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Elkin, Hub (1916-2008)

Hub Elkin was among the most active, influential and longest-serving trade union leaders and industrial relations administrators in Saskatchewan history. Hubert Samuel (Hub) Elkin was born in Moose Jaw on February 11, 1916, and took his education there. He nearly completed grade eleven, then left school to go to work. Elkin began employment at the Swifts Canadian meat-packing plant in Moose Jaw in 1934, and was a Leader in organizing the workforce into the Packinghouse Employees Federal Union #75, an affiliate of the craft union federation, the Trade and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC). He was president of the local, and bargained the first collective agreement with the company in Moose Jaw in 1941. The following year, with industrial unionism sweeping North America under the banner of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Elkin again led the effort to shift his local out of the TLC and enroll his co-workers in the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC), a CIO-affiliated organization.

Beginning in 1942, Hub Elkin undertook organizing and union staff work for the PWOC in Saskatchewan and eastern Canada, financed by the United Packinghouse Workers of America, the United Steelworkers, and the Canadian Congress of Labour. He was instrumental in founding the first Saskatchewan Federation of Labour—established by the Canadian Congress of Labour, which represented the CIO unions in Canada. He served as the first president of the SFL in 1944–45. From 1945 to 1964 Hub Elkin was employed by the newly formed provincial Department of Labour as a conciliation officer, then as executive officer of the Labour Relations Board, and from 1949 to 1964 as deputy minister of Labour. In 1963 he graduated with great distinction from the Labour College of Canada, the trade union movement’s post-secondary training institute located in Ottawa. From 1964 to 1970 he was executive secretary of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour—the most senior trade union staff person in the province.

In 1970 Elkin became a union representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); he bargained contracts, settled grievances, and handled arbitration cases for the CUPE membership for the next eleven years. While on leave from CUPE from 1971 to 1974, he acted as an industrial relations advisor for the International Labour Organization in the Netherlands Antilles. From 1976 to 1983, Elkin was also an employee representative on the Workers’ Compensation Board.

For most of his life Hub Elkin was involved in political issues, supporting democratic-socialist causes. He was a longtime member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the New Democratic Party, and the Council of Canadians.

By the late 1990s, Hub Elkin was widely respected for his six decades of service to the labour movement. In 2002 he revived a stalled project to research and write a comprehensive history of working people and unions in Saskatchewan; that work took more than two years to write, and became a very well-regarded account of labour in the province.

Hub Elkin passed away on September 5, 2008 in Regina.

Garnet Dishaw

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