A Brief History of The ATU Can-Am Conference 

The Eastern Canadian Joint Conference – The Forerunner of the Can-Am 

The formulation of the Can-Am Conference was preceded by the Eastern Canadian Joint Council (ECJC), which included all locals in Ontario primarily, east to Halifax and St. John's as well as Local 1505 in Winnipeg. Starting in 1971, it was a two-day conference with a moderate agenda, with reports from participating Locals.  In and around 1991, it was decided that the ECJC had outlived its usefulness and was dissolved. 

Between 1992 and 1994, Local 113 Toronto was instrumental in formulating a plan to develop an eastern seaboard conference on a large scale. About 12 Locals participated in these early planning meetings.  Thus, the Can-Am Conference was initiated. The first gathering was held in 1994 at The Hilton in Downtown Toronto, although there was no name given to it, until the next conference which was held in Boston in 1995. The ATU Northeast Conference Board was officially renamed the ATU Can-Am Conference Board at the first organized conference held in Braintree, Massachusetts on May 6, 1995.  

First Can-Am Conference Board 

 The first Chairman of the Can-Am was Art Patrick, PBA of Local 113, and the first Secretary-Treasurer was Paul McLaughlin, Local 113. Other members of the Executive Board included Charles B. Johnson (Local 1400, Greyhound) and Simon Clarke (PBA, Local 1587, Toronto). These four individuals met in Atlantic City to formulate the first set of bylaws which were drawn from several other ATU conference bylaws. 

In 1995, at the first official conference in Braintree, Massachusetts, Les Moore, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 113 was elected Treasurer of the newly named ‘Can-Am Conference’. A position which he held until his retirement in January 2010.  Officers elected at this conference included: President Vito Forlenza (New Jersey State Council); Vice-President Simon Clarke (Local 1587, Toronto) and Recording Secretary Bob Gosnell (Local 589, Boston Carmen’s Union). 

Impact of the Can-Am 

The Can-Am Conference is dedicated to conducting an annual three-day education workshop on issues which effect ATU members in both Canada and the United States.  Due to its increasing relevance, the conference has now expanded to a four-day conference.   

The Conference location alternated from year to year between the United States and Canada.   

The Can-Am has always had a dynamic agenda and is well attended. Over 150 delegates from across Canada and the United States attend the conference every year. The majority of the earlier agendas and guest speakers were at the initiative of Les Moore (Secretary Treasurer, Local 113), Simon Clarke (President Business Agent Local 1587) and Brendan Morgan (Local 113, Legal Counsel) 

Over the first 25 years, the Can-Am has had over 100 guest speakers from both Labor and Management representatives.  The Can-Am Board recognizes, with gratitude, ALL presenters for their contributions that helped shape the ATU Can-Am Conference into what it is today.  

The conference has dealt with issues and initiatives that affect all ATU locals, including Health and Safety, WSIB (Canada), Contracting OUT and Contracting IN, Public-Private Partnerships, Privatization, Right to Work Legislation, Member against Member, Member against the Union, Public Speaking and communicating with the press, members of the public and rank and file members, Pension issues, Medical Benefits, Contract Strategy and Contract Costing. 

ATU Can Am Conference Board 1994Seated left to right:  Financial Secretary Antonio Iacozza, 107 Hamilton; Financial Secretary Frank Falzone, 282 Rochester, New York; President Art Patrick, 113 Toronto, Ontario; President Gary Rauen, 1145 Binghampton, New York; State Business Agent & Chairman Vito Forlenza, New Jersey, New Jersey State Council; 

Standing left to right: Executive Board Member Charles B. Johnson, 1415 Toronto, Ontario; 

Can-Am's Executive Board Members 1995

Bob Gosnell, ATU Local 589 Boston Massachusetts; Secretary-Treasurer Paul McLauglin, ATU Local 113 Toronto, Ontario; Financial Secretary Luther Howard Jr., ATU Local 26 Detroit, Michigan; President Randy Graham, ATU Local 279 Ottawa, Ontario; President Simon Clarke, ATU Local 1587 Toronto, Ontario; President Larry Hanley, ATU Local 726 Staten Island, New York and President Elizabeth Jones, ATU Local 1602 St. Catharines, Ontario 


Keynote Speakers have included: 

  • Professor Elaine Bernard - Elaine Bernard is Executive Director at the Labor and Work Life program at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Trade Union Program. lifelong union member and activist, Elaine has brought a refreshing balance of humor and passion for workers rights to her talks and teachings. (Publications: The War on Unions and the Public Sector. Lighting Fires and Putting Them Out. Creating a Union Organizing Culture. Why Unions Matter to Everyone. Labor as a Political Force. Public Sector Workers and the Creation of Public Values.)
  • David L Gunn - Mr. Gunn served as President of Washington D.C. TransitPresident of New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority Head of MBTA Boston and Chief General Manager Toronto Transit Commission and President and CEO of Amtrak. He was possibly the most experienced, accomplished and nearly-legendary railroad administrator in the USA and Canada.  
  • Simon Dubbins - Brother Dubbins is Director of International and Research for UNITE the Union in the United Kingdom. He coordinates the European and International work of UNITE across all sectors. UNITE membership is 1.4 million across all sectors of the economy, including 100,000 workers in public transportation. 

Other Presenters at ATU Can-Am: 

  • Mark Hamilton and Rob Harrison, INVESCO - Pension Issues 
  • John Barry, MBTA Boston Pension Fund 
  • Brendan Morgan, Arbitrator Toronto and Simon Clarke, Ontario Ministry of Labour, Mediator (Retired). Acted on numerous occasions as panel moderators. 
  • Wayne Samuelsom President Ontario Federation of Labor. 
  • Dave Kilham Ontario Workers Health and Safety Centre 
  • Paul and Lou Raymond – National Group Protection Inc. 
  • Ian Fellows and Simon Blackstone, Labor lawyers (Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson LLP), representing ATU Local 113 Toronto, Local 1587 Toronto (Go Transit) 

Article Contributors 

Paul McLaughlin, Member, Can-Am Conference Board (1994)  

Les Moore, Secretary Treasurer, Can-Am Conference Board (1995-2009); Secretary-Treasurer ATU Local 113 (1989-1991; 1995-2009)