In memory of Allan Youster

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Allan Youster the founding father, and first President, of MUNACA. Allan passed away on Friday, August 23, 2019 due to medical complications from cancer.

Allan was a Renaissance man. Everyone who is a local musician, a visitor to Birks library, or those who walked around St. Laurent, knew him or had seen him over the years. But for us, he is best remembered as one of the forefathers of MUNACA.

Allan first joined McGill in 1970, working for various libraries. During those first years, he was involved with the Support Staff Association known as MUNASA, created in 1973 to represent support staff at McGill (represented all non-academic staff, even management was included). He was the president of MUNASA from 1978 – 1987, and during his term he was instrumental in obtaining many rights we hold dear to this day; employment security, grievance procedures, staffing policy, parental leaves, and Summer Fridays. Following his presidency in MUNASA, he followed up by creating MUNACA and obtaining our first collective agreement with the University as a bargaining unit, called MUNACA.

Judy Kolonics remembers the best and the beginnings of those days as she too, was there from the start;

It was shocking to learn of Allan’s untimely death. So many memories. I knew Allan (& Gail) back in the day – before I joined McGill University (1973). I would find myself at their home in St. Laurent (pre-children), but filled with plenty of cats. Five…if memory serves…whose names can’t be mentioned in “polite” company.

Back in 1973, there was no union/certified association/formalized worker’s rights group. Who thought of it back then? Well, Allan did. He & people like Jim McVety, Trevor Garland got to talking. There were many like-minded people, whom Allan reached out to and engaged with. The result was MUNACA; I can’t remember when it was formed (1994).

I say this in the kindest way…Allan was annoying but effectively persuasive. He had drive, determination & a huge personality. We didn’t always agree and sometimes, near as dammit, wanted to come to blows with our differences…but Allan was a solid, principled man.

In the early 90’s, things were changing with respect to employer/employee relations. Allan realized that a formal Union was not the way to go for many of the McGill employees. So, Allan educated himself on exploring other options for the benefit of non-academics. A true Renaissance Man. One would sometimes want to walk away, in those days, when Allan would begin his “spiel”…always sincerely and ever so softly, persuasively. It was somewhat hypnotic.

So, in the early 1990’s, I (& others) got caught up in Allan’s vision for a certified association to respect the lowly workers.

Here are those who became involved in Allan’s vision:

John McNeil (retired: Physical Sciences & Engineering Library)
Steve Hubbard (deceased: Physical Sciences & Engineering Library)
Steve Peets (Richmond, B.C. – smart to move…formerly: Current Periodicals & Reading Room – McLennan Library)
John Cunningham (retired: McLennan Stacks)
Judy Kolonics (retired: Government Documents Dept. – McLennan Library)

With Allan, we signed an application to form a union. There were others involved as well, but our little group hammered out details. Our lawyer, Georges Marceau, helped guide us along.

Gail embraced we five into their home on St. Famille. There were copious amounts of alcohol and other stuff, much argument, discussion and always, Allan’s focus. Gail was so patient.

A vivid memory of that time was sitting on the floor, looking at the Beatle Bobble Heads that Allan had in the living room and wondering…. Are we out of our minds to try this?

Well, thanks to Allan’s conviction, dedication, persuasiveness and guts…MUNACA came to fruition. I don’t know how we did it all…we were all so young, Perhaps that’s the key.

I’ve been lucky to have shared a part of my life with Allan Youster … it has truly been an interesting road.

I think I’ve forgotten more than I recall…we tend to do that with those with whom we have welcomed in our lives and those dear ones, who have welcomed us – warts and all.

Allan after the MUNACA years, he would continue to serve on the Board of Governors, the Milton Co-op, attend copious concerts of all forms, participate in art exhibitions…you only have to google Allan’s name to find out his numerous interests.

He will be remembered for his tenacity, strength, his courage to fight for individual rights, whether it be for unions or the community at large. Allan left his mark not only with MUNACA but his legacy can be found all over Montreal. Our thoughts are with his wife Gail and his family.

Allan Youster encouraging members in the demonstration – 1999
Voting for the first CA – 1999
Signing of the first Collective Agreement, March 15, 1999 – at HR on Sherbrooke