James began his teaching career teaching French as a Second Language in an after-school program with the Toronto District School Board. After graduating from the Faculty of Education University of Toronto, he was hired by the Halton District School Board where he taught for four years before moving to the Waterloo District School Board where he remained for 29 years.
Throughout his teaching career, he became increasingly active in the union. First, as a school rep in Halton, and then as an Executive member with OPSMTF in Waterloo and as a member of the bargaining team with ETFO. In 2000, he was elected as vice-president of the Waterloo Region Teacher Local and then in 2001 as president, a position he held until he was elected as a provincial vice-president in 2011. He served as a provincial Executive member from 2009 and as vice-president from 2011 until he retired in 2015. The pension change of 1990, the Harris years, the establishment of ETFO and the constitutional challenges of Bill 212 are some of the key moments in James’ career.
Participating in provincial bargaining, being a trustee of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Trust Fund, a board member of the ETFO Humanity Fund, executive board vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, a governor of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and council member of the National Office of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, enabled him to advocate for teachers and for publicly-funded, public education and provided him with countless experiences and interactions with progressive thinkers and champions of the labour movement.
He is grateful for the support he received from the membership throughout the years and for the opportunity to engage in environmental stewardship over his career. This began with the introduction of paper recycling in elementary classrooms in Waterloo, successfully advocating the design and the construction of the Waterloo ETFO local office, the first LEED GOLD office building in the city of Kitchener, and culminating in the promotion, funding and construction of the LEED PLATINUM provincial ETFO office building in Toronto.
James is honoured to be the recipient of the ETFO Honorary Life Membership.