Few presidents can hold an elected position of such stature for 15 years, which is probably a blessing; but for SFL president Larry Hubich he still has the confidence of those he serves. Still, those who know him best say there is a lot more to him than just being the head of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
The 62-year-old, in his eighth term as president, says labour activism has always been apart of his upbringing.
“My dad was a wheat pool elevator guy, my mom worked in the local co-op store in our small town so there was lots about community and co-operatives,” he said.
“Unions in the day when I became an activist were really from that same mindset,” he says. “Together we could do so much better than we can by ourselves.”
The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour represents about 100,000 union members across the province and Hubich said the number is the highest its been since he was first elected in 2002.
Born and raised in Strasbourgh, Sask., Hubich went to school there before moving to Leader, Sask. after ninth grade.
“(My dad) became the travelling superintendent,” said Hubich.
“I did my grade 10, 11 and 12 (in Leader) and then I moved to Moose Jaw for one semester at Saskatchewan Technical Institute.”
Hubich didn’t finish his program at STI now known as Saskatchewan Polytechnic because he got a job at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
He continued his education while working, taking night classes in computer science at the University of Regina.
“I became a computer programmer and analyst and got involved in my union when I was working for the Wheat Pool,” he said.
Hubich sat on the Grain Services Union (GSU) executive in the Regina Wheat Pool head office, and he also held other positions, including shop steward and treasurer.
“I signed my first union card in 1973,” he said. “It was called the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Employees Association.”
The SWPEA ended up becoming the GSU the following year in 1974.
“What really locked me in was back in 1976, the guy who’s prime minister now, his dad was the prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.”
Under the Trudeau government in 1976, legislation was passed for wage and price controls. The legislation allowed companies and government bodies to impose wage restrictions on employees which prevented them from receiving wage increases above a certain amount.
The new legislation provoked the Canadian Labour Congress to sponsor a national campaign opposing the new law.
The campaign called for two national days of action, Feb. 2, 1976 and Oct. 14, 1976.
“I was one of the ring leaders of going out from work at the Wheat Pool head office,” said Hubich.
“We had approached the company to get their agreement that we would only take out a third of the staff so they wouldn’t be any less staffed then had it been a Friday off,” he remembers, “but the management wouldn’t agree with that.”
The move by management was unacceptable to Hubich and his co-workers. After working diligently to gain support, 350 employees walked out of the office that Oct. 14.
As a result of his actions he and his co-workers were suspended for two weeks without pay for, “defying an order and a directive of the employer and being one of the ring leaders,” said Hubich.
Following his suspension, a series of membership meetings were organized by the GSU.
“They passed the hat…everybody through in five or 10 bucks and they raised enough money to pay the seven or nine of us that were suspended our full wages for all the time we were off,” said Hubich.
“It was at that point I realized how important the value of a union was…It really cemented me as a trade unionist.”
Hubich, who was 22 at the time, got married a week after his suspension.
“I was suspended for the first week before my wedding and the first week after…so half my honeymoon was paid for by my co-workers,” he said with laugh.
His dedication to labour activism is only matched by his dedication to his family.
Married for 40 years and the father of three children, Hubich always made time for family throughout his career.
“He is actually quite a humourous guy,” said his daughter Tara Quine, who is a teacher at a Regina high school.
“That’s one side people don’t really see in the media.”
“We went to Madge Lake (Sask.) a lot, (my parents) loved camping. We would go to the beach, ride bikes, have camp fires, kind of the classic camping (activities).”
That importance of labour activism was something Hubich emphasized not only in his workplace but also in his home.
“What he says in public is also what we were always taught (at home),” said Quine.
“Ensuring working people had good jobs and people were treated fairly and equitably. We always knew that as young people.”
Quine says that if there is one thing she wants people to know about her father, it’s his loyalty to family.
In addition to Hubich always being there for his children she said his sense of humour and how he looks at the positive in everything never comes across in the media because of his position.
It’s important to her that people understand, “he really is a guy that enjoys life!”