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President’s 70th Anniversary Message

As Local 79 turns seventy, Local 79 President Tim Maguire reflects on the union’s great history and on what lies ahead.

Local 79 President Tim Maguire joining the march at the Ontario Day of Action against the cuts

“The year is 1941 and a group of Toronto employees seeking better wages and working conditions began to organize what is now CUPE Local 79.

From such humble beginnings 70 years ago, Local 79 now has a vibrant and diverse membership of over 20,000 members who work in the City of Toronto, Bridgepoint Hospital and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

Local 79 members are the face of public services in Toronto. They work as nurses, planners, clerks, social service employees, cleaners, court services staff, ambulance dispatchers, child care, 311, recreation programming, supportive housing, shelters, hostels, water and food inspectors, long term care to name just a few. The list of services we provide to the citizens of Toronto is a long one – every job is important.

Local 79 members Take Care of Toronto in hundreds of ways, all across the City.

We’ve been proud union members for 70 years. Let’s celebrate our anniversary in 2012 and look back with pride at our work and look forward to the future.”

– Tim Maguire
President, CUPE Local 79

Here’s a bit of our history from the first anniversary newsletter in 1943 , The Seventy-Niner

Click to download the 1943 Seventy-Niner*

President Bert Merson began his first anniversary message (in April 1943) by recognizing the duty of parents to have their offspring receive, “a good start in life” and offers that this “be foremost in the minds of those responsible for the welfare of Local 79”. That tradition carries on to this day as Local 79 continues to fight to maintain the services our members provide in return for their terms and conditions of employment.

Much of the work of the union in 1943 and 2012 has not changed. For instance in 1943 the City established a committee “to report on a standard system of Sick Pay, Overtime, Vacation Regulations, etc.” Sound familiar? The 2009 strike was about defending sick pay and severance provisions.

It is a proud note in Local 79’s history when the Local added returning veterans from World War II. The 1943 newsletter states that, “consideration should be given to whatever preparations may be made in regard to the proper assimilation of our fighting forces on their return to their rightful place in industry”.

The return of the veterans and their successful re-establishment into society revolved around public works and public employment.

Some recent history and milestones of Local 79’s history:

  • 1942 – CUPE Local 79’s Charter granted by the National Union of Public Employees.
  • 1980 – One-day strike by Local 79 and Local 43
  • 1981-82 – Local 79 commissioned two reports about understaffing and needed reforms in Homes for the Aged. Green Acres Home for the Aged (which no longer exists) was cited as a major example. Because of the reports hundreds of part-time workers were hired to staff the Homes.
  • 1981 – Illegal strike at Riverdale Hospital (now Bridgepoint) to back the province-wide strike by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
  • 1983 – Homes for Aged part-timers (now Long-Term Care Homes and Services Part-timers) were established through an award by then-arbitrator, Stephen Lewis, after an organizing campaign by Local 79.
  • Organization of Part-Time Unit B and Recreation Part-Timers happened in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
  • 2000 – Strike to obtain a first Collective Agreement after the amalgamation of the City of Toronto.
  • 2002 – Strike to defend employment security and services from the threat of contracting out.
  • 2002 — For the first time, Local 79 members are legislated back to work.
  • 2009 – Six-week strike to defend sick pay and severance provisions
Local 79 Anniversary Cake

One of the recurring themes in the 1943 Seventy-Niner is the call for unity of purpose among working people. May unity and solidarity remain our strength in 2012, our 70th anniversary, and in the years to come. So, let me re-state the wishes of President Merson of many happy birthdays and continued progress to the “Seventy-Niner”!

Download: Seventy Niner – 1943 Anniversary Edition*

*Note: Copyright for this newsletter is owned by the City of Toronto Archives. Its citation is: City of Toronto Archives, Series 1833, File1.

 Anniversary Kick-off Party

The kickoff for celebrations of Local 79’s 70th anniversary took place at our April 24th General Meeting. Printed copies of The Seventy-Niner from 1943 were handed out, as well as a modern version put together by Local 79 President Tim Maguire. Edible versions of the two generations of newsletters were featured on an anniversary cake with our 70th anniversary logo in between. Take a look at the photos!

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