Mike Freeman dedicated over 20 years to helping the Canadian labour movement find the words and create the images that made a difference in the lives of working people. A longtime member of the UFCW Canada family, Brother Freeman died suddenly on April 13 at the National Office while doing the work he was meant to do and loved. He was 55.
Born in Nova Scotia and raised in Schenectady, New York, Mike came to Toronto in the late 1970s to attend Ryerson University where he studied journalism and met his much adored life partner Glenna McCallum. At Ryerson, Mike also served as a mainstay for the sometimes controversial student newspaper the Eyeopener.
A gifted writer, graphic designer, photographer and illustrator (who went by the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym “freeperson”), Mike worked as a freelancer after Ryerson, contributing to a number of publications, including share, Toronto’s leading West Indian news source.
Mike first gave his talents to UFCW Canada’s efforts during the mid-1980s as part of the notorious “fish wars”, and joined the national staff shortly after in 1988. From then on Mike played an integral role in developing the union’s voice and identity by devoting his imagination, technical skills, and quick wit to a prodigious number of membership publications, organizing materials, and public campaign tools.
As a key part of the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM), Mike’s contribution to the labour movement went far beyond his commitment to the members, officers and staff of UFCW Canada. As president of CALM, he helped hone the communication skills of activists across the country, and was instrumental in establishing an awards program that recognizes excellence in labour communications, all the while earning a bevy of honours for UFCW Canada, including the prestigious Ed Finn Award, and Cliff Scotton and Morden Lazarus Prizes.
Mike was also a tireless fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC). His ability to find new ways to squeeze his broad network of friends and colleagues for contributions to the LLSC was limitless, and he singlehandedly raised thousands of dollars for the union’s charity of choice by organizing a steady stream of silent auctions and pools that took bets on everything from the NHL playoffs to the Academy Awards. Generous to a fault, many of the items that found their way to the LLSC auction block were taken from Mike’s vast assortment of collectibles (which almost always went to a lucky winner for a fraction of their original cost).
“That’s just who Mike was: the trade unionist behind the camera, who never mentioned his individual efforts and accomplishments in the many, many stories he wrote well into the night,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “He was a treasured member of the UFCW Canada family who used his own discreet, unassuming form of activism to help build our union and impact our lives. He was our brother, and he is already greatly missed.”
In lieu of a service and flowers, friends are invited by Mike’s family to make a memorial donation to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC).
DIRECTIONS 10.15 • Vol. X No. 15 • April 19, 2010