Spirit, Strength and Solidarity
honouring our Labour community

Meet the unsung heroes who inspired and mobilized change in the region in 2023

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Labour Appreciation Awards!

This group of Labour activists, achievers and allies went above and beyond in 2023 to make this a better community.

They were celebrated at a May 28 awards reception, hosted by United Way Elgin Middlesex and Labour United, at the Elgin County Railway Museum. (Read a news story about the event.)

This year’s winners are:

Jim Wilkes, Images of Hope, Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Jim Wilkes

Images of Hope, Lifetime Achievement Award

Jim has always shown his support and love for his community – whether through rallies, lobbying, volunteering or advocating. Before his retirement in 2023, Jim had been an active member of Unifor Local 27 for many years, including as the Local’s Financial Secretary for two decades. He has stepped up to support countless initiatives over the years, including Action Centres, growing a “stashe” for Movember, raising money for women’s shelters and the food bank, and always saying yes to sponsorship requests. Jim secured funding for the Oneida Imagine Build program and volunteered his time and talent to help build homes for this project, as well as several others for Habitat for Humanity. With similar community goals, the Jim’s work and United Way’s intersected throughout the years, including his valued time supporting London For All. Back in 2016, Jim participated in our Sleepless in Our City initiative and we quoted Jim as saying “everyone working age has the right to a good job and benefits”, and that he was fighting for “folks in our community [who] don’t always have a choice where to spend the night”. Jim has a long history of supporting our local community, and the Labour community as a whole, and we are thrilled to recognize a lifetime of impactful contributions. Jim, this community is a better place because of your Solidarity. Thank you and congratulations, Jim Wilkes! 

Unifor Local 27 Unit #53 – Cooper Standard, ChangeMaker Award Recipient

Unifor Local 27

Unit #53 – Cooper Standard
ChangeMaker Award Recipient

The Unifor Local 27 Unit 53 team at Cooper Standard Glencoe have been supporting their community through United Way for over two decadesAnd even before this, they showed their local love at ITT. They worked together to build a culture of giving back because they knew that it was the right thing to doWhether it was sleeping in their car to bring awareness to homelessness… flipping burgers at a BBQ to raise funds for their community… or rolling up their sleeves at a Day of Caring event… they’ve been there, bringing positive change close to home. As you may know, Cooper Standard Glencoe closed its doors in January of this year. But the Labour community will never forget the lasting impact this team had on our local community. Congratulations, Cooper Standard and Unifor Local 27 Unit 53! 

Greg Bierbaum, LiUNA Local 1059, Old Oak Properties, Jim MacKinnon Community Builder Award winner, selected by LiUNA Local 1059. Accepted by Mike Bierbaum, Greg's son

Award accepted by Greg’s son Mike.

Greg Bierbaum

LiUNA Local 1059, Old Oak Properties
Jim MacKinnon Community Builder Award, selected by LiUNA Local 1059

Greg was an inspiring leader and advocate, who went out of his way to create a community that was a place of opportunity and hope for everyone. Greg made it abundantly clear that he valued and respected his workforce, and that he understood their importance in Old Oaks’ success. He employed directly unionized construction workers, subcontracted construction work to a number of building trades unions, and employed union security guards. Greg inspired others with his unwavering dedication, drive, passion, and persistence. United Way is humbled to have had a relationship with Greg that spanned more than 20 years, including when he stepped up (more than ever) during the pandemic, in our community’s time of need. When gathering tributes for this bio, it became clear that Greg will be remembered most for two things: his vision and bringing people together. We are grateful for Greg’s impactful contributions to our local community, and to our Labour community.

Tischa Forster, OPSEU Local 133, Labour Appreciation Award winner

Tischa Forster

OPSEU Local 133
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Tischa is President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 133 and works for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Tischa has been a steadfast activist, serving for nearly a decade on the union’s provincial mental health and addictions committee. She is a tireless advocate for the individuals she supports and the hundreds of members she leads in Local 133. Tisha works long days supporting her clients during the workday, before answering calls and texts from members of Local 133 at night. Despite working all those hours, she patiently takes the time to teach and inspire members of her own local to be future leaders and activists. Tischa, thank you for you hard work and dedication to our local community, and our Labour community. Congratulations again, Tischa!

Sharon Stanley, CUPE Local 101, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Sharon Stanley

CUPE Local 101
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Sharon is a member of CUPE Local 101 and works for the Local Health Integration Network. Sharon works tirelessly on multiple councils and committees fighting for change and advocating for under-represented and racialized groups. She has been a social justice warrior for over 10 years, the last 6 on the Ontario National Racial Justice Committee, supporting countless initiatives including intersectionality for People with Disability, increasing social assistance rates, and speaking to government leaders regarding systemic racism. Sharon is an inspiring union representative and active, and her time is continually spent trying to better our community and the world – for everyone. Congratulations, Sharon!

Jose Blanco, LiUNA Local 1059, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Jose Blanco

LiUNA Local 1059
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Jose is a member of LiUNA Local 1059 and works for GDI Facility Services. Jose endeavors tirelessly to ensure workers have the protections they are entitled to, as well as advocating for new laws and protections for workers in the Labour community. Jose is well known for making the extra effort to ensure newcomers are connected to programs and services, so they feel – and know – that they are a part of this community. Jose works more than one job, but he still volunteers as a Steward to make sure everyone has protection, and volunteers his time to support folks coming into the country, to make certain they have the support they need. It’s no wonder Jose has a glowing reputation amongst his team and the Labour community, and we’re honoured to recognize his contributions tonight. Congratulations, Jose! 

Amelia Ertel, OPSEU Local 109, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Amelia Ertel

OPSEU Local 109
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Amelia is a member of OPSEU Local 109 and works for Fanshawe College. Amelia has an unwavering commitment to community and dedication to social justice issues. She is also a multi-term and current Steward. Amelia dedicates countless hours of her time to children in the community through Big Brothers Big Sisters, providing mentorship to young girls. This year marks a decade of Amelia’s steadfast support of United Way, and we could not be more grateful. She remained dedicated, including over those tough COVID years, including the workplace campaign coordinator role, and she’s a familiar face at United Way events. Amelia’s activity and advocacy, both within and outside the union are the definition of solidarity. Congratulations, Amelia! 

Connor Pierotti, OSSTF District 11, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Connor Pierotti

OSSTF District 11
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Connor is a member of OSSTF District 11 and works as an occasional teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board. Connor attended the OFL Conference in November of 2023 as a Young Worker Delegate for OSSTF.  He was selected to attend from OSSTF Provincial which in and of itself, is an amazing recognition of his commitment to the broader labour movement and social justice issues. He also attended the CLC conference last year as part of the OSSTF delegation. Connor has been active with OSSTF District 11’s Political Action Committee where political and social justice issues are discussed regularly. Connor is the Sergeant-at-Arms for the London & District Labour Council and is on the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Executive Board as Vice-President for Youth Workers. Connor is the Vice President of the NDP London North Centre Provincial Riding Association and the President of the NDP London North Centre Federal Riding Association.  Congratulations, Connor! 

Sarah Wells, OPSEU Local 109, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Sarah Wells

OPSEU Local 109
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Sarah is a member of OPSEU Local 109 and works for Fanshawe College. She embodies the essence of compassion through her unwavering dedication to social causes, and consistently extends her support to initiatives aimed at uplifting marginalized communities. Sarah’s relentless commitment to serving those in need reflects her profound belief in the importance of fostering a more just and fair society that promotes the well-being of everyone. Sarah’s relationship with United Way stretches more than a decade, and includes starting her valuable contributions as a workplace campaign volunteer back in 2016. One of her most defining characteristics is her philanthropic nature and Sarah has helped the College raise over $1.5 million dollars since 2015. Congratulations, Sarah! 

Darryl Bedford, OPSEU Local 110, Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Darryl Bedford

OPSEU Local 110
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Darryl is a member of OPSEU Local 110 and works for Fanshawe College. Darryl’s advocacy for social justice is a backbone to the London and District Labour Council. He is a proud union member who works hard to make change through education and being an active voice in bargaining to ensure all members are represented and heard. Darryl works hard in all facets of the Labour world while being an incredible example in his workplace, and never seems to rest when he feels work can be done to better the community. United Way is incredibly grateful for the relationship we have had with Darryl for more than 20 years, and we’re honoured to recognize him today. Congratulations, Darryl! 

Frank Carreiro, Unifor Local 27, Labour Appreciation Award Winner. Award accepted on his behalf by his family: wife Sue Carreiro, son Josh and daughter Justyne

Award accepted for Frank by his family. Wife Sue Carreiro, son Josh and daughter Justyne.

Frank Carreiro

Unifor Local 27
Labour Appreciation Award Winner

Frank was a leader who believed in social justice, equality – and in Solidarity. He was a Union activist for his entire career, first at Siemens with Unifor Local 27, and then at LiUNA Local 1059 where he served as Steward for many years. Frank truly believed that everyone mattered, and he helped so many fully participate in the community. Before he passed away earlier this year, Frank was a housekeeper at University Hospital — part of a Sodexo Canada team helping that vital institution run smoothly. Frank will be remembered as a loud and proud Union advocate, working hard to ensure the most precarious of workers received equal treatment.

Together, we improve lives locally.

Dakota Halfpenny2023 Labour Appreciation Award Winners