The outspoken and often controversial young president of the union that represents workers at the Toronto Transit Commission has been re-elected over two rivals by a massive majority.
Bob Kinnear, 36, received 78 per cent of the 5696 votes cast yesterday at 22 polling locations around Toronto, crushing his main opponent, Larry Davis, who received 16 percent, and a third candidate, Leonard Attard, who got six per cent. Fourteen other Local 113 Executive Board members and dozens of shop stewards were also elected in the triennial contest.
I am overwhelmed by this strong show of support from the membership," Kinnear said. "I thank them for their confidence and I pledge to work even harder for them during the next three years."
Kinnear has become the best-known local union leader in Canada's largest city since he was first elected three years ago, coming directly off the shop floor to beat long-time union officer Vince Casuti. Since then, he has been a highly visible public champion of issues his members felt had been neglected by previous administrations such as assaults on operators, the contracting out of maintenance work, the service cutbacks, workplace health and safety, and oppressive managers "who treat skilled and dedicated workers like children.
"Bobby stands up to TTC management like no leader before him and the members love that," said Frank Grimaldi, a Local 113 executive board member, also re-elected.
"Management thought he was a rookie they could push around when he was first elected. They quickly learned that he could push back even harder. They were surprised. Now he has their respect."
Kinnear frequently locked horns with outgoing TTC Chair Howard Moscoe over a host of transit-related issues. The two had a well-reported public shouting match in the closing moments of last year's ATU/TTC contract negotiations and often debated head-to-head on radio, television and at Commission meetings.
Kinnear says he will lay out his plans for the next three years at the first General Membership meeting in the new year.
"Public transit is Toronto's single most important economic and environmental asset," he says. "It deserves more investment and attention from our political leaders at all levels. But most of all, the great people who operate and maintain the system so well deserve more respect and consideration than they now get from TTC management. Whatever else our union plans to do - and we plan to do a lot - that will always be our number one priority.