Jonathan Gaul, an industrial painter and union member since age 18, considered leaving the union after earning a B.S. degree in computer science in 2004. But Frank MacKinnon, his 66-year-old predecessor, changed Gaul’s course by appointing him training manager; last year, MacKinnon handpicked him over more senior candidates to run the 1,000-member local, which spans four maritime provinces.
“I wanted someone who would do a better job than I did,” says MacKinnon. “I saw that in him, so I scooped him up just at the right time.” Gaul says he “enjoyed the trade and the guys I was working with, but it never entered my mind to pursue a career with the union itself.” He credits the painters’ Young Lions program, launched by General President James Williams in 2009, with focusing union attention on next-gen potential. “You still have to identify people for leadership, but now it’s organized,” says Gaul.