Union BY Choice

If you want to be as good as you can, gain as much knowledge and information as you can. This has been the life mantra of 83 year old LiUNA Pipeline Labourer Leonard Lake. Still working on pipeline projects to this day, Mr. Lake has enjoyed a successful 70 year career because as he puts it, “all the knowledge I have learned I keep inside my heart, now when I work, I just go out and use it”.

As a young Metis boy growing up in the Edmonton area, he left school at the age of 16, and chose to learn how to work as a labourer. Inspired by his father’s work ethic and attitude, he began building his skills by hand cutting timber and skidding logs to saw mills, using horse drawn teams. As a self defined eyes on hands on learner, he continued to grow his knowledge over seven (7) decades by taking jobs in agriculture, railway & hydro-dam construction. Sometimes difficult, sometimes dangerous he learned how to transfer his skills from one job to another.

In 1957 he took his first pipeline job and recalled, “I came with what I knew, and did the best I could, with what I had.” Over the
next 30 years, this attitude expanded his skills and knowledge with jobs that ranged from Swamper to Sub Foreman to Crew Boss. In the 90’s, he joined LiUNA Local 92 in Edmonton where he has since enjoyed an active career for over 20 years. He currently
works on pipeline projects where he performs the crucial role of managing job site traffic control, with LiUNA signatory Waschuk Pipe Line Construction.

Since 1903, the Labourer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) has been the most progressive, fastest growing multicultural union of construction workers, waste management workers, show service workers and healthcare workers. With over 100,000 members across Canada, LiUNA is an International Union whose 500,000+ members in both Canada and the United States, are committed to building communities.

Their members are employed in all sectors of the construction industry: developing our pipelines, channeling our energy sources, building our roads & bridges, installing our sewers & water mains, expanding our hospitals, schools, recreation & manufacturing facilities & family residences.

Recently, the “LiUNA Safe Pipelines” message has been advocating for safe pipeline construction and maintenance across Canada. The message: the only type of acceptable pipeline is a SAFE pipeline; one that is built and maintained by trained highly skilled union labour. The rationale: the same public trust that LiUNA members undertake when building the safe roads and railways that also transports Canada’s energy resources, applies to safe pipeline construction & maintenance as well.

Respecting the duty to consult with aboriginal communities across Canada, LiUNA is committed to seeking consent as the union by choice of aboriginal peoples for skills training and work force readiness.

“LiUNA stands for fairness for the working people, regardless of colour, gender, race or ethnicity; quite frankly, it is this inclusion,
that represents the backbone to our success,” commented Joseph S. Mancinelli, LiUNA International Vice President and Regional

“We are proud to have thousands of members in LiUNA from First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across the country. Our ability to expand and train more community members with qualified transferrable skills, greatly advances opportunities of our aboriginal members to work on safe pipeline, energy or other construction projects, both inside and outside their communities.”

As a leader in providing access to transferrable skills training, LiUNA has 24 Training Centres across Canada which provide training for a multitude of sectors including Pipeline Construction & Safety Maintenance, Energy & Mining, Railroad, Residential, Heavy, Civil, Industrial, Commercial & Institutional construction.

“Our Training Centres essentially represent a doorway to the first key step every new member and apprentice takes in their career; knowing that when they successfully walk out that door, they will have the necessary skills and safety training to enter and grow within the workforce.” said John Mandarino, Executive Director of LiUNA Canadian Tri Fund.

With a national perspective, the LiUNA Canadian Tri-Fund works with LiUNA Locals and their Signatory Contractors across Canada
to establish and develop comprehensive skills, apprenticeship, and health and safety training programs that meet the job demands for skilled labour in all sectors. This includes several safety agencies and certification bodies, for progressive updating of existing training curriculum.

Mr. Mandarino added, “one of our key goals is to facilitate relationships with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities and earn
their consent to choose LiUNA as their source for transferrable skills training.”

These relationships thrive today between LiUNA and many aboriginal communities due to the respectful and strong community liaison work that LiUNA commits to on a daily basis. By example, Remote Community Training on pipeline construction and maintenance has become a hallmark of success for some Locals like Leonard Lake’s Local 92 in Edmonton.

“This is a result of wanting to take action to be a participant at coming to the roundtable, to invest the 2-3 months it takes to bring
remote training opportunities into action,” said Larry Villeneuve, Aboriginal Liaison for LiUNA Local 92. “It’s not an overnight thing, it takes time; there is a process of meetings and like I said, roundtables, that need to happen in order to bring the government, the community and” industry together so aboriginal people can share in the same training and opportunities LiUNA provides to all its members.”

Aside from the work opportunities, Leonard Lake confesses the best benefits he receives from his career with LiUNA, are the
relationships with his fellow members; people with a willingness to help other people.

His life advice for today’s aboriginal youth is, “take advantage of the opportunities LiUNA can provide; take the high road not the low road; don’t follow others; keep a strong heart, focus on hope then get up and do it.”