Jim Sinclair, who is leaving the presidency of the influential B.C. Federation of Labour after 15 years, says he plans to endorse a particular successor, but won't reveal his decision until the individual declares they are running.
"I will be obviously endorsing the person I believe will carry the movement forward," Mr. Sinclair said Thursday shortly after announcing he will not seek another two-year term at the federation's November convention.
Although Mr. Sinclair stressed that delegates will make the call on the leadership of the federation, which represents 500,000 people through affiliated unions, he said he has some ideas on who should replace him. "I may have somebody in mind. I can't speak for them. They're running for themselves," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Sinclair said he was leaving because he thought, at the age of 60, he is young enough to try something new though he does not have any specific project at this time. Also, he said the federation was in good shape as a relevant, credible organization. "I always learned you leave at the top of your game, not at the bottom of your game."
Mr. Sinclair said one of his accomplishments was ensuring that the federation is as equally interested in the needs of workers who are not members of unions, such as late-night gas-station attendants, as those who carry a union card. "The labour movement has to make a choice and it continues to have to struggle with this choice: Are we a movement of union members or are we a movement of working people?
"I have always come down to – and I think the federation has – that we're a movement of working people whether you are lucky enough to have a card or not."
Also, he said the B.C. labour movement will have to continue to grapple with protecting the environment while generating "decent, paying jobs." He said he was leaving with one priority unresolved: ensuring it is a right to join a union without the fear of being fired. "That is a fundamental problem that we haven't solved and I did not solve during my term."
As leader of the B.C. federation, Mr. Sinclair has been a leading provincial spokesman on labour issues, and often a pointed critic of the B.C. Liberal government, in power since 2001.
Mr. Sinclair was elected leader of the B.C. federation in 1999 after spending more than 16 years in various roles with the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, including eight years as its leader.
In the legislature Thursday, NDP member Shane Simpson saluted Mr. Sinclair for unifying the labour movement.
"Jim has helped bring people together. He has built common cause in the diverse leadership of labour, and he has provided a strong voice for their efforts," Mr. Simpson said. "I know that this is not a retirement for Jim as much as it is a decision to move on to other challenges and opportunities that will continue his life's work."
The federation, founded in 1910, represents members of affiliated unions from more than 1,100 locals across the British Columbia economy.