June 2022 marked the return of Nickel Days and the National King Miner mining skills contest in Thompson, Man., after two years’ pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-day Nickel Days celebration showcases the mining industry, brings the community together and draws attendees from across the country to the northern-Manitoba city.
USW Local 6166 hosts the annual King Miner Competition, where contestants compete in 11 above-ground timed skilled elements: pipe-fitting, log sawing, ladder climbing, jack leg, stoper drilling, bolting, hand mucking, nail driving, hose mending, steel packing and crib building. The competition is open to anyone – women or men; experienced or not.
The local employer, Vale, provides the equipment and community members act as judges.
This was the 49th edition of Nickel Days; while the King Miner contest formed part of USW Local 6166’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
Local 6166 applied for and was granted project funding through the USW Family and Community Education Fund (FCEF). The King Miner contest combines public education and interaction with the wider community while promoting union values.
“The retirees are the heroes for the day,” said USW Local 6166 President Warren Luky. “Retirees come back to Thompson to demonstrate what mining is like.”
Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 3-66 member volunteers staffed a booth at the weekend fair that told the story of the local’s collective bargaining gains over the years.
The SOAR ambassadors were able to share the local’s history with members from the past and public of the present at the USW 6166 history story display.
The weekend’s festivities of family fun also included a parade featuring Honorary King Miner Wes Haney and Honorary Driller Tom Flett, retired members who were recognized by USW 6166 on behalf of current and past members.
“USW Local 6166 is proud to have been a contributor to the FCEF since the fund’s inception,” Luky said.
With 555 members, the amalgamated local represents workers at diverse workplaces, from underground mine workers at Vale, GDI cleaners, Garda security guards and Calm-Air cargo handlers.
The FCEF funding went towards producing merchandise such as t-shirts and hats for contestants and judges, giveaways for children, competitor plaques, hiring a photographer for the event and covering the production costs for print materials.
USW Local 6166’s front-and-centre participation in Nickel Days showcases the union’s legacy and pride in community involvement over 60 years.
“There is a huge flow of people entering the Nickel Days fairgrounds and all of them have to pass through our gauntlet of union-powered fun!,” said Luky.
Learn more about the USW Family and Community Education Fund
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