About

A source of independent advice you can trust and skilled advocacy you can count on.

UPFH has always been and remains a firm of union-side labour lawyers committed to helping working people meet the mounting challenges to justice in and out of the workplace.

Created in our present form in 2012, we trace our roots back to the first union-side labour law firms founded in 1960s Ontario. With our history comes unique insights and capabilities. From advising strategically on negotiations and contracts to advocating effectively before panels, boards, commissions and courts at all levels, we bring exceptional experience and expertise to meeting the complete needs of trade unions across all sectors.

Did You Know?

The artwork on our website and our lawyer portraits are the work of Vincenzo Pietropaolo, one of Canada’s pre-eminent documentary photographers. Vince has published over a dozen books, including Celebration of Resistance (Between the Lines, 1999), Canadians at Work (Canadian Auto Workers, 2000) and Harvest Pilgrims (Between the Lines, 2009), focused on workers and the labour movement.  His newest retrospective book, Toronto as Community: Fifty Years of Photographs, was published by Cormorant Books in April 2023.

In 2016, Susan Ursel was named to the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Justices. This independent and non-partisan advisory board was created by the Government of Canada to recommend qualified, functionally bilingual candidates who reflect a diversity of backgrounds and experiences for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.

UPFH has successfully defended the interests of employees and retirees in insolvency proceedings.  UPFH obtained protection for Air Canada employees’ pension benefits in 2004, Algoma Steel retirees’ pension and health benefits in 2018, and Sears Canada employee’s termination pay in 2020.

UPFH was at the forefront of Covid-19, litigating some of the first cases addressing whether labour arbitration proceedings could continue to proceed virtually during lockdowns and obtaining key procedural orders to ensure that labour relations were not unnecessarily delayed by the pandemic.

Kristen Allen is a Case Editor for the Education and the Law Journal. She works with the Journal’s academic Editor-in-Chief to coordinate case comments authored by the firm’s lawyers on leading or precedent-setting decision in education law for each edition of the Journal. This role reflects her expansive knowledge of developing areas of education law.

Ian Fellows and Simon Blackstone assisted the Professional Footballers Association Canada  in achieving recognition nation-wide as the exclusive bargaining agent of all players under contract to Canadian Premier League professional soccer teams.

Joanna Birenbaum is a leading litigator in the fight against sexual assault and harassment at post-secondary institutions. She is the co-author of Achieving Fairness: A Guide to Campus Sexual Violence Complaints.

Many of the firm’s lawyers earned competitive judicial clerkships following law school, collectively working closely with judges at all levels of Court, including Kristen Allen, Parmbir Gill, Emily Elder, Naomi Greckol-Herlich and Max Halparin.

Many of our lawyers continue to work towards a strong free legal clinic system for precarious workers. Alec Stromdahl and Parmbir Gill sit on the Board of Directors of the Workers' Health and Safety Legal Clinic and the Parkdale Community Legal Services, respectively.

Susan Ursel was the recipient of the 2019 Law Society of Ontario Medal, which recognized her exceptional achievements in labour and employment law and for championing equality rights for the LGBTQ+ communities, advancing human rights in Canada and abroad.

Joshua Philips is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada in the area of Technical Production. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he ran a murder mystery production company.

UPFH’s criminal lawyers defend individuals accused in all types of prosecutions and have appeared at all levels of Court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

History of Our Firm

Our firm traces its roots back to one of the first union-side labour specialty firm in Ontario.  Through dedication to our clients and to the interests of working people and social justice, we have grown from a small firm with a handful of lawyers to a 45-member team.  We are proud to have created a culture focused on belonging, excellence and a passion for workers’ rights.

Today the Ontario Court of Appeal issued an important decision affirming workers fundamental right to strike. The Court affirmed that legislation banning all strikes by TTC workers was an unconstitutional infringement of workers’ Charter rights. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1T5vHDPJUaT77wKkHRZD94TkZ0uzpODP9/view?usp=sharing