Local 793 has raised more than $50,000 for long-time union member and operator Gerry Lukasiewicz of Sarnia who was injured in a construction site accident in 2012.
The announcement was made at a fundraiser attended by nearly 100 people at the Sarnia Holiday Inn on Dec. 14. The event also featured a silent auction.
Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher had proposed the idea of a fundraiser for Gerry at a general membership meeting of the union on March 24, 2013.
Gallagher had also proposed that the union contribute $10,000 to the fundraiser and the idea received unanimous support from members at the meeting.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to help with the costs of buying and equipping a van for Gerry.
Gerry was seriously injured in an accident on the morning of May 7, 2012. He was struck by a jib weighing 1,500 pounds. He is now confined to a wheelchair.
Gerry is a 39-year member of Local 793. He started his career in the early 1970s with a company called Goodfellows Disposal. He joined the union while working at the company.
Gerry worked on numerous projects in and around the Sarnia area, mostly in the petrochemical sector. He was one of the operators who helped build Shell Chemical.
Retired Southwestern Ontario area supervisor Bob McQueen told those who attended the fundraiser that Gerry was in grave condition after the accident and it’s been a long road to recovery for him.
However, he said, Gerry has fought back and wants to drive again, and the money raised from the fundraiser will enable him to realize that goal.
McQueen noted that shortly after the accident business manager Gallagher visited Gerry in the hospital and told him the union would be there for him.
“My experience has been that when something happens we step up to take care of our own,” said McQueen.
McQueen thanked union staff, business reps and officers for putting the fundraiser together.
Hundreds Attend Annual Dinner Dance
More than 400 people attended Local 793’s annual dinner dance held in the union’s banquet hall in Oakville on Nov. 16.
Business manager Mike Gallagher welcomed guests, dignitaries and long-service members to the event and spoke about some of the union’s future plans – and challenges.
He said the union is looking at making major improvements to the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario campus in Morrisburg and will be investing money into that facility.
He said the union has to invest money if it wants its training facilities to remain world-class.
He also said that the union is moving ahead with plans for a monument to honour members who have been killed in construction accidents or died due to occupational diseases.
“We as an organization must remember their contribution and make sure what happened to them doesn’t happen again,” he noted.
As for future challenges, Gallagher said unions like the Operating Engineers are facing a right-wing movement that’s sweeping across North America.
He said unions must fight back because “that’s not the type of vision we have for our province.
“We know the value of working and having safe worksites but unfortunately mean-spirited Conservatism is sweeping across North America.”
The movement, he said, is threatening trade unions.
The Conservatives are “peddling” this vision of Utopia without unions and a system that would allow free riders, Gallagher said.
“We can’t let that happen – not on our watch. We have to fight that tooth and nail.”
Gallagher said the U.S., which has 23 right-to-work states, has been going backwards and unions in Canada must make sure that this country does not follow suit.
“Be vigilant,” he told the audience. “Pay attention and don’t listen to nice-sounding slogans like right-to-work.”
Assistant business manager John W. Anderson spoke briefly at the event. He introduced the winners of the Douglas H. Campbell Awards for top crane apprentices in 2012. Winners were:
- Sean Caveney – top mobile crane apprentice
- Ryan Leyten – top tower crane apprentice
Dignitaries at the event included Oakville Mayor Rob Burton and Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn.
Scotty Newlands, who often sings O’Canada at Toronto Maple Leaf home games, sang the anthem. He later performed the ballad Danny Boy.
Operator Receives Safety Award
Local 793 operator Cedric LeBlanc was presented with the Kyle James Knox Memorial Award at the union’s annual dinner dance Nov. 16.
The award is named after Knox, a 24-year-old apprentice who was killed when a rotary drill rig collapsed in Toronto on Oct. 11, 2011. It is given to operators who go above and beyond the call of duty.
On Nov. 27, 2012, LeBlanc came to the rescue of crane operator Jean Marc Legault who was working in a crane at a jobsite in Ottawa.
Legault had accidentally sliced his wrist while cutting a grease tube, leading to a serious arterial bleed. He was in the cab of a crane 60 metres above ground level.
LeBlanc provided first-aid and helped bring Legault to ground level.
Legault recovered in hospital.
Business manager Mike Gallagher told those at the dinner dance that LeBlanc is to be commended for his actions.
If LeBlanc had not acted as quickly as he did, another member might have lost his life, Gallagher noted.
Local 793 Donates to Hospital Cancer Program
Local 793 has donated $104,114 to the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation cancer program.
The donation was made at the union’s annual dinner dance held Nov. 16 in the OE Banquet Hall.
The funds were raised at the 2013 Gary O’Neill Memorial Golf Tournament held this past summer at RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Milton.
In 2012, the tournament raised $102,000.
Proceeds are used to fund research into esophageal cancer.
Amber Bernard and Josh Lai of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation accepted the award on behalf of the foundation.
Recipients Receive Long-Service Awards
Local 793 is the strong union it is today because of its dedicated members, business manager Mike Gallagher told a long-service awards ceremony in the union banquet hall Nov. 16.
“Without the support of the members, especially the long-service members, all of you who are being recognized today, really absolutely nothing could’ve been accomplished,” he said.
More than 250 long-service members received an award this year for 30, 40, 50, 55 and 60 years of service. Raymond Crandall of Alliston, Ont. was lone recipient of the 60-year award.
Gallagher spoke at the beginning of the awards ceremony and told the audience that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into making the union what it is today.
“There was no magic formula about it,” he remarked.
He said the union’s $1.6-billion pension fund and the benefit plan, which has a $23-million surplus, were only achieved as a result of the battles fought by union members.
Gallagher said he’s traveled to many different parts of Canada and the U.S. and there aren’t any locals that compare to Local 793 in terms of what the union has accomplished, and in keeping the province unionized and fair so operators get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
That has occurred, he said, because operators stood up for their rights over the years on picket lines and because they went out like the professionals they are and put their skills to work making the contractors successful.
He noted that a lot of new contractors are now coming into Ontario from Italy, Spain and Germany and they’re bringing their own ideas on how to do the work.
But, “we know a little thing or two ourselves about building this great province,” he added. “That is something I feel very, very strongly about.”
On the issue of pensions, Gallagher said in spite of the challenges of the past – notably in 2008 when Canadian markets dipped 30 per cent – the plan is in good shape.
As of the end of October, the plan was up 11.6 per cent from the beginning of the year, “so we’re having a very good year in our pension plan.”
On the issue of benefits, he said the plan is in great shape and trustees have decided to make a number of improvements starting in January.
“To me, the most important thing is looking after our own, our families, and those benefits become more and more important as we get on.
“When we’re able to make the benefit plan better and able to have pensions that members retire on – that’s what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned.”
Memorial Garden to be Built at Head Office
Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher has announced that the union is looking at building a memorial garden and monument to honour members who have been killed in construction site accidents or died due to an occupational disease.
“This is an important initiative and a respectful way of remembering and honouring our union brothers and sisters who have died under such circumstances,” Gallagher noted in a statement.
The monument will be similar to those that have been erected in memory of police officers and firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“We should be doing everything in our power to mark the lives of Operating Engineers who have lost their lives in construction or industrial accidents or because of an occupational illness,” Gallagher said.
Architect Michael Spaziani, who designed Local 793’s head office in Oakville, has put out a request for proposals for a professional artist to design the monument.
The monument will be located at the union’s head office. Names of Local 793 operators who have died in accidents or due to occupational diseases will be part of the monument.
A final design proposal is expected by the end of 2014.
Gallagher said that the proposal will be brought to a general membership meeting for discussion, as input from members on the initiative is essential.
The union would like to hear from anyone who knows of a member who has passed away due to a workplace accident or occupational disease like mesothelioma.
Please contact Crystal Resendes or Debbie Coulson to provide the name and some background on the deceased member. They can be reached at 905-469-9299 or toll free at 1-877-793-4863.