A chapter in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) New Brunswick’s history has closed with Daniel Légère’s end of tenure as the union’s president. Labour leaders and social justice advocates in New Brunswick are remembering his time as president as a remarkable one for leadership and solidarity.
At the CUPE NB Convention in Fredericton on April 11, members of the province’s largest union elected a new president, Brien Watson. Watson will replace Légère, who held the position for 14 years.
Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, calls Légère “an elevater.”
“As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.’ This quote summarizes Danny Légère’s leadership style. He has always been an elevater, lifting people up and helping them both realize their full potential and ensuring that they reach their potential,” says Colford.
Légère’s union activism began the day he became a worker almost 40 years ago. As a correctional officer in St. Hilaire, he became the shop steward and was supporting worker grievances before he had even passed his probationary period.
Sandy Harding, Vice-President of CUPE NB, says, “Danny is a principled, passionate and dedicated leader. During his 14 years as CUPE NB president, he grew the membership and engaged workers the likes of which has not been seen in decades. He left CUPE NB in a better and stronger place.”
Making L’Acadie Nouvelle’s top 30 list of most influential New Brunswick francophones in 2017 and 2018, Légère has been a spokesperson for better wages and pensions, pay equity, new legislation on first contract arbitration and a critical voice against privatization of health care and public services.
Not only a fierce defender of his union’s membership, which includes nursing home workers, health care workers, child care providers, school bus drivers, librarians and other workers across the province, Légère can also be found on picket lines and rallies in solidarity with other workers and marginalized groups here in New Brunswick and across the world.
David Frank, a labour historian, notes Légère’s social unionism. According to Frank, “The most important thing to know about Danny Légère is that he came up through the ranks of a union that values active membership engagement at all levels, from its locals and councils to the provincial division. As a leader, he has helped make CUPE NB a strong voice for the kind of social unionism that advances the interests of all working people in the province.”
A strong supporter of CUPE’s global justice campaigns, Légère is also active with the New Democratic Party and the Common Front for Social Justice, the province’s largest anti-poverty group.
Légère has joined other union leaders and students to protest the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, extended his support to Colombian and Filipino workers at times that called for cross-border worker solidarity, and joined Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik peoples and allies at Idle No More actions.
“Danny has been a friend, a mentor, and a confident to so many during his tenure as CUPE NB president. He will leave a huge void there, but with his leadership and mentoring he has paved away for other leaders to take the reins. Danny has garnered the respect of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. His legacy will live on throughout the labour movement for many, many years to come,” says Colford.
Tracy Glynn, an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op, has worked with Daniel Légère in numerous coalitions and networks, including in solidarity with workers in Colombia.