LiUNA Local 183 expands as largest North American construction union local

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Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature

LiUNA (Laborer’s International Union of North America) Local 183 continues to grow its membership and expand its resources and facilities to meet the changing needs of the industry and its members.

LiUNA is the largest construction union in Ontario. Chartered in 1952, Local 183 is the largest construction local union in North America. Since its merger with Kingston based local 247 in October 2014, Local 183’s coverage now stretches from Oakville to Brockville and north to the Muskokas.

John Evans, general counsel for Local 183, says in collective bargaining, size matters. “We were large before but now we have added buildings, properties, and geography, all of which will benefit our members.”

Local 183 acquired 10 acres in Vaughan recently and is in preliminary development stages for its new 250,000 sq. ft. head office to be located there. The union currently has a 130,000 sq. ft. head office and training facility which Evans says it has outgrown. It has also added a 50,000 sq. ft. office and training space in Barrie along Hwy 400, also purchasing an adjacent building for future growth.

“North of Toronto is primed for growth for us because currently there are too many non-union contractors which makes it hard for our signatory companies to compete. By getting money into workers’ hands, we support a redistribution of wealth that supports local economies.”

Evans says LiUNA works with contractors, rather than against them, because it understands that if contractors aren’t working, neither are members. The union though is focused on ensuring members earn living wages, and that they have access to great benefits, including the union’s $6 billion pension fund.

Stretching its boundaries is not a challenge for Local 183 because he says the union is familiar with negotiating for regional disparities and that it has the infrastructure, people and facilities, including training centres, to support its members. The union is currently in bargaining talks now for 26 collective agreements, most of which he says will not result in labour unrest. “This country is seeing the biggest economic boom in the last 30 years. No one wants to not be working.”

While the union currently sits at about 48,000 members, Evans says there is a focused effort to continue its growth. The executive, he says, is well versed in running a large organization and with a new CFO, legal counsel, health and safety director and full time government relations representative, the union has never been stronger.

Local 183’s coverage is not only dispersed geographically; it also encompasses a wide variety of sectors including utilities, multi-residential, low rise residential, gas and pipeline, and civil trades. Evans says with contractors across the board experiencing growth and the provincial government’s commitment to infrastructure spending, there has never been a better time to get organized.

“We provide our members with access to great work opportunities. We are a one stop shop for both legislated training and optional training that can make members more valuable to employers.”

Also in support of its members, Local 183 boasts an inhouse WSIB claims administration service, which looks after workers from start to finish. The union’s legal department, with seven dedicated lawyers, can handle challenging issues at the level of some of Ontario’s best labour law practices. “Whether it is straight up contracts, human rights issues or helping injured workers, we take proper representation in employment seriously.”

LIUNA Local 183 also supports the community at large, fundraising and donating to major initiatives and local efforts on behalf of members and their communities. Evans says the union contributes more than half a million dollars annually to a variety of charitable initiatives.

For more information on LIUNA Local 183, visit www.liunalocal183. ca.

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