Labourers’ International Union of North America Local 183
Born in Murtosa.
Based in Toronto.
These are immigrants who make a life here but then invest in Portugal… We came here but our Portugal is always with us – Jack Oliveira.
Jack Oliveira is the Business Manager of the Labourers’ International Union of North America’s Local 183, the largest construction union in the continent, and the Ontario Provincial District Council. Born in Murtosa, Jack and his parents were among the 33,000 undocumented immigrants who benefitted from the 1973 amnesty. With LIUNA, he has championed multiple Portuguese-Canadian initiatives and has advocated advocate for regularizing non-status immigrant construction workers and their families.
Jack Oliveira was born in Murtosa, a fishing town in the northern mainland of Portugal from where many cod fishermen of the White Fleet came. In the 1960s, his parents immigrated to Toronto without landed status and left him, the youngest child, with his grandparents in Portugal. In 1972, Jack joined his parents as an undocumented migrant. The following year, he and his parents benefited from the federal Adjustment Status Program, introduced by the government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, which granted up to 39,000 undocumented migrants (many of them Portuguese) sixty days to regularize their status in Canada.
Jack’s father was a construction worker and a Labourers’ International Union of North America’s (LIUNA) Local 183 member. At age 24, Jack followed in his father’s steps and started working as a labourer in the roads and bridge building sector, where he later became a foreman. In 1998, he was hired as an organizer by Local 183 – then led by the Portuguese immigrant Antonio Dionisio – where the Portuguese had become the largest ethnic group in this predominantly immigrant union. In 2011, Jack was elected Business Manager of what was by then the largest construction union local in North America. During his leadership, the union has continued to grow in membership (over 66,000 members in 2023), benefits, social services, facilities, training programs, and political clout. Jack is also the Business Manager of the LIUNA District Council, representing ten locals in Ontario.
While not a Portuguese-Canadian organization, Local 183 has been one of the most important entities in Toronto’s community, given the large number of Portuguese immigrants and descendants that make up its membership. Besides playing an essential role in providing employment, good wages, benefits, pensions, social services, and training – most of it available in Portuguese – Local 183 has also been a regular sponsor of a wide variety of Portuguese-Canadian initiatives, including the Portugal Day parade, the Luso Canadian Charitable Society, the Magellan Community Foundation, and many others – including this exhibition. Its union hall in North York, with a capacity for 12,000 people, has also hosted many Portuguese community events. Local 183 has also been an influential political force, whose endorsement has been actively sought by municipal, provincial, and federal candidates, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford, Mayor John Tory, and Portuguese-Canadian politicians like Ana Bailão, Peter Fonseca, or Charles Sousa. With Jack Oliveira at the helm, LIUNA has also advocated for the regularization of undocumented immigrants working in the construction industry – many of them from Portugal – where there has been a chronic labour supply shortage.
Jack’s and LIUNA’s relationship with the Portuguese diaspora Canada was furthered by its collaboration protocol with the Portuguese union federation União Geral os Trabalhadores signed in Lisbon in 2017. That same year, Jack received an honorific medal from the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, at the Belém Palace in Lisbon.
Hora dos Portugueses