Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Carpenters’ Local 27 Union appoints first black president

Published:Saturday | June 15, 2024 | 12:06 AMSophia Findlay/Gleaner Writer
Chris Campbell, makes history as first black president of 140-year-old Canadian union.
Chris Campbell, makes history as first black president of 140-year-old Canadian union.

TORONTO:

Jamaica-born Chris Campbell now heads Carpenters’ Local 27, which has responsibility for over 10,000 members working on a variety of projects and job sites across Toronto and its surrounding areas.Campbell, who was recently named by the organisation as the first black president in the union’s 140-year history in Ontario, aims to build on the legacy of previous leaders and promote diversity, community involvement, and local representation.“It is an honour to serve as president, representing all members of the Carpenters’ Union. I am eager to continue fostering growth and strengthening the relationships between our membership, executive board, representatives, and administrative staff,” he said.

Local 27 is part of 30 unions across Canada affiliated with the Carpenters’ Regional Council.

The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) former president Mike Yorke played a pivotal role in encouraging Campbell’s involvement in the union.

“I’ve known Chris Campbell since he was a first-term apprentice with Local 27 of the Carpenters; through so many experiences, challenges and benchmarks. Whether it was at projects like the Auto Show or the Toronto Indy, Chris was always a job site leader.

I have worked with him over many years and watched him grow, evolve and develop into the iconic leader he is today. He brings all those experiences and passion with him resulting in a strong advocate for working people in Ontario’s construction sector,” Yorke told The Gleaner.

RESOURCE CONSTRAINTS

Campbell, who previously served as the vice-president, also holds the position of director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. He assumes the role from Paul Daly who was named president at the end of 2021.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Campbell attended Calabar All-Age School while residing at 36 Nelson Road.

He attended St. Andrew Technical High School in Kingston, Jamaica, where he thrived in both academic and technical courses. As a member of the school’s rugby team, he had the opportunity to tour Canada and the USA, an experience that would later shape his decision to stay in Canada after completing his CXC exams in 1987. Despite wanting to attend university in Canada, he faced resource constraints at the time.

However, his resilience and determination saw him through and by the summer of 1989, he walked through the doors of the Carpenters Union Local 27 at 64 Signet Drive, Toronto, becoming a card-carrying member by November 1990.

Over the past 35 years, he climbed the ranks, holding positions from apprentice and journey person to foreman, supervisor, instructor, director of equity, diversity, and inclusion, vice-president, and now president of the Carpenters Union Local 27.

The Union is known for negotiating fair wages, benefits, pensions, training, and fostering a sense of belonging among its members.

GAMECHANGER

Campbell believes that representation matters. His presence as vice-president has already inspired others in the local community to engage in union activities. He has actively participated in humanitarian efforts, including building homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and contributing to school construction projects in Haiti and Jamaica.

“He is also someone that gives back, mentoring apprentices of our Next Generation or through Habitat for Humanity in place like Haiti and in Memphis and building a school in his home country of Jamaica with the team of Helping Hands Jamaica and Food for the Poor,” Yorke said of the father of five young adults.

Campbell’s journey to the presidency reflects commitment, sacrifice, and perseverance, and he is determined to continue advancing the union’s mission.

“I am committed to the philosophy of paying forward the blessings I received from God,” Campbell told The Gleaner.

“My legacy is to ensure these blessing benefit the community and the next generation.”

Dr Sylvanus Thompson, Global Jamaica Diaspora council member and former Jamaican Canadian Association’s vice president describes Campbell as a game changer who has made history in Canadian society.

“In breaking barriers and building a future where every craftsman’s voice is heard, the appointment of Chris Campbell as the first black president of the Carpenters Union is a historic step towards equality and strength in unity. This moment celebrates not just a leader within the Carpenters Union, but a trailblazer who embodies the spirit of progress and inclusion in the broader community,” Thompson said.

He said Campbell’s “contribution to the Jamaica Canadian Association and other community organisations is well documented and we look forward to an even greater collaboration.”

Campbell is slated as keynote speaker for the upcoming Jamaica Independence Gala to be held at the Jamaican Canadian Centre, August 10.

“Chris’ role as DEI director for the Carpenters is national so the members of Local 27 will be well served and represented in his new role,” said Yorke, who retired from Local 27, relinquishing his position as president of the Local 27 executive board.