How it Started

In the early 1900s, a group of men got together and applied for a Charter with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers. The Charter was approved – giving birth to Local 20 in Toronto. Local 20 grew and prospered for almost 20 years, until 1933 – when Local 20 was forced to disband due to lack of funds and a decline in membership because of the stock market crash in 1929 causing the onset of the Great Depression.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and the end of the Great Depression, old factories re-opened and new ones were built. Many men were shipped off to serve in the war, leaving a shortage of skilled tradespeople at home to deal with the economy’s ever growing demand.

Consequently, in 1940, a group of former Local 20 insulators joined together with the intention of reorganizing the Toronto area. Armed with an application signed by 24 men, they once again applied for a Charter with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers. On May 1, 1941 the Charter was issued to Toronto and Local 95 came to be.

Within one month of the Charter being approved, ninety-one members joined. The Local opened its first office in Toronto in 1948. As the membership grew, Local 95 began to educate and train its members. Mandatory classes were scheduled to teach new insulators blueprint, specification reading, proper use and application of workplace materials, and personnel management.

During the growth period of Local 95, there were many jurisdictional disputes with Local 59 of Port Arthur [currently known as Thunder Bay]. However, by the 1960s, an amalgamation occurred between the two Locals, with Local 59 merging into Local 95.

Since then, Local 95 has expanded its membership to over 2500 members across Ontario, partnered with a certified training center, become industry leaders, and still continue to expand, grow, and develop.

The Salamander

Legend has it that the Salamander species are mythological in nature, being able to walk through fires unharmed and withstand freezing temperatures. From Greek to Medieval mythology, the salamander held a significant place in  Folklore, 

portrayed as mythical beasts.  History has it that the Insulators chose the Salamander to represent them, because our ancestors believed that their asbestos cloth that protected them from asbestos and could be cleansed by fire, came from the Salamanders’ Wool. 

Although we are not certain of the true origin of the Salamander on our logo, we can honour both the legendary and historical significance of the creature and what it represents. 

Today, the Salamander has become a part of our Union, our members, and our Association. Through the Salamander we are recognized all over North America for our special abilities to insulate mechanical systems to withstand both the scorching heat and freezing temperatures.

LS 320 Senior Seminar Senior Paper. 2003. Southern California.

Citation: Lemmon, Thomas B. “The Asbestos Workers’ Salamander.” Archie Green Fund for Labor Culture & HistoryLS 320 Senior Seminar Senior Paper. 2003. Southern California.

Labour Day

The Holiday Canada Gave the World

Canadians rarely pause to consider the true purpose and meaning behind Labour Day. Today, Labour Day is more often associated with fairs and festivals, and has come to be the last summer weekend at the cottage, rather than its true purpose – a heartfelt celebration of workers and their families. The holiday is a symbol of the labour movement’s enduring success in improving the lives of working Canadians. We are able to take paid holidays, have safe work places, medical care, unemployment insurance, fair hours, union wages, and weekends off. But how many of these advances would have happened if it were not for the long-forgotten heroes who fought so hard to make unions and Labour Day a reality in the first place?

The origins of Labour in Canada can be traced back to a printer’s revolt in 1872 in Toronto, where labourers tried to establish a 54-hour work week. At that time, any union activity was considered illegal and the organizers were jailed, at the behest of George Brown. As a result, protest marches of over 10,000 workers were formed, which eventually led to Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald repealing the anti-union laws and arranging the release of the organizers.

The fight of the Toronto printers had a second, lasting legacy. The parades held in support of the Nine-Hour Movement and the printers’ strike led to an annual celebration. In 1882, American labour leader, Peter J. McGuire, witnessed one of these labour festivals in Toronto. Upon his return to the United States, Peter McGuire connected with the Knights of Labor and organized a similar parade held on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884, another parade was held, and the Knights passed resolutions to make this an annual event.

Other labour organizations, including the affiliates of the International Workingmen’s Association [many of whom were socialists or anarchists] favoured a May 1st holiday. With the event of Chicago’s Haymarket riots in early May of 1886, president Grover Cleveland believed that a May 1st holiday could become an opportunity to commemorate the riots. Fearing that it might strengthen the socialist movement, he quickly moved in 1887 to support the position of the Knights of Labour and their date for Labour Day. The date was adopted in Canada in 1894 by the government of Prime Minister John Thompson. Socialist delegates in Paris appointed May 1 as the official International Labour Day  in 1889.

At the time, trade unions were still illegal and authorities still tried to repress them, even though laws against “criminal conspiracy” to disrupt trade had already been abolished in Britain. Despite the obstacles, the assembly had emerged as an important force in Toronto. It spoke out on behalf of working people, encouraged union organizations, and acted as a watchdog when workers were exploited. Occasionally, it also mediated disputes between employers and employees. By the time the landmark parade was organized in 1872, the assembly had a membership of 27 unions – representing wood workers, builders, carriage makers and metal workers, and an assortment of other trades ranging from bakers to cigar makers.

One of the prime reasons for organizing the demonstration was to demand the release of 24 leaders off the Toronto Typographical Union, who had been imprisoned for the “crime” of striking to gain a nine-hour working day. Held on Thanksgiving Day, which was then observed in the spring, the parade featured a crowd of about 10,000 Torontonians who applauded as the unionists marched proudly through the streets. In speeches that followed, trade union leaders demanded freedom for the ITU prisoners and better conditions for all workers. It was a defining moment in Canadian Labour History, opening the door to the formation of the broader Canadian labour movement over the next decade and sowing the roots for what is now an annual worker’s holiday around the world.

The Toronto parade inspired leaders in Ottawa to stage a similar event. A few months later, on September 3, 1872, seven unions in the nation’s capital organized a parade more than a mile long, headed by an artillery band and flanked by city fireman. The Ottawa parade passed the home of Sir John A. MacDonald, the Prime Minister. He was hoisted into a carriage and taken to City Hall where he made a ringing promise to sweep away such “barbarous laws” as those invoked to imprison the ITU workers in Toronto. He kept his word, and before the year ended, the hated laws were gone from the statute books in Canada. The Toronto Trades Assembly was replaced in 1881 by the Toronto Trades and Labour Council, which in turn played a major role in founding the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.

Today, wherever it is celebrated, the purpose of Labour Day remains the same – to recognize those who fought and sacrificed for our working benefit. In the same spirit that began so many years ago, Labour Day remains a day that affirms the dignity and honour of working people everywhere.