'We would have followed him through the walls': Remembering Jack Munro

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Joshua Berson

A presence -- that's the word almost everyone uses to describe Jack Munro.

The former Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada (IWA) president, who passed away last week at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer, had a big presence -- both physically and figuratively.

He was known for his towering, 6'5" frame and his forceful and obscenity laden presentation style.

When Stephen Hunt, then a young member of the United Steelworkers (USW), first saw him almost 30 years ago at a B.C. Federation of Labour convention he was bowed by Munro’s force of will. "I was convinced at the time that this was the guy to follow," Hunt said. "We would have followed him through the walls if he had asked us too."

Munro’s dedication to the labour movement started at a young age, when he dropped out of high school and worked in the forestry industry as a welder and later a millwright, eventually rising through the ranks of IWA to become president in 1973.

He led the union through several tough collective agreement negotiations, some that saw workers on the picket lines for weeks, if not months.

His dedication to protecting the rights of workers in IWA was always strong, even if it occasionally rubbed other people the wrong way. He made no secret of his dislike for pulp unions, who he believed benefited off the bargaining efforts of the IWA. In a 1992 profile of Munro in The Province, the then president of the Canadian Paperworkers Union told the paper that if he commented on Munro, "it would be entirely negative."

Munro was also criticized for his role in ending the B.C. Solidarity strike that opposed a Social Credit restraint plan. Some at the time felt he had sold out by agreeing to the spoken deal with Premier Bill Bennett. The so-called Kelowna Accord was later reneged.

However, those that disagreed with Munro could still find something to admire.

"You never had to worry about what Jack Munro was thinking," said George Heyman, an NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. "He wore it on his sleeve."

Heyman first became acquainted with Munro when they worked together to establish a labour heritage centre in B.C. The two sometimes clashed over sustainable logging practices and the role unions played in committing to sustainable jobs.

"We were able to communicate very clearly [with each other]. As a result of that I think had a respectful relationship."

When the IWA merged with USW in 2004, Hunt -- who by then was a Director of Western Canada in the union -- called Munro to ask him to become honorary president of SOAR, USW’s organization of active retirees.

"Jack was around but he was at a point where I think he wasn't sure what his role was anymore," said Hunt. "He'd long been very tired; a lot of people may have forgotten him. But one of the first things I did was call him and say, 'look, IWA has joined USW, and that means you're a steel worker now.'" 

"He was happy to do that and did a wonderful job."

While Munro will always be remembered for his tough, no-nonsense demeanor, there were other sides to the man.

Hunt remembers Munro sharing that he used to wait every Christmas for a local charity group to deliver a Christmas tree. "His dad passed away when he was [11], and his mom raised his family and they were poor."

"He told that story, and I remember fondly thinking that I never even thought he was born a kid,"laughed Hunt as he recalled the story. "I always thought he was just big Jack."

Photo: Joshua Berson 

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.