No ATU member in Canada was ever better qualified to represent transit workers than Bob Kinnear. A seasoned leader with years of on-the-ground experience, Bob worked his way up through TTC Operations as a Maintenance Worker, Bus Operator, Collector, Subway Operator, Subway Guard, and finally as the youngest-ever President and Business Agent in the hundred-year history of his union.
In his thirteen-year tenure, he proved himself time and again as a proponent of publicly owned transit against all odds, a fierce and respected negotiator, and a passionate, vocal defender of members’ rights.
Watch Bob’s story now.
What are the most pressing issues facing public transit today? Bob Kinnear has three main concerns to bring to the International ATU.
Bob Kinnear brings 13 years of leadership experience as President of the 11,000-member Local 113, one of the largest transit workers’ locals in North America. He has an agenda for making ATU a truly 21st Century union and forging cooperation between the International and the Local Unions. We are all fighting the same battles and cooperating in these struggles is the only way to go.
Here is an overview of Bob’s main priorities for the union over the next three years:
Job security is our number one priority as a union and the biggest threat to that security is privatization and contracting out, which is another term for privatization. The International Union must be a resource to our locals when they are fighting privatization in their cities. Local 113 has successfully campaigned against transit privatization and will bring that experience to the International to share with others.
Reaching out to the public to gain their understanding and support is an essential job of our union. Many locals have done a good job of this but many locals feel they are too small to conduct public campaigns. Our International can design template programs for public outreach that would make it possible for even smaller locals to do this.
Public transit is an essential public response to climate change. But many politicians are not convinced of this and so do not support adequate transit funding. Our union must ally with the many other organizations that believe in public transit. We can – we must – provide leadership at the state, provincial and federal levels for sustainable transit funding, and more of it!
Our locals have a wealth of knowledge about health and safety challenges on their own properties. We must combine all this knowledge at the International level and develop health and safety expertise that is available to all. Of special urgency is the growing number of assaults against our frontline members. We must aggressively lobby governments to fund anti-assault measures that are over and above operating funds. We must also press for more aggressive prosecution of those who attack our members.
After decades of public service, our members are entitled to pensions that provide a dignified retirement. And while they are working, their families should be protected with a full range of health care benefits. The International should establish a Special Task Force on Pensions and Benefits. This task force would collect data on existing pensions and benefits and provide that information to all locals, who could use it in collective bargaining.
Welcome to the 21st century! Many members say that our International Union is stuck in the past when it comes to membership communications. It’s time to use new technologies and programs to keep our members informed and united. The International should be a source of training in how to effectively use communications technologies, new and old.
These are the main priorities Bob will be calling for at the GEB. I hope I have your support and I invite your input on how we can work together to make our International a stronger and respected union for decades to come.
In 2003, Bob was elected as the youngest-ever President of Local 113, at age 33, more than ten years younger than the next-youngest president. Many predicted he was too young for the job and would be an amateur at representing the membership. He proved them wrong from the very beginning.
In 2005, Bob became the first union leader in Canada to keep the entire membership informed of progress in collective bargaining through the use of auto-calls. When a settlement was finally reached on a Sunday afternoon, he called all members immediately. They learned of the settlement from him before it was announced in the media.
Also in 2005, Bob launched the largest public advocacy campaign in Toronto labour history. The million dollar campaign showcased the skills, diversity and dedication of the Local 113 membership. Other unions tried to copy it but all acknowledged that We Move Toronto was a ground-breaking campaign that set the “gold standard” for public outreach by a union.
In 2008, Bob again spearheaded a public campaign – Worth a Million. Through TV, newspaper and transit system ads, the campaign explained the results of an independent study that put the annual economic value of Toronto’s transit system at $12 billion, which is more than a million dollars per transit worker. See the five-minute YouTube video: Worth a Million.
In the 2010 Toronto municipal election, nearly all mayoral candidates, including the eventual winner, Rob Ford, called for the privatization of the Toronto Transit Commission. Kinnear’s Keep TTC Public campaign, with dynamic TV ads that aired over a thousand times and an outstanding documentary that explained the perils of “public-private partnerships” (P3s). Virtually overnight, the Local 113 campaign stopped all political talk of privatizing the TTC, which remains entirely publicly owned to this day.
Also in 2010, TTC workers came under sustained attack by right-wing media after a picture of a “sleeping collector” was published on the front page of a newspaper. In response, Kinnear conducted a series of “town hall” meetings that brought riders and workers together to discuss their mutual concerns. The events calmed down the city and restored public respect for frontline TTC workers. See a video report of the town halls here.
In 2011, Kinnear went head-to-head in a public forum with newly-elected Mayor Rob Ford, who was attempting to cut the TTC budget. Even the union’s opponents agreed that Bob’s performance was “brilliant” and exposed the shallowness of Ford’s understanding of the great value of public transit. See the exchange here.
In 2012, Kinnear led a unique public campaign – Protecting What Matters – that demonstrated the great range of skills of the TTC’s Maintenance workforce. A dramatic 90-second “theatrical ad” was played just before the feature film in Toronto movie theaters for several weeks. There were several reports of audiences applauding.
Bob Kinnear is Toronto’s best-known union leader. He appears frequently on radio and TV talk shows and is quoted often in print media. In a 2012 Toronto survey he was judged as the most effective union spokesperson in the city, with a majority saying that if they had a union, they would want Bob Kinnear as their leader.
In December 2015, Bob was elected to his fifth consecutive term as Local 113 President, a modern day record that reached back over half a century.
Each of these videos gave voice to the urgent issues affecting his membership and the public — a voice that was heard loud and clear by management and government alike.
Do you have thoughts to share or concerns that you want heard? Get in touch today.