Published on

Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-Ibarra

Donaldo “Danny” Ferrer

Unionism and the importance of a workers’ party

by Levy Abad

  Danny Ferrer 1
     Danny Ferrer 2

While having coffee and a great conversation with Donaldo “Danny” Ferrer at Garden City Food Court, I heard him saying that only a few in the community appreciate the strategic importance of a workers’ party in the life and struggles of the workers, particularly the Filipino workers. He continued that without a workers’ party, the protection of the historical gains and the long-term interest of workers will be in jeopardy from any reactionary political party out to dismantle the progressive and pro-labour laws already institutionalized in Manitoba.

Danny is a retired worker from CN Rail. He is a proud member of the union Local 101 CAW Lodge 316, a shop steward for nine years from 1988 to 1996, and a finance secretary for eight years. Aside from being a shop steward, he was also a health and safety officer at CN Rail.

Ticket to a better future

Like most early pioneers in the Filipino community in Winnipeg, Danny started working in 1971 with Western Garments and was paid $1.40 per hour. To advance his career, he studied aircraft maintenance in Gimli. He joined small shops after that until he learned about an opening at CN Rail in 1974, where he got paid $4.35 per hour. Danny considered this as his ticket to a better future. He worked as a carman, doing general maintenance of rail cars for 30 years, retiring in 2004 with an hourly rate of $26.00.

Strike, weapon of the workers

I asked Danny if he experienced a workers’ strike. He answered with a big “yes.” For Danny, the strike is the weapon of the working class in advancing and protecting their rights. He furthered that if an issue can be resolved without going into a strike, it is the ideal situation. If not, the workers will be forced to assert their rights on that level. He also added that he is proud to be in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a province rich in working-class struggles, and known for the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike that transformed the lives of Canadian workers. After his retirement, Danny confided that he still supports workers’ strikes as an act of solidarity. He shared that in the past, he even joined a strike in one of the hospitals in Calamba, Laguna, Philippines, while on vacation. Calamba is near San Pedro, Laguna, Danny’s hometown.

Danny shared that his favourite historical personality is Tommy Douglas, the great Canadian who led the fight for healthcare in Canada back in the day. The issue of health care is personal to Danny. He survived colon cancer in 2012. Without the healthcare system, he wouldn’t be here sharing his story. Aside from cancer, he has been diabetic for thirty years.

Importance of democracy

Danny explained that people advancing democracy in the workplace should also be involved in the wider community by voting for representatives who have a strong position for people’s issues like healthcare, Pharmacare, and dental care, to mention a few. He added that this is how Canadian democracy works, as contraposed to what is happening in the old country (Philippines) with its pre-industrial and agricultural character, an offshoot of its long history of neocolonialism.

Before we parted ways, Danny shared that the first time he cast his ballot in Canada was for David Orlikow, “a long-serving member of the House of Commons of Canada, representing Winnipeg North from 1962 to 1988 as a member of the New Democratic Party” (Wikipedia). When I asked him if he knew any other unionist from the community, he mentioned Bob Luna, whom he often saw in the CAW office during his union days.

After retiring as a driving instructor (2004-2023), Danny spends most of his time hanging out at the Garden City Food Court with his friends. Armed with knowledge from his union days, he keenly listens to conversations, engages in discussion, and poses critical questions that promote democracy and social justice.

Levy Abad authored a book titled Rhythms and Resistance: Narrative of Filipino Musicians and Activists (1972-1994). Levy is also a singer-songwriter, poet, and migrant rights activist who has released four albums centred on the life and struggles of migrants.