The training building adjacent to Local 793’s head office in Oakville has been officially named the Gary O’Neill Learning Centre.
More than 150 people gathered at the site Dec. 7 to unveil the new name and honour the late president’s accomplishments.
Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher thanked all those who attended the event, including Gary’s wife, Denise, his children Nicole, Kristofer and Owen, and his father, Loran, a 55-year member.
A number of dignitaries also attended, including Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey, and Pat Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
Local 793 president Joe Redshaw emceed the event.
Gallagher told the audience that training trustees unanimously decided to re-name the centre to mark Gary’s accomplishments during his 30-year career as a member of Local 793.
The idea was supported by the Local 793 executive board and extremely well received by members, Gallagher said.
“This is what we needed to do to recognize his accomplishments,” said Gallagher.
Gary died in September 2011. He had been president of the local for 13 years.
Gallagher said it is fitting to have Gary’s name on the building because he was such an integral part of the union and the labour movement in Ontario.
He described the late president as a leader, a perfectionist, and “a standout” from the very beginning.
“He was always on the go and he wanted to get things done.”
Gallagher said Gary would have been proud to have his name on a building where apprentices are trained.
He noted that Gary became a leader in everything he was involved in, and chaired the Working Families Coalition.
As chair of that organization, Gallagher said Gary helped lead it to success and ensured a progressive government was in power.
Gallagher noted that Gary also chaired the board of directors of De Novo, and was always ready to lend a helping hand to those in trouble.
In negotiations, meanwhile, Gallagher said Gary always had the ability to find a compromise.
Dillon of the provincial building trades told the audience that Gary was a colleague and a friend.
He was very committed to the union movement and realized that the safety of workers was paramount, he said.
Dillon noted that Gary was chosen for the helm of Working Families because he was a leader.
He said the union couldn’t have chosen a better way to honour Gary’s memory than by naming the training centre after him.
MPP Flynn said he often had dealings with Gary and always felt like he was talking to a friend.
Flynn said that through his work Gary made life better for everybody in Ontario.