Reflecting his tumultuous reign at the Toronto Police Association, Bromell says it won’t be business as usual in the rough-and-tumble construction sector.
Former Toronto police union leader Craig (Bro) Bromell, whose tumultuous reign jolted the city a decade ago, is back in a familiar role with a big target.
The controversial and outspoken Bromell has quietly formed the Building Union of Canada, and its arrival is already making waves in the country’s construction industry. In addition to organizing workers at non-union sites, BUC has started raids on locations where the heavyweight Labourers’ International Union of North America represents employees.
The Building Union is currently fighting Labourers’ Local 183 over worker representation at one site before Ontario’s labour board, and it expects more disputes.
“I will run the union the same way as I ran the Toronto Police Association,” Bromell, now 53, said in an interview Monday. “It won’t be the norm.”
The burly Bromell, who grew up in the labour city of Oshawa, headed the Toronto Police Association from 1997 to 2003, when it became more militant and aggressive in pursuing members’ interests.
The association increased its involvement in politics by endorsing Conservative Mike Harris for premier and a slate of other Tory candidates for a “safer city.” It hired a telemarketing firm to raise public money for promotion of law-and-order issues and used private investigators to track political opponents.
While on the beat, Bromell was one of the leaders in a wildcat strike at the force’s troubled 51 Division in 1995.
Politicians described Bromell as a “bully.” One Star columnist called him “the flatfoot emperor.”
Bromell, who is married and the father of four children, left the force after 26 years of service. He hosted a radio show for four years and then was executive producer of the television cop series The Bridge before becoming a consultant for the Christian Labour Association of Canada for several months until last year.
Bromell said he enjoyed the notoriety as a tough police union leader, but his only interest was improving the personal lives and working conditions of officers. It’s the same goal in his current venture for construction workers, he noted.
He said there is a lot of opportunity to organize new workers and win over members of existing unions “who don’t get value for their dues dollars.” BUC claims it can offer better contracts for smaller dues and give workers a more democratic voice without fear of reprisal from their leaders.
The fledgling union, which employs a staff of eight here, has organized about 50 workers so far, but Bromell said it is working on several other drives in the province.
“It will take time,” said Bromell, who is personally providing most of BUC’s initial funding. “It’s a 10-year commitment. But we’re really surprised about how much concern there is about us in other unions. I’m something they haven’t seen before.”
BUC, whose slogan is “rebuilding confidence everywhere,” has gone to the Ontario Labour Relations Board in the past few weeks seeking a “cease and desist” order against Labourers’ Local 183. It alleges that Local 183 has engaged in “unlawful intimidation, coercion and threats” to prevent workers from legally joining BUC.
The move comes during the industry’s so-called key raiding period, when unions can try to sign up members of rival labour groups for three months every three years.
Jack Oliveira, Local 183’s business manager, would not comment on the dispute with BUC because it is before the board.
Oliveira said his union has its share of detractors but added that workers know the value of membership with LIUNA. Local 183 has more than 32,000 members in the GTA and is the biggest construction local in North America.
“We have a rich history of looking after our members,” he said.
Bromell, a Conservative supporter in the past, said BUC will also be politically active, just like the police union. Regardless of his past affiliation, support for any parties and politicians will depend on where they stand on issues affecting construction workers, he added.View Original Article