Funded By LiUNA 183
The Gerry Gallagher Award presented to the annual Toronto Rose Centre Selection winner will over the costs of Tralee entry fees, airfare and $2,000 to support expenses associated with representing Toronto in Tralee.
Who was Gerry Gallagher?
Gerry was born in Athlone in 1915 and went to England in 1937. In 1939 he joined the army and went overseas with the Royal Engineers of the British Expeditionary Force he was a sergeant and served until the fall of Dunkirk. Gerry immigrated to Canada in 1951.
Gerry didn’t come to Canada to become a union activist, he became one – quickly making worker safety his platform. While employed as a foreman for Ontario Hydro, he organized labourers and founded Local 183 of the Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA) applying for charter later in 1952. Gerry fought for workers’ health and safety by shutting down unsafe construction jobs and challenging government to regulate the industry properly to end needless worker deaths on construction sites.
For 25 years, Gerry campaigned tirelessly to bring safety to the construction industry in Ontario. Gerry is credited with bringing a high-level of safety practices to the Ontario Construction industry demanding protective legislation, which now ranks Ontario among the world leaders in safety legislation. In an eight-year period of Gerry’s efforts he called more than 200 walkouts in relation to worker safety and in response to potential issues on notable construction projects in Toronto that include infrastructure work
on the Yonge Subway, roads, highways, bridges, watermains, sewers and buildings like the TD towers.
Gerry stood up for workers to ensure that they were recognized for their efforts when large-scale high-profile projects were completed, his Irish temper and way with words was often quoted in local papers in relation to work for the labour movement in Ontario.
It is only fitting that Gerry passed away on Labour Day in 1978 at the age of 64. There is little doubt that Gerry’s persistence in fighting for better health & safety laws resulted in saving numerous lives on construction sites. After the Hogg’s Hollow disaster, imposing stricter regulations for construction sites where compressed air was used. Thanks to Gerry’s work, the province also took over for construction safety inspections from municipalities. Gerry was posthumously awarded the Roy A. Phinnemore Award from the Construction Association of Ontario in the early 1990s for his contributions to accident prevention. To honour the memory of its beloved leader, LIUNA Local 183 dedicated its office building as the Gerry Gallagher Building. From humble beginnings in 1952 of 400 Hydro workers to a current membership of 45, 000 construction workers and their families across the GTA. LIUNA Local 183 today, is a thriving Local committed to helping its members and communities establish a culture of learning and legacy of prosperity for their families.
Toronto and by extension LIUNA Local 183 is more ethnically diverse now than ever before and it is much stronger for it. Like the Cultural Mosaic that Toronto has become internationally known for, LIUNA Local 183 gains strength from each new member from any ethnic community, which allows us to grow in industries that are sometimes specific to one ethnic community. Specifically, the construction industry has traditionally relied heavily on immigrants for labour and LIUNA Local 183 has a long history of welcoming and protecting immigrant workers. With each new wave of immigration, the makeup of LIUNA’s membership has changed.
It is an honour to pay homage to Gerry’s Irish roots and the cultural background of some of LIUNA’s founding members to provide support to the Irish Cultural Society of Toronto in Gerry’s memory through the award presented annually to the Toronto Rose at the Rose of Tralee Toronto Selection Ball.