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Joe Morrison’s Table


In 1952, Joe Morrison built a table. Around that table was built a Pension Plan.

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In 1952 Joe Morrison built a table. From a solid piece of Fir. From a single tree claim some. He built the table with his own hands and with the tools of the day. Big enough to seat over 30, the table had to be cut into a 16 foot and a 17 foot section so it could squeeze into a modern office tower boardroom.

In the 50’s, Joe was President of a Woodworkers Regional Counsel up island somewhere. Maybe Duncan. Joe built the table in a teardrop shape. Some call it a horseshoe. Either way, it’s designed so that everyone seated around the table can see everyone else’s face. The shape naturally encourages conversation, collaboration and negotiation. It also means there’s nowhere to hide. Joe must have had this in mind when he was building it.

Many years passed and many negotiations between lumber industry companies and lumber industry workers took place.

Then in 1972 the big guys – Jack Munro and Keith Bennett – negotiated a Pension Plan around Joe Morrison’s table. I say big guys because they were big guys. Still are. Big, big men. Tall as trees. Jack Munro was the President of the IWA (International Woodworkers). Keith Bennett was the President of Forest Industry Relations (FIR).

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Joe Morrison's Table

Joe Morrison’s Table

One can imagine the negotiations. The debates. The finger-pointing. The volume turned to high. Callused fists the size of hams pounding on Joe’s table.

Inevitably the two sides would huddle and congeniality would lead one side or the other to say ‘Ok. How we gonna do this?’ In the end a Pension Plan was created. Because it was the right thing to do. In 1973, the first hourly contribution was made. It was 5 cents.

In many ways the negotiations in those days might have been easier. The agenda was driven top-down by big men with strong personalities like Jack and Keith. Plus there was more to argue over. Companies had lots of money. The industry ran at capacity. Close to 100 million hours of work per year. The market for wood was booming.

Now? Well, now it’s bottom-up. There are lots of smaller, local companies and each constituent has its own agenda. It’s tougher to get consensus. And today, well today there’s less to fight over. The industry has seen a 64 cent Loonie, a softwood lumber battle, the pine beetle and a smaller U.S. housing market. Like a thousand cuts.

Still, imagine. It must have been some showmanship. Around Joe Morrison’s table.

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Next time? Risk Management.
Doug Cronk CFA is Manager, Investments for a Canadian Pension Plan
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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. You tell a captivating story, Doug. The elements are so important for investing yet often overlooked, the balancing of the past with the future and what we have with what we want.

    Like

    August 2, 2013

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