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.
Gaul already has brought all union training online and is beefing up the local’s digital database. “My big challenge is to find new ways to get our voice across to members, particularly younger ones,” he says. MacKinnon also credits his rapport with area contractors. “Jon’s been through two rounds of collective bargaining,” says MacKinnon. “He’ll be good.”