LSPU (I.L.A.) Local 1953
The Longshoremen’s Protective Union started organizing on the St. John’s waterfront in 1890. They officially became unionized in 1903 after multiple work stoppages and strikes. The union’s renown springs from its longevity and its feisty character.
Michael P. Gibbs was the first LSPU Lawyer; he later became the Mayor of St. John’s.
Matthew Fleming was the first Local 1953 Organizer and he enforced the first collective agreement, stopping work if he found non union workers on the job.
Jim McGrath was a leader of the LSPU in these early days and was involved with the political process and helped lots of families in need.
In 1939, President William Sullivan met the King of England at Government House and stood up for the Labour Movement of the whole Province.
The original home of the LSPU was 3 Victoria Street, which is known today as the LSPU Hall. It was frequented by many people in the Labour Movement for meetings, strike votes and debates affecting working class people from across the province.
The LSPU had many championship teams in the regatta and tug of war teams in competitions against other working class labour institutions
The LSPU sold the building at 3 Victoria Street to the Resource Center for the Arts in 1976.
City of St. John’s and fish plant workers were once organized under LSPU locals in the province.
In 1968, the LSPU signed a Charter with Thomas (Ted) Gleason of the International Longshoremen’s Association (I.L.A.) of New York City, NY becoming known as LSPU (I.L.A.) Local 1953.
Local 1953 had 34 gangs composed of 3500 members when cargo was unloaded by hand and muscle on the older conventional vessels.
With the mechanization and containerization of the shipping industry, the membership level gradually fell to today’s levels of approximately 150 members.
The LSPU once had 5 local chapters in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and is the oldest active union in the province.
Through the I.L.A., the LSPU is affiliated with the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) on a global scale, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) nationally and the St. John’s District Labour Council at the local level.
“Hold what you have and sign nothing” and “None cease to rise … but those who cease to climb” are the Union’s official mottos
–“The International Longshoremen’s Association stands ready to meet the challenges of the Twenty-First Century head on.”