Local 517 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) began in 1943 as the Vancouver Harbour Employees` Association, a small independent union that was certified as a bargaining partner for employees of the National Harbours Board (now Vancouver Fraser Port Authority) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The wholesale retail union is an industrial union. This means that any worker employed by a common employer can participate in collective bargaining with that employer for the betterment of all. Historically, in April 1947, the Industrial Union of Sugar Workers, a CLC-chartered facility, was organized and chartered as Local 517 of the United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers of America, CIO. Sugar workers formed the nucleus of this international organization in B.C. The Vancouver Harbour Employees` Association joined the ILWU in 1965 to become Local 517. With this event, the International Union of Longshoremen`s and Warehousemen`s welcomed its first Canadian members. The occasion was the cover of the Vancouver Sun and the February 5, 1965 edition of The Dispatcher (click on the image to enlarge). In 1975, office workers from Westshore Terminals and local Squamish Terminals joined 517, followed by staff from Docks Fraser Surrey 1980, Nanaimo Port Authority in 1990 and Port Alberni Port Authority in 2012. The members of each of these sites are their own collective agreement units and have separate collective agreements with their respective employers.

Today, our diverse membership of nearly 300 members includes a variety of offices, maintenance, facilities and business professionals. We are a group of workers who have formed a wholesale retail union for the protection of others and for the safety of being able to have a say in our future of work. Our Union is structured so that all members can have a say on an equal footing on how the Union`s constitution is structured, what the union`s status will say, collective agreements and all the issues that concern our great Union and our professional life. In 1981, the Union`s three active premises (Locals 580, 517 and 470) completed their split from the International Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and created the Retail Wholesale Union in B.C. The Canadian ILWU region has supported and understood our concerns, while providing the means to join the B.C. Labour Federation and the Canadian Labour Party Congress. In 1950, Local was chartered 580 and has grown over the last fifty years to retain most of the membership of the Union.