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Larry Kinnear told his 18-year-old son he didn't want him to work for the Toronto Transit Commission. So Bob Kinnear defied his father -- then a vice-president with the transit union -- and joined the TTC as a janitor.

Sixteen years later, Bob Kinnear is president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and leading his workers into a strike, something his father did more than a decade ago.

The younger Kinnear joined the TTC in 1988. After his start as a janitor, he worked as a collector and then as a bus driver.

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He took any transfer he could because he had his sights set on being a union leader and wanted to know everything about the system, said Bill Reno, union media adviser.

Mr. Kinnear, 34, "leap-frogged" from lower-level union positions to president in late 2003, handily defeating the incumbent, who had been at the helm for six years. He did so without the support of the executive board, Mr. Reno said. Since his election, he has won over the board and has united the local's members, Mr. Reno added.

"They do have different cultures in the union and he managed to bridge these different cultures."

His election intrigued John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, who said he had wanted to meet the man whom he had never heard of before he was swept to power. Mr. Cartwright said that at their first meeting, the young leader articulated members' concerns and was trying to grasp all of his new responsibilities.

But who he is outside the union is difficult to say. Mr. Kinnear doesn't talk much about his private life, Mr. Reno said.

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