Toronto’s Union Station, opened in 1872 and rebuilt in 1927, has been the reception depot for many immigrants, their first contact with the city. The railway and Union Station helped transform a sleepy town into a busy industrial and commercial centre.
Starting in the 19th century, railway stations like Union Station were also the sites for significant unionizing drives for railway employees: first the engineers, firemen, conductors, and train men on the trains, then the machinists and other metal workers in the shops, and eventually the less privileged workers, notably African-Canadians, who worked as sleeping car porters and who faced racial discrimination.
Toronto’s Stanley Grizzle was a key leader in the Canadian organizing drive of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), which was the first and only trade union in Canada organized by, and for, African-Canadians. Many in Toronto’s Black community met in the same building on College Street that housed the brotherhood’s offices, at the United Negro Improvement Association, which hosted social events from the 1930s onwards.
Grizzle’s memoir, My Name’s Not George, details the organizing drive and his work as an important human rights champion in Ontario.