A Unifor investigation into a complaint against Local 222 Financial Secretary, Rob Romano has determined that Romano “engaged in harassment and violence. As such, the complaint is substantiated.”

When this incident occurred on April 7, 2022 word spread rapidly that a retiree had been punched in the chest at a union meeting by the Local’s Financial Secretary. Many members were shocked. However, the administration of the Local denied the story and tried to vilify the victim instead. Their insistence that Rob Romano had been found innocent created uncertainty amongst the membership. However, now that Unifor’s investigation has finally been completed, the truth can be told – Rob Romano did disrupt a union meeting and did indeed push and punch a retired member.

The retiree, Tony Leah, filed a complaint under the Unifor Harassment Policy right after the incident happened, as well as submitting a complaint to the Durham Region Police Service. After investigation, the Durham police arrested Romano and charged him with the criminal offense of assault, however the charge was later withdrawn before trial by the Deputy Crown Attorney. Meanwhile, Unifor assigned the complaint to a human rights Investigator. The report of the Investigator is damning in it’s assessment of Romano’s behaviour.

The incident occurred at a Local 222 general membership meeting on April 7, 2022. Although there was no quorum for a regular meeting, an orderly information meeting was taking place, as is provided for in the Local By-Laws. The Local President gave a report, and was taking questions. Apparently, Romano was determined to prevent the meeting from continuing, and was prepared to go to any lengths to disrupt it. This is how the Investigator’s report describes what happened next, referring to Rob Romano as “the Respondent” and Tony Leah as “the Complainant”:

The evidence supports that the Respondent engaged in violence while at a Unifor Local 222 union meeting on April 7, 2022. The Respondent quickly and aggressively walked over to the microphone where a member was speaking and yelled about there being no quorum and no meeting. The Respondent grabbed the microphone from the stand and subsequently first pushed the Complainant and, more likely than not, punched the Complainant in the chest as he exited the hall. These incidents reasonably represent acts of violence.

The report also has some criticism directed towards the Complainant, Tony Leah, who confronted Romano “while urging him to return the microphone so the member could finish speaking.” Nevertheless, the report states that Leah’s action “does not justify being subsequently pushed or punched by the Respondent.”

The conclusion of the report is clear:

In conclusion, the findings support that the Respondent engaged in behaviours that are tantamount to harassment and violence. This represents a violation of the Unifor Harassment Policy and Unifor Harassment Policy for Union Events.

All Local 222 members should be concerned that an elected official of the Local tried to prevent an orderly meeting from continuing, and tried to prevent the sister who was speaking from being heard. This was an outrageous attempt to prevent free speech and interfere with the union membership’s right to hear information, discuss issues, and hold the leadership to account.

The Local 222 membership should have a right to know what happened, and what were the results of the investigation. This is completely consistent with the commitment to “accountability and transparency” in the Unifor Constitution.

Read the full 4-page report and recommendations at this link.

Romano Was Paid $9040 of Union Funds

After the assault charge against Romano was withdrawn, the Local President, Jeff Gray, took the unprecedented step of asking the Local Executive Board and the Local Retired Workers Chapter to reimburse Romano for his legal bills. This was done even though it was known that the incident was still under investigation by the national union. Gray claimed that Romano had been found “innocent”, but of course the assault charge was never heard in court, so he was never found either innocent or guilty of the that charge. But his behaviour at the meeting was investigated by Unifor, and we now know that the Unifor investigation DID find that he had “engaged in harassment and violence” against a retired member. Nevertheless, the Local President’s supporters on the Local Executive Board voted (although not unanimously) to give Romano $4520 from Local Union Funds. Gray also spoke at a Retired Workers Chapter meeting to urge that the Retirees’ funds be used to reimburse Romano for the other half of his legal bill. Unsurprisingly, there was a large turnout at that Retiree Chapter meeting of supporters of Romano and Jeff Gray, and they narrowly passed the motion.

On February 5, 2024 the Retired Workers Chapter was informed of the results of the Unifor Investigation Report and the findings of Romano’s violations of Unifor’s Harassment Policy. There was vigorous discussion of the issue, and Brother Chris White made the following motion:

I move that the following letter be sent to Rob Romano:

Brother Romano,

On December 5, 2022 a motion was passed at the Retired Workers Chapter meeting to pay half of your legal bill, because it was claimed that you had been found “innocent” of assaulting a retired member.

The National Union has now concluded an extensive and lengthy investigation into charges of violence you committed at the Unifor Local 222 General Membership Meeting on April 7, 2022.

The findings of the Unifor investigation “support that the Respondent [you] engaged in behaviours that are tantamount to harassment and violence. This represents a violation of the Unifor Harassment Policy and Unifor Harassment Policy for Union Events.”

We therefore request that all monies ($4,520) paid to you by Local 222 Retirees Chapter be returned in a timely manner.

There seemed to be support for this motion, but Les MacDonald acted to prevent the members present from making the decision. He made a motion of referral to the Retiree Chapter Executive Board. When Brother MacDonald’s motion was passed it meant that the membership at that meeting could no longer vote on sending the letter. It will now be up to the Retiree Executive to decide on whether or not to support sending a letter to Romano asking him to return the Chapter’s money.

If you have an opinion on whether or not Romano should repay the retirees – please contact any member of the Retiree’s Executive before their meeting on Monday, February 26 to let them know what you would like them to do.

Here are the current members of the Local 222 Retired Workers Chapter Executive: Lyle Hargrove, Doug Sanders, Les MacDonald, Deb Korson, Mike Saunders, Chris White, Lance Livingstone, Don Revoy, Paul Herrington.