree trimmers in British Columbia — not his hardest sell, Taylor indicated with a chuckle. The Arborcare Tree Service workers had been forced to buy their own tools — even chain saws — among a long list of indignities. “These guys were so mad they were signing cards before we even got in the door,” he said.
Since his retirement, Taylor and his wife have made two extended trips to Arizona in their fifth-wheel camper, trading blizzards for desert heat. He’s looking forward to summer vacations on a northern Alberta lake with their son, daughter and five grandchildren.
Taylor hadn’t been looking to change jobs when Schell suggested he become an organizer in 2007 but said he’s “very happy that I did.” Hanging up his hat has been an adjustment.
“I’ve missed being out in the field,” he said. “The best part of the job was getting out in the field and talking to the people.”
The IBEW officers, members and staff thank Brother Taylor for his years of service and wish him health and happiness in retirement.