Roodney Clarke becomes United Association Local 46’s first black sales representative

Roodney Clarke was elected the first black business representative for AU Local 46.

United Association Local 46 is a Toronto-based union made up of more than 9,668 plumbers, steamfitters and welders.

“What I bring to this role is experience,” Clarke told the Daily Commercial News. “I have been involved in the local for a long time as an officer. I was part of the constitution committee. I was elected to the board of directors. I was the vice-president, then I was the president. I have experience working with members and know what the job entails having been involved in the local for so long.

The vote took place on October 23 and there is a grace period of five working days before the date set for the swearing-in ceremony.

Roodney Clarke

Clarke expects to be sworn in in November.

Clarke came to Canada in 1987 from Trinidad and Tobego with a certificate in plumbing. He started working in the industrial sector on pipelines and in nuclear, oil and gas. He became involved in the union in 1990 and in 1999 became involved in politics.

“When I came to this country, it was a very busy time in the construction business, so it was easy to get into the union as a tradesperson,” Clarke said. “I was appointed to the bylaws committee and from there I carried on.”

Clarke has worked on projects across Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“It’s a great job in the sense that you can travel. You don’t have to stay at one company, you can finish a job and move on to another company and meet new people,” Clarke said. “I was never interested in working for just one company, it was never my thing.”

Clark has worked with Aecon Construction for four years and is currently the general foreman in charge of a crew working on a refurbishment project. He will be leaving Aecon when he begins his new role as sales representative.

“The responsibility of a commercial agent is set forth in our constitution,” Clarke explained. “The role of a commercial agent is to look after our jurisdiction, to look after the individuals at work. You are given an area and all jobs in that area are your responsibility to ensure the collective agreement is adhered to and members are taken care of by contractors.

In his new role, he will work in close collaboration with the union delegates appointed on the sites. He will be on the road most days visiting different sites and talking to members. Local UA 46 has jurisdiction over many sites in Toronto and Barrie.

“The stewards at work will let you know what’s going on and will be your eyes and ears on the job,” Clarke noted.

“It is your responsibility to be in contact with the shop stewards and if something goes wrong, for example they outsource our work to another contractor which is within our purview, it is up to us to go in there and put an end to it.”

In terms of member advice, Clarke said performance is key.

“When you start a job, you work as if you don’t have a job because when the project is over, if the contractor doesn’t have another project, you don’t have a job anymore”, said Clarke.

“We have to perform to be employed. It’s different from a guaranteed job…there are no guarantees. You must do a good job.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

Andrew B. Reiter