Profile: Don Aitken was the first coordinator for Friends of Medicare (1979-1985) and served as president of the Alberta Federation of Labour from 1989 to 1992. Born in Toronto, Aitken joined the Canadian Army as a logistic sargent from 1953 to 1974. When he began working at Statistics Canada in 1974 as a computer operations supervisor, he became active as first a shop steward and then as Edmonton local president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). In 1979, the Alberta Federation of Labour hired Aitken as research and education director. In that role, he became the chief organizer and first coordinator for Friends of Medicare. Elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL in 1985, he went on to become president in 1989. He also served for a time as the president of the Alberta provincial wing of the New Democratic Party. After leaving the AFL, Don Aitken was appointed appeals commissioner for the Alberta Workers Compensation Board. He retired in 1997, devoting his retirement to activist work on progressive issues.
In PSAC, Aitken was involved in organizing rallies in favour of indexing government pensions at a time of galloping inflation. His interview describes the early organization of Friends of Medicare, and includes observations of the major strikes during the period of his AFL activity, with a focus on the Gainers and Zeidler strikes.
Keywords: Canadian Army; Canadian Health Coalition; Computer operation; Dave Werlin; Gainers strike; New Democratic Party; Pensions; Public Sector Council; Statistics Canada; Zeidler strike.
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