Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers represents more than 18,000 crane and heavy equipment operators and other skilled workers employed in all sectors of the construction industry, industrial and mining sectors across the province of Ontario and the territory of Nunavut.
Union members operate mobile cranes, tower cranes, concrete pumps, bulldozers, excavators, graders, tractor loader backhoes and many other types of heavy equipment.
IUOE Local 793 members have helped build Toronto’s key infrastructure and many of its landmarks, such as the CN Tower, the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), and New City Hall, as well as residential and commercial buildings, subway lines, and hospitals.
We have a head office and training campus in Oakville, another training campus in Morrisburg and district offices around the province.
Our story began Dec. 11, 1919 when 11 very determined men gathered at the Elliott Hotel in downtown Toronto to discuss their future.
At the end of that meeting, the men sent a letter to H.M. Comerford in Chicago, Illinois, then general president of the International Union of Steam Engineers, requesting that he immediately grant a charter and supplies for a new hoisting engineers local to represent workers in Toronto.
The charter members were Frank Dennis, Joseph Valin, James Hawkins, William Wells, J.S. Miller, Thomas Lahey, Dave McBlaine, Mat Clark, A. Richardson, J. Wright and R.J. Elliott.
The men got their charter and the local was on its way.
The early days weren’t easy. There were times when the future of the union looked bleak. During the Depression, for example, the local dwindled to just a few hardy souls. Money was so tight that the union office was closed and the furniture sold. Meetings were held in members’ homes. The only big project on the go was construction of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
But dedication to the cause, plain old determination by the members, and a slight boom in the coal trade combined with aggressive organizing conducted at the Toronto docks, helped save the union. By 1942, membership had soared to 120 members.
After the Second World War, the local continued to grow as operating engineers were called on to build schools, hospitals, roads and institutional and commercial structures around the province.
The 1950s saw membership grow to 1,400. By then, the local also had enough money to rent an office at 205 Church St. in Toronto.
In the 1960s, union membership expanded with plenty of work on massive projects like Lester B. Pearson International Airport and the subway in Toronto. The head office on Church Street was torn down and replaced with a new one. Union offices were also opened in other areas.
In the 1970s, the local negotiated its first-ever provincial collective agreement. A pension plan and life and health benefit plan were also introduced. Another milestone was reached when the local succeeded in getting the hoisting engineers trade formally recognized in Ontario.
By the 1980s, membership had surpassed the 8,000 mark. The union moved into a new home at 30 Commercial Rd. in Toronto and opened a training site on 50 acres north of Stouffville.
The early 1990s proved to be a tough period for the local. A recession resulted in projects being cancelled and many members didn’t work for five or six months. More dark clouds gathered when the local was put under international supervision after getting into financial trouble. But as in the past, the union survived. The problems were straightened out, the union got its financial house in order and members went to work on projects like Highway 407, steel plants in Hamilton and the casino in Windsor. The union also elected a new executive and officers to lead it into the future under the guidance of business manager Mike Gallagher.
In 2005, the union moved into its present home, a 34,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art head office at 2245 Speers Rd. in Oakville. The building was a true symbol of the union’s progress over the years.
In 2019, Local 793 celebrated the union’s 100th anniversary with events and parades across the province. It was a year to reflect and celebrate 100 YEARS STRONG.
Over the years, the membership of Local 793 has met every challenge, continued to organize and press for positive change. The local has blazed a trail to bring dignity, safe working conditions and economic benefits to thousands of operators on construction sites across the province and territory of northern Canada.
The story of Local 793 is one of hope, hard work, pride and perseverance.
While building on the foundations of the past, Local 793 is preparing for the challenges of the future.