So long, Furlong

This week, Alex Furlong resigned as president of the Yukon Federation of Labour. He's leaving to take a position with the Canadian Labour Congress as the regional director for the Prairie region.

This week, Alex Furlong resigned as president of the Yukon Federation of Labour.

He’s leaving to take a position with the Canadian Labour Congress as the regional director for the Prairie region, which oversees Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunuvut.

The new gig won’t be as political as Furlong’s stint with the federation. “But it could have its moments,” he said.

“Really, for me it’s carrying on the work that I’ve done all my life, and that’s advocating for working families.”

The resignation will be effective July 20, and he’ll remain on the job until then.

On Wednesday, Furlong was in his element, protesting the Conservative government’s back-to-work legislation for postal workers in front of the Elijah Smith Building.

Furlong told the crowd of 40 to 50 people to expect tough times to come for the labour movement with the new Conservative majority.

“If you can spell Wisconsin, just slash it and say Canada,” he said.

“Because I tell you, it’s going to be a rough ride. I envision general strikes in this country and shades of Winnipeg 1919, and Windsor in ‘45.”

Furlong got his start in the labour movement in his native Newfoundland.

He moved to the Yukon 17 years ago and worked in labour relations with the Yukon Employees Union and Public Service Alliance of Canada.

From there, he went to the Yukon Federation of Labour – an umbrella organization made up of affiliate unions and locals throughout the Yukon.

As president of the federation, Furlong promoted labour law and worker rights as much as possible.

He spoke out about the territory’s lack of regulations for young workers.

He championed two Filipino workers who came from Alberta to work as temporary foreign workers. Both ended up being sent home.

And Furlong argued against the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, which was rejected by government.

Then there was Furlong’s unsuccessful leadership bid for the NDP in the most recent federal election.

This loss had nothing to do with his leaving, said Furlong.

“It’s not the first thing that I’ve lost in my life and I think, over my lifetime, I’ve rebounded fairly well,” he said.

“If you think losing is the end of the world you shouldn’t be running for politics.”

“Even though I may say that if I was successful for the nomination, I probably could have won,” he added.

“But that’s just me gloating.”

At this point, it’s unclear who will take over Furlong’s position at the Federation of Labour.

The organization will probably make an announcement the second week of July.

Furlong won’t have any part in the decision, which will be reached by the federation’s executive council.

There have been mixed feelings about the move in the Furlong household.

“We’re ambivalent as a family,” he said.

“The Yukon has been very good to me personally and to my family, all our kids were born here.”

His kids were excited about the move at first, he said.

But when the reality started to set in, that they’d be leaving their friends and their home, the “tears flowed.”

“We’re trying to raise our kids to be socially minded and to always keep in mind that there are people less fortunate than us,” he said.

“And they can take that and make new friends in Saskatchewan.”

Furlong hopes to relocate to Regina on August 1.

“People are sorry to see me leave,” said Furlong.

“But I’m sure there are others whose bootprint I’ll have on my rear end when I leave.”

Furlong won’t rule out returning to the Yukon, but it’s a long way down the road.

“You never know, I might come back and be the premier one day.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

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