For 122 years, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 has been at the forefront of the fight for a better life for Toronto transit workers. Simultaneously, it has improved the overall state of transit and the city itself. Its impact on Toronto is undeniable. But these changes haven’t come without a lot of sacrifice and work.
The union movement is built on the idea that we are stronger when we work together. ATU Local 113 is proud of its strong history of solidarity.
In 1861, the franchise to operate public transportation in Toronto was granted to the Toronto Street Railway Company which established Canada’s first horse-drawn street railway.
A mass movement of working people, known as the Knights of Labour, started to organize employees and signed up nearly all of the workers, to fight for better working conditions. In late 1886, they staged a two-week transit strike, and the city threw their support behind the workers. The strike failed as a result of the company wielding its power, denying workers’ demands, firing union activists, refusing to negotiate — even forcing workers to join an ‘alternative’ company union. It took more than a decade for workers at the Toronto Street Railway System to form a union.
In 1899, after years of struggle and strife, the workers finally succeeded. Division 113 of the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America was founded in Toronto, to represent the collective bargaining rights of the employees of the Toronto Street Railway. It was one of the very first ATU locals in Canada, setting off a wave of organizing across the country.
Fed up with shoddy maintenance and poor service by private operators, Toronto citizens voted to put the operation of all streetcar services in the hands of the city.
The Division’s number, which the Local carries to this day, was a product of the tireless commitment of a core group of thirteen courageous trade unionists, that led the effort to establish the union throughout the 1890s. When they finally succeeded, members wanted to commemorate these thirteen. There was already a Division 13 assigned to a Local in the United States, so the next closest was 113.
Better and Brighter Future
Today, ATU Local 113 has grown to be the labour union representing over 12,000 men and women workers who operate and maintain North America’s third largest public transit system, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC); as well as the transit operators of Transdev Canada in the York Region, just north of the City of Toronto.
It is through the collective power and continued actions of unionized workers over the years that Local 113 has fought for – and won an improved quality of life.
By negotiating the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the employer on a regular basis, Local 113 continues to secure better wages, benefits, working conditions, job security and protection for members from unfair treatment on the job, and the right to seek redress if the employer violates the contract. These efforts of the Union have resulted in establishing industry leadership in wages and benefits.
Many of the wins achieved through negotiations, arbitrations and legal actions, have served as precedents and influenced the employer to change policies to meet the union’s demands, such as the Vacation and Statutory Holiday Entitlements while receiving WSIB, and stopping Workplace Harassment through the employer’s Social Media Platforms.
Founded in democratic values, members have their voices heard through elections for their leaders, and at monthly General Membership Meetings, where they move motions forward for the consideration of the Executive Board and Membership.
Local 113 has been active in local and national politics through its Political Action Committee and campaigns such as Keep Transit Public. Members are represented at ATU International’s Conferences of the Latino Caucus and the Black Caucus.
By promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, Local 113 is helping create awareness of social issues. An active Women’s Committee helps highlight gender-equity issues. Through the new mandate to set up its own Black Caucus, Local 113 continues its effort toward social change.
In recognizing that Toronto’s incredibly diverse communities have complex social issues like poverty and homelessness, Local 113 encourages its members to individually support and contribute to United Way’s comprehensive and far-reaching initiatives that help improve lives of all people, irrespective of age, race, or religious background.
Through ATU’s official charity fighting Multiple Sclerosis, it has generated over a million dollars for MS Research in Canada.
ATU Local 113 understands the power we build by working in solidarity with our union sisters and brothers, and through the fellowship we share as workers and families engaged in a common cause.