Friday, May 22, 2015

Union Unrest

It was early in 1962 and the Vancouver Local of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union was involved in a contract dispute with its employers. The union members set up picket lines at various locations throughout the city.

However, the Teamsters Union refused to honour those picket lines so the R.W.D.S.U. picketed the Teamsters Hall at 400 East Broadway. To add more to this contentious mix, the Seafarers International Union, led by Hal Banks in Toronto, was facing a threat from a new union, the Canadian Maritime Union. They had just opened its charter and were stealing members from the SIU.

There were monthly meetings for the SIU Port Agents in Teamsters Hall and one was scheduled for February 8, 1962. Even though the hall was behind picket lines, the meeting was going on as planned.

It was 11:15 am and Ronald Clark was on picket duty outside the front doors of the hall. Two men approached to enter and Clark told the men the building was being picketed. Without warning, the larger of the two men punched him in the face. Clark went down, striking his head on the sidewalk.

Naturally, the police were called and Clark, with a bleeding cut to the back of his head and a split lip, told the officers what happened and gave them a description of his assailants.

The police proceeded into the hall and found the two men fitting Clark's description of his attackers in the coffee shop. The suspect identified himself as 42-year-old Clayton Stratton, an American and a member of Seattle SIU.

Stratton admitted hitting Clark. "He tried to stop me going in so I dropped him." His version was confirmed by the second man, Roderick Heinekey, a SIU Port Agent in Vancouver.

The police officers went back to Clark and told him the procedure for laying charges against Stratten and Heinekey before leaving to attend to their other duties.

Later that day, picketers saw Stratten and Heinekey leave the Union Hall as passengers in a Cadillac driven by Teamster's business agent, Allen  Barnes.

That evening, Stratten was arrested by police and charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Bail was set at $500 on the following day. He was released when the bail was paid by Heinekey.

Tune in on Monday. There is a murder about to happen!

Thanks to the book Policebeat 24 Vancouver Murders by Joe Swan.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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