More than We Bargained For
An Untold Story of Exploitation, Redemption, and the Men Who Built a Worker’s Empire
by John Stefanini
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 04 Sep 2019 | Archive Date 19 Dec 2019
This is a Horatio Alger story from the other side of the negotiating table.
In 1959, eighteen-year-old John Stefanini left war-shattered Italy for a better life in the new world. With no money and no English, he landed in Toronto’s burgeoning Italian community and found work in the construction industry. Radicalized by the horrific deaths of five Italian workers, he became active in union politics and was jailed for his (non-violent) part in a violent strike. On his release, he began his dramatic rise to become one of the most formidable forces on the Canadian union scene.
With hard work, shrewdness, and strategic vision, Stefanini built the lowly Labourers Local 183 into a union powerhouse, the dominant organization of its kind in North America. He expanded its membership from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and won for his workers a set of benefits that had once seemed impossible.
With good sense and wry humour, Stefanini lays bare the life of a full-time labour organizer. He describes his surprisingly collegial relations with some of the world’s toughest contractors, and details the often bitter and violent conflicts among ethnic groups and rival unions determined to rise at each other’s expense. We meet meddling mobsters and tone-deaf prime ministers. We witness treachery, arson, beatings, shootings, sabotage, police anti-corruption investigations, and all-night, nail-biting, career-defining negotiations.
Above all, we gain – for the first time – an inside look at a brotherhood of workers who deserve as much credit for the building of modern Canada as the celebrated tycoons for whom they toiled.
“More Than We Bargained For is the engrossing, first-person story of a nation-builder you’ve never heard of—an immigrant Italian boy who rose to become one of the most remarkable figures in the Canadian labour movement. John Stefanini’s courage, foresight and tenacity won respect on both sides of the bargaining table. This is an important story, well told.” — MARGARET WENTE , columnist, Globe & Mail
“Read this book if you want to know how the sausage is made. Raids, strikes, backroom deals, political intrigue — it’s all in here. John Stefanini gives an accurate picture of the blood- sport competition between unions, and the real way collective bargaining agreements are reached. It’s eye-opening and at times even disturbing, but definitely a thorough education.” — MARIANNE GARNEAU , publisher of Organizing.work
“Imagine. Barely into his 20s, barely speaking English, barely with a jangle of coins in his pocket. Yet within an eye-blink of his arrival in Canada, union organizer John Stefanini would put many extra dollars in many a working man’s pocket, while forging labour respectability out of the chaos and exploitation of a helter-skelter construction industry. Some are born to make a difference. Stefanini brought savvy and strategy, creating a mus- cular stalwart out of Labourers Local 183, which set historical benchmarks for the hard-toiling blue-collar class, and ultimately beyond. It was no job for the faint of heart. Still isn’t.” — ROSIE DIMANNO , columnist, Toronto Star
“[Stefanini] has now written a book which is historically important, and has valuable lessons for us today...From the Brandon Hall group to the creation of a very successful local of an international union — the story is all here, and it makes for a great read.” — HON. BOB RAE , former Premier of Ontario and MP for Toronto Centre