Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"I know I'll often stop and think about them..."

There is one consistent thing in my life - I love my job.

I am fortunate to be exactly where I wanted to be from the days when my father would bring home folders, bags, anything from our Union and I would seize it all, carrying it as a badge of pride. I couldn't wait for the Union magazine to arrive.

I idolized heroes like Lana Payne who carved a way for women to thrust our fists into the air and fight for what was right and just.

The importance of having a strong, powerful Union to fight for social justice and the industry that is entrenched in the social fabric of our coastal communities was never lost on me.

My father a fish harvester, my mother a fish plant processing worker.

My grandparents, aunts, uncles - all dependent on the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry - my home just one of the many communities reliant on the fishery for survival.

I knew where I wanted to be. There was never a question.

I grew up through a tumultuous time in the industry. I was a child of the 80s, then the 90s. I saw my community thrive, grow, fade, die, be revived, find its legs again, prosper.

I saw companies try to beat down the independence and wellbeing of harvesters, plant workers all for profit. I saw people and the community fight back and claw its way through near disaster, and prove that we are resilient.

I grew up with firsthand knowledge of "the company boats" and what that meant for the creation of a god-awful dichotomy within the industry.

I can still repeat the names of every boat in the fleet.

I saw it.
I grew up with it.
I was shaped by it.

Owner Operator.
Fleet Separation.
Trust agreement.

All concepts that would mean very little to some but words that were carried daily like baggage.

As I was driving home tonight I was thinking, as I usually do lately given I spend so much time in my own head, of just how much my job means to me and how I can do more.

I lost both my grandfathers young - one at 56,when I was just 11 months old, a fish harvester and a sealer who shared his time with the lumber woods; the other at 67, when I was 3, a fish harvester who lived each day shaped by the fishery and instilled his values of hard work in his children - daughters who all became teachers and beat the odds of growing up in Spillar's Cove, and sons who all became fish harvesters and who all bleed salt water.

Some of my fondest memories entrench the fishery in my being. I look back and realize there was never another option for me - from the moment my father told me, as his father told him, to go away, get an education, and forget the fishery - "there's no future for you in it." None of us listened and we all wound up in the industry that runs through our veins. It is hard to walk away from something that is so interwoven in your fabric that it is hard to tell where you end and the salt water begins.

The past year or so has been a trying time in this industry - hell, is any year not? And I look at what a critical juncture we are at and want to fight more than ever.

I fight along some damn fantastic, strong people - old and new - who all have one end goal in mind. There have been days when I've felt pretty downtrodden and like efforts are futile, but usually a phone call or quick chat can change that. The good outweighs the negativity that tries to set in. The majority will always win out.

Every day I look around and see people who put their heart and soul into everything they do - without recognition, with criticism and often under-appreciation - and I know none of us do what we do for any other reason than trying to make a difference in this industry that built the province and who many of us are.

I'm hopeful. I'm very hopeful. There might be transition, but we will get there and prove ourselves resilient once again to move through the challenges. As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians it seems to be what we do best.

I will never take for granted why I am where I am or who shaped me. When my grandfather was being brought from our little cove in an ambulance for the last time he made my father promise he would take care of his little girl - and I like to think he somehow guides me in everything I do. I wear an anchor around my neck engraved with the name of the first boat him and dad ever fished together to remind me daily of why I do what I do.

I owe it to him - for every day he spent in the twine loft with a little girl bouncing around on an orange balloon asking questions that probably drove him near insanity, telling her what each piece of gear was for, melting spoons into hooks and jiggers, teaching her how to tie knots, dragging her around in crab boxes, ensuring she knew what hard work was and just why we need to fight for this industry.

For every night my father spent reading endless novels to me, and going through work books of math problems outside of my regular schoolwork, trying to forge a way for me out of my little cove and into something bigger - something he never felt he had the opportunity to achieve.

(Yet, he is the one who conquers a Jeopardy! board and schools me. He is the most brilliant person I know).

I always promised to fight to the best of my ability for my family, for my home and for the industry that runs through the veins of my family, so many of my friends and through every one of our members.

We have so much coming at us and coming at us fast - and we have the opportunity to make our mark on ensuring our fisheries thrive and our coastal communities are vibrant.

I can only hope I can make a difference.

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