The scene at Eireann Quay over the last month or so - signs, banners, lots of chanting, even more shouting - has deviated little from your textbook picket line. It's the location that sets in apart.
The in-your-face visibility is ideal: the access route to and from Billy Bishop Airport can be an urban chokepoint even when there isn't a protest swarming the asphalt.
If publicity is the goal of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union's (COPE) strike action against Porter Airlines, now in its eighth week, the captive - if grumbly - audience of residents provided by the area's slapdash urban engineering can't hurt either.
But serving the union's message best may be the chest-rattling drone of departing turboprops, the waft of diesel on the air, the biting wind and, all around, the presence of heavy machinery as the tunnel takes shape.
Ground crew workers from Porter FBO - an operation separate from the airline itself - first unionized back in August, forming COPE Local 343, and are now trying to get a first contract. According to organizers, it was concerns about unsafe work conditions, improper protective gear and unfair wages that spurred unionization.
"Before organizing," union rep Mary Stalteri told NOW, "the workers tried to get management to deal with the health and safety violations." In the spring of 2012, she said, a letter went out to senior Porter management outlining a litany of grievances including dangers to workers on overnight shifts, chemical storage and fuel maintenance.
"Nothing came of that except a meeting and some unfulfilled promises," Stalteri recalls.
The union points, for example, to refuelling safety problems, the worst allegedly happening on or around September 19, 2012, when a fuel spill described as exceeding 5 litres coated the apron (where planes are parked and fuelled) at Billy Bishop.
In materials provided to NOW, the union contends that "sand absorbent was used to absorb the spill" before being tossed into the trash, and that "smaller spills have been absorbed and shovelled into a snowbank."
And, of course, there's the bottom line. Stalteri says these crews, gassing up 70-seat airliners in sub-zero weather, are paid little more than $13 an hour - a pay scale Porter describes as subject to seniority. The poorly trained replacement workers currently working long hours, says Stalteri, are "a danger to themselves and the travelling public."
From Porter's end, of course, things look quite different. "The only health and safety issues discussed at the bargaining table were resolved months ago, before the strike started," says Brad Cicero, the company's director of communications.
Further, he maintains that "there was no documented spill on September 19, 2012, which leads us to believe that the union's information is purposely altered." He adds that reporting to the Ministry of the Environment is not required in the case of certain kinds of spills if proper protocol is followed.
"The union," he says, "has made inconsistent, misleading and false statements related to health, safety and compensation." As to charges that inexperienced hands are maintaining planes, Cicero says, "Flights are operating safely and on time, and fully trained and certified staff are safely serving in these roles."
As much as the 2013 strike has been a tug-of-war between a relatively new airline and a newer union, it's also been something of a rallying point for many in the waterfront community opposed to Porter's presence since it became an entity in 2006.
Many of those colourful, Occupy-esque pro-union rallies snarling the access points to Billy Bishop have come into being thanks to the efforts of CommunityAIR, a local residents' association opposed to the airport. To activists like Brian Iler, the strike doesn't simply reflect the divisions at Porter's front line of operations.
The issues raised by workers are compounded by the conviction that Porter - along with other Island-based airlines, the Toronto Port Authority and even the airport itself - operates at the expense of waterfront residents.
"Our support comes from a common sense of being aggrieved by the Toronto Port Authority and Porter," Iler says.