The war is over but the ensuing legal battles over who signed who from which union local have barely begun. The traditional open season in which construction workers can shift their allegiances to another entity to represent their interests ended May 1 but the legal arguments have just begun at the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).
It’s in some contrast to the why things kicked off this season. It started with a bang and a barrage of verbal missiles between two major factions led by the Carpenters’ District Council Executive Secretary Treasurer Ucal Powell and LIUNA (Labourers International Union of North America) national boss Joseph Mancinelli.
Collectively, the Carpenters’ with their allies, Local 598 of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons and the Building Union of Canada (BUC) moved on 54 employers. Of those, said Carpenters’ lawyer John Moszynski, 13 have been dismissed and 10 certificates have been issued. The rest are sealed in ballot boxes pending OLRB scrutiny and rulings.
LIUNA and their allies, the Sheet Metal Workers, Local 51 and the CCWU (Canadian Construction Workers Union) moved on 50 employers. Of those, 14 were dismissed while one certificate was issued. The rest are also sealed pending OLRB process.
“The Carpenters are confident that when the hearings are completed it will be clear we made significant gains, particularly in the representation of the employees of residential builders and in the low-rise concrete forming, residential exterior cladding and restoration sectors of the industry,” said Moszynski.
Adding a twist to the skirmishes was the debut of the BUC founded and led by former Toronto Police Services Association boss and former cop, Craig Bromell, who has also just signed on to represent and negotiate for the 25,000 members of the Coalition of Family Physicians and Specialists of Ontario and Doctors Ontario.
Bromell says he’s satisfied, signing roughly 200 or so new members for his organization and getting a foothold in the Greater Toronto Area construction sector from which to grow.
“We’re happy to be in the construction business but really we want to be able to sign the 70 per cent of construction workers who are not unionized,” he said. “With this raid nonsense behind us, we can really devote time and resources to that second phase, the non-union people.”
He said he signed members of LIUNA 506, 183 and 837 and thinks he’s pulled members from the CCWU, which was formed by ousted LIUNA 183 leader Tony Dionisio back in 2007 as an alternative for disgruntled Local 183 members.
Ironically, after Dionisio left, the CCWU aligned with LIUNA.
Cosmo Mannella, business manager for the LIUNA Ontario District Council, said he wasn’t too concerned about defections because the numbers are so low.
With 66,000 members, he said, it’s not common to find everyone is happy with the status quo.
What he’s more upset about is the drain of resources and money, every three years during the raiding period, which goes to lawyers and hearings at the OLRB.
“I think the whole raiding period thing is silly,” he said.
“There’s a lot of nonunion workers, where we could better spend 100 per cent of our time, bringing the message and the benefits of membership. This idea of raiding is really ugly.”
Still, LIUNA notes, during the same period they added 2,100 new members who weren’t previously unionized from 22 different employers.
He said discussions with high-level Ministry of Labour officials, on both the civil service side and political side, have evoked sympathy but no promises to make changes.
Given the current government’s preoccupation with the deficit, spending scandals and political survival, he doubts it will change soon.
“But it’s archaic,” he said of the raid process.
“Ninety days is way too long.”
For his part, Powell says he’s also happy with the way things went.
Though he decried the resources expended on what sometimes seems a small reward, he said, the underlying principle is sacrosanct: “Workers have a right to choose who represents them.”
He said he upped the ante this year because of past experiences with LIUNA.
“We weren’t going to roll over and play dead for them,” he said.Link to Original Article