Our History | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Our History

While trade unions have existed in Ontario since at least 1834, the concept of a central labour body in this province is a relatively new one. Until 1944, Ontario had no provincial federation of labour.

The Trades and Labour Congress, the major national labour body in Canada until 1940, did not charter provincial federations. Instead, its annual conventions elected provincial executive groups with nominal responsibilities to represent the TLC at the provincial level.

The movement to establish provincial labour bodies came when the Canadian Labour Congress was formed in 1940. The CCL came from a merger between the nationalistic All-Canadian Congress of Labour (ACCL) and Canadian CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) unions which had been expelled from the Trades and Labour Congress.

The CCL established the Ontario Federation of Labour at an April, 1944 convention. Elroy Robson of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees and Other Transport Workers (now part of the Canadian Auto Workers) was elected President. William Sefton of the United Steelworkers of America became the Federation’s first Secretary-Treasurer.

The creation of the OFL led the rival TLC to reconsider its position on provincial labour bodies, and the Ontario Provincial Federation of Labour was established in January, 1957. In contrast to the OFL, however, the OPFL had no full-time paid officers or staff.

Divisions between the TLC and CCL at the national level precluded effective co-operation between the OPFL and OFL. In the immediate post-war years, political action was a particularly divisive issue. The CCL and OFL in 1943 endorsed the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the New Democratic Party) as labour’s political arm. The TLC and OPFL had strong minority support for the CCF but never officially endorsed the party.

The TLC and CCL merged in 1956 into the Canadian Labour Congress, paving the way for a union of the two Ontario labour centrals. Merger terms were agreed upon on January 16, 1957. A one-day convention of each federation preceded a unity convention in Toronto, March 27-29, 1957.

OFL Secretary-Treasurer Cleve Kidd was elected President, and OPFL’s Douglas Hamilton, Secretary-Treasurer. The new organization retained the name of this province’s first labour central, the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Since, then the OFL has continued to grow to meet the demands of an energetic and expanding unionized workforce. Today, the Federation speaks for over one million organized Ontario workers and provides its affiliated labour councils and local unions with services in the fields of communications, education, research, legislative and political action, human rights, health and safety, workers’ compensation and basic education skills.

The OFL regularly makes presentations and submissions to the provincial government. It provides internal education and mounts public campaigns to achieve labour’s objectives.

Policy conventions are held every two years. The Federation’s Executive Board is elected every two years and is the OFL’s governing body between conventions. The board consists of a full-time President, Secretary-Treasurer, Executive Vice-President and 33 vice-presidents representing a cross section of affiliates. Officers and Federation staff sit with affiliate nominees on a number of standing committees in several policy areas.

The OFL Executive Council is made up of the Executive Board and one delegate from each of Ontario’s 45 labour councils.

Below is a list of all of the officers of the OFL since its inception:


Cleve Kidd
1957 – 1958

David Archer
1958 – 1976

Cliff Pilkey
1976 – 1986

Gord Wilson
1986 – 1997

Wayne Samuelson
1997 – 2009

Sid Ryan
2009 – 2015

Chris Buckley
2015 – 2019

Patty Coates
2019 – 2023

Laura Walton
2023 – Present

Secretary Treasurer

Douglas Hamilton
1957 – 1970

Terry Meagher
1970 – 1984

Sean O’Flynn
1986 – 1988

Wally Majesky
1984 – 1986

Julie Davis
1988 – 1995

Ethel Birkett-LaValley
1995 – 2005

Irene Harris
2005 – 2009

Marie Kelly
2009 – 2011

Nancy Hutchison
2012 – 2015

Patty Coates
2015 – 2019

Ahmad Gaied
2019 – Present

Executive Vice-President

Julie Davis
1986 – 1988

Ken Signoretti
1988 – 1997

Irene Harris
1997 – 2005

Terry Downey
2005 – 2011

Irwin Nanda
2012 – 2015

Ahmad Gaied
2015 – 2019

Janice Folk-Dawson
2019 – 2023

Jackie Taylor
2023 – Present