A long time union supporter, John Harahan first became active with the labour movement in 2001 when NSUPE (Nova Scotia Union of Public and Private Employees) Local 2 fought a long strike with the Halifax Regional School Board. The employer used scab labour in an attempt to force the workers to take wage cuts and surrender job security.
This resulted in a bitter confrontational strike in which the gates of Province House, the Nova Scotia Legislature, were kicked in by strikers and a building was occupied, while a number of workers were arrested. Shortly after, Harahan decided to run for a leadership position within the union, and was elected to the executive of NSUPE Local 2, and as union Vice President. He later became president of NSUPE.
During this time, Hanrahan has represented NSUPE members in contract negotiations, arbitrations, court cases, and at the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board. He has represented workers as an advocate in case of injury, accommodation of disability, dismissal, health and safety concerns, and in a variety of other struggles workers deal with on a daily basis.
Hanrahan has been involved in the planning and frontline implementation of organizing drives that have resulted in hundreds of workers choosing to join NSUPE.
He has also been a fixture on every NSUPE picket line for over a decade, through summer or winter, rain or shine, and has played a key role in the administration of strike support to the locals.
Hanrahan has designed labour schools and acted as a union educator, presenter, and guest speaker for organizations such as the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (PPWC), the Communication, Energy and Paper Workers Union (CEP), the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW), the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ federation, and many others.
While President of NSUPE for several years, he has also been Vice President of the Confederation of Canadian Unions. During this time, the membership of the CCU has more than doubled.
Since 2008, he has been a regular contributor to the global labour movement newswire LabourStart, the world’s leading website for union news, events and struggles. Through attending conferences and participating in steering committees for the organization, Hanrahan has forged relationships with union activists from all over the world, and has aided in their struggles.
In 2012, Hanrahan graduated with honours with a certificate in Industrial Relations, run jointly by Laurentian and Athabasca Universities.
Hanrahan’s articles, letters, and interviews on labour issues have appeared in CTV, CBC, the Halifax Media Co-Op, iPolitics, Canadian Dimension Magazine, the Chronicle Herald, Labourstart, and in various labour newsletters, documentaries, websites and blogs. He has also written several academic papers on industrial relations issues, labour history, occupational health and safety, and the role of unions in society.
Hanrahan was elected as President of the Confederation of Canadian Unions in September 2013.