Eleven men meet at the Elliott Hotel in Toronto and decide to request a charter.
Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers represents more than 17,600 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.
Eleven men meet at the Elliott Hotel in Toronto and decide to request a charter.
The Royal York hotel in Toronto was built by Local 793 operators.
The local dwindles to just eight hardy souls, as construction comes to a virtual standstill.
A boom in the coal trade helps boost membership numbers in the union.
Operating Engineers finish construction on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.
Local 923 in Windsor votes to join Local 793.
The local decides to rent an office at 205 Church Street in Toronto.
Local 793 establishes a training committee in co-operation with other union leaders.
Membership in the local reaches 4,363 members.
Operators work on numerous projects, including a new city hall in Toronto.
The local tears down its old office at 205 Church Street.
The first issue of 793 Operator is published in August 1974.
A pension plan and life and health benefits plan are introduced.
The trade of hoisting engineer is formally recognized.
The union buys a new head office at 30 Commercial Road in Leaside.
Operating Engineers are involved in a number of strikes.
An office is opened for the OETIO.
Local 793 members march in the Labour Day Parade in Toronto.
Operators in the sewer and watermain industry strike for 3 weeks before settling on a contract.
More than 70 Operating Engineers work on the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) in Toronto.
Local 793 operators participate in demonstrations across the province.
The local is put under International supervision due to financial problems.
Local 793 members join other unions at a rally in Toronto to protest the Tories.
On Aug. 20, 1996, Local 793 is released from International supervision.
In July 1998, members working under the provincial collective agreement go on strike for 3 weeks.
The provincial Tories are ousted from power thanks to the Working Families Coalition.
In May 2004, Local 793 members picket for 3 weeks in Toronto roadbuilding sector.
On Oct. 2, 2004, a groundbreaking ceremony is held at site of new head office.
On Aug. 19, 2005, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is held at the union’s new head office.
Head office is named at the Oakville Urban Design Awards as the best commercial building.
Local 793 celebrates its 90th anniversary with a dinner-dance at The Royal York Hotel.
In May 2012, heavy equipment operators in Essex and Kent counties spend 12 days on strike.
In 2014, Local 793 receives news that its charter has been expanded by the IUOE.
On April 28, 2015, Local 793 officially dedicates a memorial garden and monument at head office.
In 2016, Local 793 completes a renovation and expansion project at the OETIO in Morrisburg.
In late 2017, a steel support structure was erected around a new Liebherr 85 EC-B 5 tower crane at the OETIO training campus in Oakville. The structure enabled the crane to be used for training students in top-and-bottom climbing procedures, putting Local 793 at the forefront of crane training.
In early Spring 2018, the Local embarked on plan at head office in Oakville where the OE Banquet Hall & Conference Centre would be extended to the east and doubled in size with capacity for 1,000 people.
News of a new partnership agreement between Local 793 and Baffinland Iron Mine was a wonderful way for the Local to kick off 100th anniversary celebrations, as more than 800 heavy equipment operators, haul truck drivers, skilled tradespeople and other workers at Nunavut’s Mary River iron mine ratified a collective agreement.