The Ontario chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) hosted its 20th annual awards dinner and fundraiser recently in Toronto, with Chris Campbell of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and Ivan Dawns of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) among the award recipients.
"It's a significant award for me because it is from my fellow trade unionists," says Campbell, winner of the Jack White Community Service Award.
Campbell, who got his start in the carpentry trade as a first-year apprentice with Carpenters' Local 27 in 1989, calls it "a humbling" award.
"It is special to be recognized after almost two decades of giving back to the community through volunteerism," he says.
Campbell's volunteer experience includes helping build the Breakfast Club's float for Toronto's annual Caribana parade and he has been an auxiliary officer with the Toronto Police Service.
He also built houses with other carpenters from Local 27 for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and volunteered again for similar work with Habitat for Humanity for Haiti's earthquake victims.
Another recipient of the Jack White award, Dawns, business representative at IUPAT Local 1891, has been assisting at-risk youth for years through a number of initiatives, helping guide many into pre-apprenticeship in the drywall finishing and painting trades.
"With young people who do not choose to go to college, I try to show them there is a good job out there with a high paying wage with benefits in this field," says Dawns, a drywall taper by trade.
Dawns, who also sponsors the under-14 team of the Unionville Soccer Club, says he was surprised to be named an award recipient.
"I do this work because I want to give back to the community," he says.
For both recipients, the award is reinforcement that their roles in the community are recognized.
"When I speak to these kids, many of whom are at-risk, if I get one into the trade at least I have saved one life," says Dawns.
Mike Yorke, president of Carpenters' Local 27, says both the carpenters and painters district councils "are proud" of the two men's work in the community.
"This is a way that our organizations provide leadership in the community," says Yorke. "We give back and we want to make sure young people learn about the trades and have opportunity in the trades for those that have lived the working life."
Among the CBTU's objectives are to improve economic development and job opportunities for workers of African descent. The organization includes members from international and national unions mostly from Ontario but also Quebec and other provinces.
Yolanda McClean, president of the CBTU, says Dawns and Campbell were among 13 award recipients at this year's awards night.
The two men are good examples of what the CBTU aims to be all about, she says.
"They know they are in an organization that believes in doing good work... in helping black workers across the country. It's been 20 years of building this organization," she adds.