Joseph S. Mancinelli serves as International Vice President and Regional Manager for the Central and Eastern Canada area of the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), a diverse and multi-faceted union with over 500,000 members, of which over 130,000 are in Canada.
He is also Chair of the LiUNA Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada (LPF), whose total portfolio is nearing $8 billion in assets. Under Joes progressive vision, the pension fund continues to combine investments in traditional markets with an emphasis on Public-Private Partnerships and a diverse portfolio in alternatives.
In addition, Joseph is President of the LiUNA Ontario District Council, Chair of the Labourers’ Central and Eastern Canada Organizing Fund (CECOF), and a Trustee on the LiUNA Tri-Funds: The Labourers’ Health and Safety Fund, the Labourers’ Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET), and the LiUNA Training and Education Fund.
Born in Hamilton on September 11, 1957, Joe is most proud of his family life. He and his wife Enza have been married for over thirty-four years. They have five children: Rosalina and husband Alexander Winterburn, Victoria and her husband Anthony Primerano, Stefania, Enrico and Michael, and two grandsons, Noah and Aidan Winterburn.
At the core of Joe’s professional vision is the power of giving back to communities. On average LiUNA Contributes over 6 million dollars to charitable organizations across Ontario.
Through his vision and tenacity, Joe has led LiUNA in the challenging and rewarding redevelopment initiatives in Hamilton’s downtown core, including:
- Restoration of the former CN Rail Station into LiUNA Station.
- Development of LiUNA’s long-term care facilities, Queens Garden, constructed on a reclaimed site in the city’s north-end, and Regina Gardens which is situated on Hamilton’s West Mountain.
- Restoration and redevelopment of Hamilton landmark, the Lister Block, a building whose cultural significance has resulted in its being named a provincial historical site.
- Development of the William Thomas Student Housing project neighbouring the Lister Block.
Not only have these projects revived aging neighbourhoods in the city’s core, they were recognized by the Canadian Urban Institute with their ‘Brownie Awards’.
Under Joe’s leadership, LiUNA has now begun redevelopment of the former Kresge/Delta Bingo building in Hamilton, located at the south east side of Hughson Street North between King-King William Streets, which will be a thirty plus story multi-use property.
Revista Amar: Your Father started in 1958, at LiUNA Local 837 and quickly thrived in the Union. Becoming Business Manager of the LiUNA OPDC and in 1991 he was elected Vice President of LiUNA and in 1992 he was appointed Canadian Director. Was his work and work ethics a role model to yourself?
Joseph Mancinelli: My father was an inspiration to everyone around him. He was known as a gentle giant in the labour industry and was respected immensely by all. As an Italian Immigrant he went through hardships, like most families experienced at that time. He was a survivor of War and was a policeman in Rome. He came to Canada to start a better life. His journey was far from easy. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was in the hospital for quite some time. He always had an appreciation for life and always wanted to help others and ensure everyone had an opportunity to succeed. He was a respected labour leader but far beyond he was a humble, intelligent and caring man who truly change the very changed the essence of LiUNA that lives with us today. His motto in life was “sempre Avanti” which means to always look forward. We could all learn from that today and not live in the past and let the past weigh us down.
In 1956, my father formed the New Canadian Club, an organization aimed at finding work for immigrants, giving courses on accident prevention, providing assistance with legal and tax problems, something that was very important to my father, teaching English to newcomers. 1959 he went to work for the Labourers Union as an interpreter and organizer. He was a hard worker, he was so smart and kind to everyone. He served as secretary treasurer of Local 837; then to manager of LIUNA Ontario district council, overseeing the affairs of 27,000 workers; culminating in 1991 with his election in 1991 as vice president of the Labourers Union International of North America – a post representing some 700,000 workers across the continent. He founded the scholarship fund, LiUNA Gardens and founded the first pension fund for construction labourers in 1971.He also founded the LiUNA Association which is a non-profit organization providing affordable housing for seniors.
RA: All of your education and studies are labour, industrial and economics related. Did you always want to follow your father’s footsteps into LiUNA or was it an opportunity that you couldn’t miss?
JM: I hold a Certificate in Labour Studies from McMaster University, a Certificate in Fundaments of Management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Trade Union Program Certificate, and Certificate in Industrial Relations from Harvard University.
I was also educated at Sheridan College in the Animation Program, and at McMaster University in studies towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. My love of both history and art has made me a natural champion of these causes today, such as the restoration of historical buildings. I´m a leader who respects the foundation of our past and honour that in everything I do today and in the future.
RA: You were only 21 in 1978 when you first joined LiUNA. What was your biggest motivation that led you to join?
JM: The biggest motivation for me was working on behalf of the men and women who build our great country of Canada. I was motivated by the need to increase Health and Safety measures to protect LiUNA Members on the job site. To ensure that their voices were heard, that they were respected and that most importantly they were safe. I wanted to be part of something greater than a job- it truly is a community that continues to make a difference in thousands of lives across Canada. The members are what continue to motivate me every single day, and everything that I do is to honour the men and women who paved the foundation of LiUNA, our proud retirees. They are the giants whose shoulders we stand today and continue to lead across the industry to build stronger communities and better futures. The brothers and sisters of LiUNA should be very proud of the work they have done and continue to do. They are community leaders and builders and we are all very proud of them.
RA: Was at that time anything that would make you think to yourself “one day I want to change this” or “this isn’t enough, we need to do better” if yes, what…
JM: There are always areas to improve and we continue to learn and act to make a positive change and growth for the industry and for LiUNA Members. Working closely with our employers and industry partners is important in community advancement. Also, working closely with government and policy makers to ensure that the collective bargaining rights of LiUNA Members are respected, the importance of furthering the infrastructure portfolio across the country and ensuring Health and Safety and Training standards remain the best in the industry to keep members safe on the job. One thing that we continue to improve on and really encourage is community involvement. LiUNA on average gives over 6 million dollars to charitable organizations supporting healthcare, mental health, children and adults with developmental disabilities, the LiUNA Senior Outpatient Centre, Arts and Culture, Film, Sport and Recreation and so much more. We are very proud to give back to the communities that we live work and build and remain proud partners of communities across North America.
RA: What were your aspirations in the Union?
JM: To create a positive change; to ensure worker´s rights and their voice were respected; to increase health and safety programs for the men and women who build our communities; to always give back to the communities we live work and build; to honor the legacy of the men and women who built our organization, who united for better labour reform, and who paved the way for our great organization of LiUNA; to be a leader of integrity and respect and to always put the members first and to always work as a united team.
RA: Members safety, health and pension plans are priorities of all LiUNA locals. Is it fair to say that this should be the priorities of governments in general and not only in unions?
JM: The health and safety of all people should always be a priority of government. In the province of Ontario we have a labour minister who is exceptional. He is always in communication to better labour standards and health and safety for LiUNA Members and the skilled trades across Ontario. He is very eager to work together to improve areas that red tape exists and help break the stigma around the skilled trades to encourage more people to build a career as a labourer or plumber or whatever the industry may be.
The health and safety of LiUNA Members remains our top priority at all times. Federally, LiUNA Training centres have received funding to expand apprentice programs and training programs ultimately ensuring members are job ready and return home safe at the end of each work day.
We continue to work closely with both the Ford Government in Ontario and the Trudeau Governments across Canada to ensure the highest level of safety standards across the industry and innovative training and health and safety so our employer partners can count on LiUNA to have highly-skilled, job ready workers to build our communities from the ground up.
We are also working closely with the Ministry of Education because we have work to do in order to change the school system… When I was a kid shop class was an opportunity to work hands on with electricity, motors, woodworking etc… a lot of that no longer exists and we must continue to work with our education professionals to encourage a pathway to the skilled trades as a prosperous career option.
RA: Unfortunately, the Industry is having some trouble finding workers. Besides immigration restrictions, what other factors could be causing this phenomenon?
JM: It is no secret that Canada is facing a skilled worker shortage. With an aging population and working in an industry that is strenuous on the body, members who have been working 30, 40 years are retiring. Skills Canada estimates that nearly half of new jobs that will be created over the next ten years will be in the skilled trades. We have an influx of big infrastructure projects and we need the manpower to ensure the projects are fulfilled. LiUNA is addressing this problem through various initiatives including increasing apprenticeships and promotion of our construction craft worker program… Continuing outreach in schools and communities. Partnering with various organizations and community benefit programs to get youth into the training centres to obtain skills-training and start building a pathway to a prosperous future. LiUNA is also incredibly proud of our Indigenous Relations Department. LiUNA is a strong proponent for community advancement through skills training within its Indigenous Relations Department. Our focus is on building trusting relationships through innovative training programs to build self-sustaining communities, better futures and a career in the trades, whilst respecting land, treaty rights and governance of the community. In 2007 LiUNA signed a statement of partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) former National Chief Phil Fontaine, which was reaffirmed in 2017 with AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in perpetuity. This partnership serves as a catalyst for increasing employment and career building for members of LiUNA.
RA: In your opinion what can happen if this situation doesn’t reverse.
JM: The ability to supply the workforce to meet Canada’s Infrastructure deficit will be severely implicated.
RA: Regarding immigration LiUNA has made many efforts and even achieved some agreements with previous Minister of immigration. Now we have a new Minister, the Hon. Marco Mendocino. Have you had a chance to meet him? What are your expectations?
JM: The previous Minister of Immigration, the Honorable Ahmed Hussen worked closely with LiUNA to address immigration issues across the construction industry in Canada. We look forward to working together with Marco Mendocino and have an upcoming meeting to discuss the skilled-worker shortage and immigration across the industry and we trust that Marco will be a great leader on this file. I know that our Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton is working closely with Marco on this important file and encouraging changes to allow a greater number of immigrations in on for skilled trades jobs. The baby boom generation is retiring within the next 10 years. In the construction industry many were post-war immigrants and it is really hard to replace that generation, they paved the foundation of our organization and of labour reform in Canada. We look forward to continuing a great partnership with the federal government and working closely with the honourable Marco Mendocino to make improvements regarding immigration and the skilled trades.
RA: Among others, the improvement of training Centres and facilities and increasing their programs have been and are very important aspect from LiUNA. Do you think the members understand the importance in attending these programs?
JM: A career begins with LiUNA Training. LiUNA are leaders across the industry when it comes to training and health and safety programs which ensure members are safe and job ready. LiUNA Training provides Apprenticeship Training, Construction Skills Training and Health and Safety programs. LiUNA is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive training programs to apprentices and members. Our goal is to provide every trainee with the highest standard of skills and safety training. We continue to take a progressive approach with the investment of technology, Virtual reality and Mobile training classrooms. We provide training that includes the use of new materials, tools and techniques that are making their way onto the job sites, or are already present in the day to day work that LiUNA Members preform. Our hands-on training. We are very proud of our training centres and continue to deliver the most extensive health and safety courses to ensure the safety of each and every one of LiUNA Trainees and members. Being proactive to the health and safety needs of the industry is central to delivering the best training available. LiUNA is also very proud to partner with one of our largest signatory contractors, Aecon, to eliminate barriers for women in the trades. Through an 8-week program, LiUNA Sisters receive training at the LiUNA Local 183 Vaughn Campus and are sent to work, beginning a prosperous career in the trades.
RA: Congratulations to LiUNA for the visionary actions of your investment in movies. How does it feel to know that you, as an organization, made the right decision by investing in movie/tv industry?
JM: LiUNA Pension Fund continues to invest in an extensive and diverse portfolio. In every investment LiUNA looks at, we have an exceptional team of intelligent leaders who look at all proposal diligently to mitigate any risk. Our pension plan has $8 billion in assets. It’s the largest multi-employer pension plan in the country and it’s growing. We are the fifth fastest-growing pension plan in Canada and that’s basically because construction is booming. Another thing elevating the plan is the income return from investments. We’ve generated over 10% return every year over the past seven or eight years. The returns are fantastic in the investment field but we also have so many contributions coming from the work of our members. Our portfolio ranges from real-estate to private equity and alternatives. The partnership with Creative Wealth and BRON has been a very rewarding and exciting investment. LiUNA pension plan has partnered on the largest movies in the industry and it was a proud moment to see the just how many nominations those received at the Oscars, 11 nomination… The Joker brought home 2 Oscars including Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and 3 nominations for Bombshell, winning 1 Oscar.
RA: You have many awards and recognitions, including being inducted into the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction, received the Paul Harris Fellow from the Rotary Club, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, and the David Crombie Award by the Canadian Urban Institute, the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association’s Award for Business Excellence and were honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from McMaster University, and a recognition for your Philanthropic initiatives across Canada. Do these awards and recognitions motivate you to continue?
JM: The awards are not for me, they are for LiUNA and we have the best, highly-skilled workforce and I am tremendously proud of them. Everything that we do and continue to do every single day, is for the membership. I accept the awards on behalf of the members, staff and leadership of our great organization. I have much gratitude to the honours I have received and I am so thankful for the platform to continue to enact positive change and raise our voice for workers across North America.
RA: Is there anything in your life that you would do differently?
JM: Like my father always said “Sempre Avanti” always move forward, always look forward and always be the best person that you can be. Never forget where you came from. I am so blessed with my wife who I have been married to for 35 years, 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and our growing extended family of LiUNA.
RA: One of your hobbies is painting. Can we expect an exhibit any time soon?
JM: Painting – Art has been something that I had immense appreciation for from a young age. Painting is something that allows me to be creative and escape day to day interactions, it essentially is something that helps me relax. Unfortunately, you will not see an exhibit any time soon. When I paint, I like to do so for philanthropic initiatives and donate the pieces to be auctioned off in support of various charities.