Long-time Labour Activist Buffy Burrell Passes On

November 24, 2015

Buffy Burrell

By now, you have learned that Sister Buffy Burrell has passed on, last Friday, November 20th, 2015.

Sister Buffy Burrell became a member and dedicated activist with the Manitoba Government Employee’s Association in 1973.

She served as Area 6 Director from 1979 to 1980, and Area 7 Director from 1980 to 1981.

In 1981 she was hired as the Staff Representative for the union’s Area 8, then Staff Representative for Area 4 in 1988.  She was an active member of the Association of Commercial and Technical Employees, Local 1725.

In 1992, Sister Burrell took over the duties of Canadian Labour Congress Regional Representative, Prairie Region, where she served until she went on medical leave in 2002.  She was an active member of Communications, Energy, Paperworkers Union, Local CULR 1.

Funeral Service to be held at Cropo Funeral Chapel, 1442 Main St., Winnipeg, Manitoba on Saturday November 28, 2015 at 10 am.

Brother Peter Olfert, Past President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU), and Sister Ellen Olfert, Past Executive-Director Safe Workers of Tomorrow (SWOT) were long-time friends and associates of Sister Burrell.  They had this to say:

“I am saddened by the sudden passing of sister Buffy.

I knew her as a caring and compassionate person with a big heart who was always ready to help others.

I will always remember her as a committed trade unionist fighting for the rights of workers and the principals of social justice.

She was a dedicated member and staff representative with the MGEU for many years and always   served the members in a compassionate and professional manner.

Buffy will always be remembered by those she knew and helped.” – Peter Olfert

“Buffy has been in my life and a good friend for almost 40 years.  We have been on the front lines together, laughed and cried together.  She was there to celebrate the birth of our children and our grandchildren.

Buffy and I were both elected to represent members of the Clerical Component of the then M.G.E.A., Buffy from the north and me from the south, both young and idealistic, knowing we were representing workers, mostly women, who were often overlooked and often exploited.  We overcame some natural trust issues because we both recognized that the other was committed to the workers and our union.

Buffy had a heart of pure gold and a natural empathy for anyone or anything vulnerable.  She also didn’t hesitate to speak up, sometimes forcefully, if she saw injustice and she has taught many young activists those tools.

There are many memories I could share about this beautiful soul, my sister, my friend, but I think this one exemplifies her heart and putting her beliefs into action.

We were trying to get support and volunteers for SAFE Workers of Tomorrow Campaign and knew that young people all over Manitoba were getting hurt.  We knew that the Labour Movement was the logical ally.  Buffy, then the C.L.C. Representative for the Prairie Region immediately said, “Come to Labour Councils with me and talk to them to get support and speakers.  You can ride with me and bunk with me.  It will hardly cost you anything and we can get this going”.

She gave me instant credibility with unions throughout Manitoba and the rest is history.  She saw the need and ran with it.

Buffy was always there, with love, support, advice, a nudge when I needed it, and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it.  I miss her already.” – Ellen Olfert