A Match to a Blasty Bough: How FFAW-Unifor confronted power and shared the wealth


Fish harvesting defines the culture and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador. But historically, it was merchants who wielded power and reaped the bounty created by the industry’s thousands of workers.

This changed in 1971 when a group of dedicated people created what was then known simply as the Fishermen’s Union. Their goal—derided as idealistic and doomed to failure—was to change the power structure of the fishing industry to ensure that workers obtained their rightful share of the wealth.

But the naysayers were wrong, and the union has survived market crashes, industry restructuring, divisive corporate campaigns, scandalous levels of foreign overfishing, and devastating fish stock collapses.

Earle McCurdy, who spent most of his career with the union now known as FFAW-Unifor, has been at the center for many of the union’s important battles. Drawing on personal experience, as well as dozens of interviews and extensive research, McCurdy tells the compelling true story of its challenges and triumphs.


Of fish and foundry: labour shall refresh itself with hope

“After reading McCurdy’s inspiring account, however, I venture to say this union, which embraces both economic and social roles on behalf of its diverse membership, has few equals as a fighting force in Canada.”

Rod Mickleburgh for Literary Review of Canada

Author Bio

Earle McCurdy

Earle McCurdy was president of the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union from 1993 to 2014, succeeding founding president Richard Cashin. Earle had been the union’s secretary-treasurer for 13 years, from 1980 to 1993.

McCurdy grew up in St. John’s and graduated from of MUN where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts. He worked as a reporter The Evening Telegram in the 1970s, covering the labour beat, before becoming involved with the fisheries’ union, initially as editor of Union Forum.

He was a young radical from the start being involved in student activism and protesting increases in tuition at MUN and staging sit-ins. He has been consistently fighting for equality and fairness all his life.

He has seen the Union through the Moratorium, “the fight for fair sharing of crab and shrimp resources and the successful fightback against Raw Material Sharing, just to name a few major events.

He was elected leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP in March 2015, defeating two other contenders with 68% support on the first ballot. He stepped down as Leader in 2017 and moved to Eastport where he wrote his first book A Match to a Blasty Bough: How FFAW-UNIFOR Confronted Power and Shared the Wealth.


More than the moratorium: Earle McCurdy recounts FFAW battles
Atlantic Business Magazne
February 11, 2022
By Ashley Fitzpatrick

In A Match to a Blasty Bough: How FFAW-Unifor Confronted Power and Shared the Wealth, former union president Earle McCurdy recalls a memorable meeting on June 26, 1992. It was in the premier’s boardroom at Confederation Building in St. John’s and he attended alongside then-union leader Richard Cashin. Premier Clyde Wells was there, as were a smattering of individuals from the provincial bureaucracy and fishing industry. Federal Fisheries Minister John Crosbie told them all to be prepared, as the Government of Canada was indeed contemplating a moratorium on the fishing of Northern cod for several years. An entire industry, an entire province, was to be challenged.
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More than the moratorium: Earle McCurdy recounts FFAW battles

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