For many years, Joe Mancinelli’s name was synonymous with the Ontario Liberal party. Over the years, especially during the McGuinty premiership, the International Vice President and Regional Manager for Central and Eastern Canada of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, would organize a must-attend Trillium fundraiser for the ruling Ontario party. “None of those dinners raised less than $200,000,” Joe told the Bay Observer. But that’s all over now, following the release of the recent Liberal Budget that had, tucked away where most would not notice, a clause that transferred a large piece of the LIUNA jurisdiction over to the Carpenter’s Union. “It is a personal betrayal and a betrayal of LIUNA,” said Mancinelli, who vows to have his 120,000-strong Ontario membership campaign to defeat Liberal MPPs who vote for the budget provision.
As evidence of how adamant his membership is against the provision, Mancinelli was able to organize a massive LIUNA rally at Queens Park protesting the measure with only two day’s to pull it off. “We met with the Premier on a Thursday and offered her a counter proposal, but she refused to look at it. I told her if you don’t give us an answer I will be back with my members on Monday. We had 10,000 members at the Queen’s Park Rally with only the weekend to organize it,” Joe said.
Why would the government do this, especially to an organization that for decades had been generous in its support? Joe says it’s backroom shenanigans at play. “Steven Del Duca was Government Relations person for the carpenters,” said Joe. “Nikki Holland who now does GR for the Carpenters was Secretary of the Ontario Liberal Part Council. Greg Sorbara was also involved with Carpenter’s Union. This thing smells of improper favouritism. They have a minister sitting next to her and a GR person who held office in the Liberal party.”
Joe provided some history for the dispute. “We have had collective agreements with the ICI sector (Industrial-Commercial-Institutional) in some cases for 40 years. These deals were introduced by the Davis Government which, incidentally gave us some of the best labour legislation ever. Back in the 70’s the various building trade unions were fighting each other over jurisdiction…The Davis government stepped in and divvied up the jurisdictions equitably. LIUNA was given bargaining rights for the carpenters who build concrete formwork. We went out and organized carpenters to do the work…the Carpenters union could have done it, but they were too lazy. With a stroke of a pen these (protections) will be null and void. I have never seen anything like this in 40 years of involvement with LIUNA. No Previous government has dared to touch labour legislation—especially buried in a budget that we had no chance to rebut.”
Despite LIUNA’s history of financial support to the Liberals, Joe says the union made very few demands on the government. “We were active promoting things like pension legislation and health and safety; we weren’t standing there with our hands out like the carpenters. We put tons of money in (the Liberal Party’s) pockets but we weren’t asking for handouts. As it turns out, it’s not the amount of money or support, apparently that matters—it comes down to who does the backroom deals.”
What’s the next step? Joe says first will come the provincial election. “We will scrutinize every Liberal candidate in the province. If they vote for Section 14 (the clause in question) we will throw our support behind the candidate in that riding with the best chance of winning be it Conservative or NDP. Whoever votes for Schedule 14 are enemies of us and enemies of the 120,000 LIUNA workers and their families” Beyond that says Joe Mancinelli, “There should be an ethics investigation or maybe an OPP investigation as to why and how this issue popped up so suddenly,” adding, “If you think I’m wound up, you haven’t seen anything yet.”