We are Women of Steel
Sisters and Brothers,
The United Steelworkers is proud to represent women from a wide variety of workplaces across Canada. The involvement of women from different communities and sectors has helped in the development of strong policies and programs to challenge harassment, prevent workplace violence, balance work and family responsibilities, and negotiate improvements in workplace health and safety and hours of work.
The Women of Steel Development course has helped many women get active in the union and in the community. In December 1996, the Steelworkers held its first National Women’s Conference. Women celebrated their successes and shared strategies to improve working conditions. Workers are facing increasing difficulties in today’s workplaces and need the benefits of a union now more than ever to improve wages, to protect health and to provide job security.
Women of Steel are making a difference in their workplaces, communities and in the union. We are proud of the gains achieved by Women of Steel, building solidarity with working women and men. Together we will continue this tradition of activism, building a stronger union and improving the lives of working families in our communities.
National Driector for Canada
Women of Steel are building solidarity. Whether it’s accessing resources on the Steelworkers’ website or
through local union events, we’re sharing our experiences, strategies and successes. Women from across the union developed Building Solidarity, a resource for women’s committees, which includes tips on setting up an effective women’s network, a suggested calendar of events and highlights of important bargaining issues.
Women of Steel in Canada are also building solidarity with women around the world. Exchanges with women from Steelworkers Humanity Fund projects are invaluable opportunities to learn and share effective
strategies for change.
One of the most satisfying activities for women of steel is helping unorganized and young women learn about their rights and join the Steelworkers. If a woman can volunteer only a couple of hours to help on an organizing drive it sends an important message to women who may think unions are only about strikes and picket lines.
Taking Home More Than Our Pay Cheques
The average wage for unionized women in Canada in 2002 was $19.61 per hour - that’s $5.53 an hour more than the average wage for non-unionized working women ($14.08). But we take home more than our pay cheques. Negotiating training opportunities, more control over our work, safe working conditions, decent hours of work and job security benefit women at work and at home.
Many women get their first jobs working part-time in the service sector. Steelworkers’ policies on hours of work, challenging workplace harassment, health and safety and pay equity can make a big difference particularly for women who might not know their rights.
Protecting Our Health
Women of Steel concerned about the effects of work on their health and the health of their families have helped in the development and negotiation of policies on harassment, violence prevention and workplace design.
The Steelworkers has a strong policy against harassment in the workplace and in the union. We have our own trained counsellors available to help answer questions and resolve complaints. The Steelworkers has also facilitated anti-harassment training sessions for over 20,000 workers and managers. The United Steelworkers’ Guide to Preventing and Dealing with Harassment includes tips for local union activists to deal with these issues as well as suggested contract language to protect workers from discrimination and harassment.
In 1997, the Steelworkers introduced the United Steelworkers’ Guide to Violence Prevention. The guide includes tips on educating and negotiating measures to prevent and deal with wife assault, child and elder
abuse and violence against visible minority persons, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians.
Making a Difference
Many of us decided to get involved because we wanted to work with others to improve working conditions. Getting involved in the workplace, attending union meetings or volunteering as stewards showed us that there are many different concerns and problems people face.
In one workplace, a lot of people were having difficulty making child care arrangements because they weren’t getting enough notice of their hours. It’s a Balancing Act: A Steelworker Guide to Negotiating Work–Life Responsibilities, helped women at this workplace talk about child care issues and look for a union-assisted solution. Child care issues probably prevented or limited a few people from getting involved in the union’s activities too. Thanks to the organization of women in the workplace and the support of the bargaining committee, they were able to negotiate good contract language on hours of work.
Women of Steel Development Course
In 1990, the Steelworkers introduced the Women of Steel course to encourage the participation of women
in the union. It provides women with an understanding of the structure, history and programs of the union. Women gain confidence and leadership skills as they share stories and develop strategies to support their activities in the union, and in their communities.
Recently held courses for visible minority women have helped build a network of support, critical in helping
many visible minority women get involved as local union instructors, volunteer organizers, unit and local activists.
A Woman's Place is in her Union
The Steelworkers’ Affirmative Action Guide to Local Union Elections encourages women to get active and run for elected office. Women are now active in all positions within units and locals, holding positions from
steward to president. And, women of steel have established unit, local, district and national women’s committees to help raise awareness of issues affecting women and reach out to unorganized women in our
The following resource documents are available from the Steelworkers’ National Office and/or the Steelworkers’ website (usw.ca):
It’s a Balancing Act:
A Steelworker Guide to Negotiating the Balance of Work–Life Responsibilities: includes suggestions and tips
for negotiating and implementing measures in the workplace and the union to help balance, work, family and union responsibilities.
United Steelworkers’ Guide to Preventing and Dealing with Harassment:
Includes definitions of racial and sexual harassment, tips for local union activists handling complaints, and an explanation of procedures to be followed by Steelworkers anti-harassment counsellors.
United Steelworkers’ Guide to Violence Prevention:
Offers suggestions on preventing violence in the workplace and provides tips on how to help persons who are victims of violence. There are also sections on negotiating and implementing anti-violence measures in
collective agreements and in the community.
Affirmative Action Guide to Local Union Elections:
Encourages women, visible minority persons, people with disabilities and aboriginal persons to get involved in the union and seek elected office.
Reference Guide for Local, Regional and District Women’s Committees: ideal for people setting up women’s
committees. Includes suggestions on how to set up a committee, a calendar of activities, collective bargaining issues and success stories.
Women of Steel Resources:
Includes tips on setting up a women’s committee, surfing the internet and creating a list of contacts.
Celebrate our successes. Demand our rights: from coast-to-coast, in every kind of workplace, Women of Steel are organizing and building solidarity.
Steelworkers Equality Agenda:
Describes various union policies to help strengthen and deepen our commitment to equality and broader
Representing workers in every kind of workplace across Canada and continuing a proud tradition of fighting for workplace and community improvements are what the United Steelworkers is all about. The participation of Women of Steel builds solidarity and helps to ensure the Steelworkers is indeed, Everybody’s Union.