Brother Cassells term in office was turbulent. Negotiations were conducted under the constraints of the Anti-Inflation Act,, and failed to meet membership expectations. Further there was a considerable amount of political turmoil as the Local attempted to remove Brother Nelson from its membership. Those attempts were unsuccessful and the 1977 elections saw Brothers Cassells and Nelson square off again.
The disputed results of the 1977 elections – wherein the election committee declared Brother Cassells elected by one vote out of 1,215 ballots cast – occasioned the Local being placed under a short term trusteeship by the National Union.
The next membership meeting, however, refused to accept the report of the election committee and acting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, voted to accept a number of ballots, which had been declared spoiled. As a result, the meeting declared Brother Nelson elected. With two “elected” Business Agents attempting to do the work of the Local, and with neither the companies nor the bank knowing whom to deal with, the business of the Local ground to a halt. The National Union stepped in, put the Local under Trusteeship, and ordered new elections. These new elections resulted in a clear victory for Brother Nelson.
Once the election results were clear, the backlog of work was attacked immediately. Brewery negotiations that year resulted in wage increases of more than 22% in the second year of the agreement – the same year in which the Anti-Inflation Act expired. This agreement increased wages to $9.75 / hour (from $7.98 / hour) effective July 1, 1979.
In addition to ongoing negotiations, grievances and arbitration the Local embarked on a series of new and aggressive organizing. During the 1978 to 1980 period, the Local was successful in organizing the workers of Alexandria Footwear (the only factory in Canada manufacturing Addidas running shoes); Paxton Transport; Dufferin Aggregates; Indusmin Sand and Gravel; Crawford Sand and Gravel; Superior Sand and Gravel; the bar and restaurant staff of then UAW Local 177 in St Catharines; and the employees of Laura Secord (now Nestle). These additions increased the Local membership by more than 700, a 57% increase, taking its membership to just under 2,000.
The most ambitious campaign was the Local’s first foray into the
financial field when we attempted to organize the workers at the head office of American Express. Although we collected membership cards for almost 50% of the workers and were able to obtain a representation vote we fell 25 votes short.
Another key initiative of this period was the implementation of annual training programs for the stewards and officers of the Union, a practice that continues to this day.
With the substantial increase in both membership and the number of collective agreements to be negotiated and serviced, as well as the commitment to continuing education and organizing, the Local needed to expand its staff. As a result the Local created two new Assistant Business Agent positions – one primarily responsible for organizing and one for education and servicing.
Brother Dave MacMillian (formerly President of Local 304) was appointed, then elected as Assistant Business Agent – Organizing; and Brother John McNamee (formerly Director of Education and Research for the National Union) was appointed (and later elected) as Assistant Business Agent for Education and Servicing. With Dave MacMillan stepping down as President of the Local to become an Assistant Business Agent Brother Ambrose Carroll, a member of the Local for 27 years and the former Plant Chair for the Carling O’Keefe transport unit was acclaimed as President.
The year 1980 also saw the retirement of Brother Peter O’Dowd as President of the National Union after an outstanding career as the leader of our Union and the founding President of the National Union itself. Throughout his long career Peter never thought of his position as a job, he thought of it as his life’s work, as his cause and he devoted his time and his effort unsparingly. His greatest achievement was in leading the fight, in the face of extreme pressure, to keep this Local and the rest of the Canadian Locals from being taken over by the Teamsters in 1973. Like all the fights he undertook he had the backing of the membership and with that was successful.
Organizing continued to be successful during the first half of the 1980’s as the Union became certified to represent the employees at the Simcoe County Roads Department, Schenker Distribution, Corning, Fortier Beverages, Jordan’s Wine laboratory, and two branches of Canada Trust.
The certification at Canada Trust led to the longest and most bitter strike in the Union’s history. Despite record increases in profits Canada Trust insisted on contracts that didn’t allow the Union to negotiate wage rates, benefits or working conditions. Nor would they allow the employees to be represented by a full time union officer in the grievance procedure, or agree to a provision requiring just cause for discipline or discharge. There was to be no seniority protection.
The Union, and employees at the Cambridge branch would not accept this, and went on strike in March 1984. The Union led a nationwide boycott, endorsed by the Canadian Labour Congress, at its 1984 convention. This boycott, which got national headlines still failed to move the Company. The strike lasted for 18 months and through two bitter winters following which the “scab employees” who had kept the branch open throughout the strike eventually voted to decertify the Union.
In early 1983 Assistant Business Agent Dave MacMillan was appointed as the Ontario Regional Director by National Union and his position was filled by the former Plant Chair of the Labatt Toronto unit, Don McDermott.