Harold Chamberlain Banks

Harold Chamberlain Banks, "Hal," trade-union leader (b at Waterloo, Iowa 28 Feb 1909; d at San Francisco, Calif 24 Sept 1985).

Banks, Harold Chamberlain

Harold Chamberlain Banks, "Hal," trade-union leader (b at Waterloo, Iowa 28 Feb 1909; d at San Francisco, Calif 24 Sept 1985). A tough and ruthless seamen's leader, Hal Banks was invited to Canada in 1949 by shipping-company interests acting with the support of the federal government and organized labour. They intended him to oust the communist-controlled CANADIAN SEAMEN'S UNION. Within 2 years the Canadian District of the Seafarers' International Union had, under Banks, won control of the collective-bargaining rights of almost all of Canada's sailors.

While Hal Banks achieved impressive gains in wages and working conditions for his members, he also ran the SEAFARERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION in a dictatorial manner. His attempt to expand his union's jurisdiction to represent mates and engineers brought him into conflict with other unions and ultimately with the CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS. This conflict precipitated bloody battles at Canadian ports and a general disruption in shipping.

The federal government appointed a commission of inquiry under BC Court of Appeal Justice T.G. Norris. In his report Norris described Hal Banks as a hoodlum and a bully, and following a conviction for conspiracy to assault, Hal Banks fled the country. Extradition was refused by the American government.


Further Reading

  • P. Edward, Waterfront Warlord (1987); W. Edward Kaplan, Everything That Floats (1987).