UFCW 1518 President Ivan Limpright is stepping down after 34 years of service to the union. “The opportunity to serve our membership and to lead this great union has been an absolute honour and privilege,” said President Limpright.
President Limpright joined the union in 1975 when he started work in the Overwaitea warehouse. He was elected shop steward in 1984, beginning his career with UFCW 1518. “My cousin was a truck driver and he told me about the workplace and the great collective agreement and benefits that came with the job. I didn’t know anything about union then. I was an 18-year-old kid,” President Limpright recalled. “We had a pretty active steward body – if there were any issues, the stewards handled it. The union meetings were held on Saturdays and they were a big event. Meetings used to get kinda raucus, partly because we were young. We were a very vocal group with lots of opinions! Then there was a big party after.”
Steward elections in the warehouse were always contested and President Limpright ran more than once before being elected as day shift shop steward in 1984. “Let me tell you, there is no greater honour than being chosen by your peers in a democratic election.” When the chief shop steward was called to work at the union office as a temporary union representatives in 1987, President Limpright was elected to fill that role. “It was a tumultuous time at the warehouse at that time. When I started as chief shop steward, the employer paid for one hour of work per shift. By the time I was through, it was a full time job, at 40 hours a week,” he explained. At the same time, President Limpright was elected to the union’s executive board.
As chief shop steward, he was no stranger to conflict. “Four years into a six-year, no strike, no lockout deal, the employer was coming after us for concessions. The employer wanted to take away our ATO (acquired time off) and threatened to close the warehouse. So they called in a company labour guy whose claim to fame was that he was always successful in getting rollbacks. He took me out to lunch to explain that to meet and of course I told him any concessions were unacceptable.”
President Limpright described winning a strike vote and getting a verbal commitment from the company that there would be no concessions. “The president of the company later tried to renege on that agreement and I asked him, are you a man of your word? And he said he was, so we got the deal.” Six months later, President Limpright negotiated a collective agreement with a new owner after Overwaitea sold the warehouse. “That was my first 10-year deal. We got a pension plan, very good benefits and a profit-sharing program.”
In 1994, then-president Brooke Sundin asked President Limpright to join the union staff as a temporary union representative. “I was told to wear a three-piece suit on my first day. I was a warehouse guy.” After piloting a member engagement program that saw him travel the province for a year, President Limpright was hired full-time and stepped down as chief shop steward at the warehouse. He began working on duty-to-accommodate cases and the Health and Welfare Trust. “When you get an accommodation, a week before Christmas, it’s just the best feeling. That work is so important to ensure members don’t fall between the cracks.”
President Limpright was promoted to director and again travelled across British Columbia, doing presentations on the UFCW 1518 Pension Plan. In the fall of 2000, he was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the local; after seven years in that role, on the retirement of Sundin, he was elected union president. “I always tried to make the lives of our members better by fighting for improvements to the collective agreement. I managed our trusts so that they became secure and well-funded. I purchased our main office in New Westminster to provide financial stability to the local. All of it has been driven by what is best for our members.”
His proudest moment as president? “Shortly after becoming president, we received the Price Smart decision regarding Overwaitea’s discount conversion plans. It was a devastating blow to the union and caused a great deal of fear and mistrust,” President Limpright recounted. “But bargaining was upon us, and with the support of the members, the executive board and staff, we achieved unprecedented language known as the personal job security guarantee. At the end of that round of bargaining, we had an agreement with major improvements for our members. The solidarity of that moment was inspiring.”
Looking back on 43 years with UFCW 1518, President Limpright was reflective and gracious. “I could not have achieved what I did throughout my career without the support of our executive and membership. I am humbled and honoured to have served this great union. While it was sometimes challenging, it was never work, because I love what I do.”
President Limpright will not be idle in his retirement. He will continue to serve as chair of the Health and Welfare Trust and the Pension Plan. He will conclude negotiations for the reopener of the Sobeys collective agreement and will act as advisor to Secretary-Treasurer and President elect, Kim Novak. He also looks forward to spending more time with his family, including Pat, his wife of 40 years, on their farm in Abbotsford. “Pat has been more than patient with me. After sharing me with UFCW 15l8 all these years, she finally has me all to herself.” President Limpright’s three children and two grandchildren look forward to more time with him as well!