TTC parent union denies local union representatives were intimidated
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, February 6, 2017 7:12AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 6, 2017 12:58PM EST
The American parent organization of the TTC's largest union is denying allegations that it intimidated local union representatives into signing what the ousted president is calling "loyalty oaths."
In a news release issued Monday, Bob Kinnear, the former president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, said “apologetic” board members have come to him and said ATU International presented them with prepared letters to sign, asking them to agree with the American union’s trusteeship of the Toronto local.
The ATU placed the local, which represents more than 10,000 TTC workers, in a trusteeship on Friday morning and removed Kinnear along with 16 other executives from their roles.
The ATU has accused Kinnear of "attempting to lead his members out of their 120-year-old union without the knowledge or consent of his fellow union officers."
The Maryland-based union, which represents 200,000 members in Canada and the U.S., has put former ATU Local 113 vice president and current international vice president Manny Sforza in charge.
Ten out of 17 of the dismissed executives have been reinstated.
Kinnear previously said he filed an application with the Canadian Labour Congress to launch a process that would permit members to “make a determination on what union they want to affiliate themselves with.”
In the news release Monday, Kinnear said board members felt as though their jobs were in danger if they didn’t sign a letter drafted by the ATU denouncing the application.
The ATU’s letter asked board members to state their opposition to Kinnear's letter to the Canadian Labour Congress and further requested that the CLC take no further action.
“I can think of nothing more anti-union than to threaten people’s jobs if they disagree with the boss. This is unbelievably shameful,” Kinnear said in a written statement Monday.
Speaking to reporters at city hall Monday, Kinnear said the ATU has not supported the local on important issues.
"ATU has had absolutely no presence on the national front for decades now. We are a big local and we believe the international, because of the large financial contributions that we made to them, should be assisting our local and not trying to decimate our local by coming in heavy-handed in the middle of the night. Removing officers, threatening officers with their jobs and saying sign here or else," he said.
"To us, that is not the Canadian way."
ATU says no one has been threatened:
In a news release issued Monday, the ATU denied Kinnear's allegations, saying 72 per cent of shop stewards voluntarily signed the letter and five per cent declined. The ATU added that all of those who declined to sign the letter are still currently working as shop stewards under the trusteeship and none have been threatened with dismissal.
"These accusations are disappointing but not surprising given the source," Sforza said in a written statement Monday.
"The facts are the facts: this union is being led by a majority of its elected leadership, including an overwhelming number of its shop stewards. Like I am, they are focused on restoring union democracy to the 10,500 members of this Local. Every day that suspended officers spend telling tales, attention is diverted from the important issues that our members face working for the TTC and Veolia."
Speaking to CP24 outside the union office Monday, Sforza said Kinnear did not consult other members before he sent the letter to the CLC.
“He didn’t bring it up in the boardroom of this building. It was never discussed. It was never voted on and it was never brought to the floor,” Sforza said.
He added that he believes Kinnear has “lost focus.”
“Bob Kinnear has made this a national crisis and has said that ATU doesn’t support Canada and that is completely false,” Sforza said.
“I think he owes each and every member an apology.”
Kinnear is seeking a court injunction to regain control of the union.