Born in Italy, Frank Colantonio migrated to Canada in 1949. His first job was picking tomatoes in Etobicoke. He soon found work in residential construction, where he developed his skills as a carpenter. He joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 1190 and quickly became vice-president. In 1956 he became business agent and shortly after president of the local. He soon began organizing in the largely non-union residential sector. Frustrated with the weak support from the carpenters’ union, Colantonio started a new Canadian Carpenters’ Association and signed up many Italian workers. In 1960 and 1961, he collaborated with organizers of immigrant bricklayers and plasterers in what was known as the Brandon Union Group to stage huge, sometimes violent strikes across residential construction sites in Toronto. The premier of Ontario was compelled to appoint a royal commission to investigate working conditions.