NextGen Political Action Training Ready to Lead

USW District 6 held a three-day NextGen Political Action training in Hamilton from Nov. 27-29, 2017. This course offered USW members who are 35 years old and under a chance to learn with their peers and engage in their union.

In an effort to build up our NextGen members, this training’s goal was to create and develop great mobilizers, activists and campaigners – skills that are valuable and easily transferable within the work in their own locals and our union as a whole.

NextGen members from across Ontario and Nova Scotia and from varied sectors participated in the training that saw them turn their lessons in the classroom into immediate action.

On the first day, we discussed the current political landscape and issues affecting young workers, union members and families in Ontario.

Eric Carr, Constituency Assistant to NDP Member of Parliament and former Steelworker Scott Duvall, joined us and spoke to the class about the End Pension Theft campaign. Coupled with legislation, the campaign aims to protect the pensions workers and retirees have earned during their working life, in the event of corporate bankruptcy or restructuring.

Participants then put the knowledge they just learned into practice by going to Hamilton City Hall to meet with City Councillors Matthew Green and Sam Merulla to support this work locally. They made the connection that while this is federal legislation, there are huge local impacts for workers and retirees who lose or face reduced pensions.

The second day, we dove directly into campaign mode and tactics. Participants learned to strategically develop a campaign plan, recruit and train volunteers. These skills are transferable to electoral politics, new member organizing and local union engagement.

Participants then prepared their own canvasses and knocked on doors to collect petition signatures for the End Pension Theft campaign.

The final day saw participants join USW Local 1005 bright and early to plantgate at Stelco for the local’s annual holiday food and toy drive. After the morning shift went in, we moved down the street to picket at Mana, where USW Local 1005 members have been locked out since 2013.

While most NextGen members who participated in the training have never been on strike or locked out, the experience at Mana really opened their eyes to the harsh realities of a company getting away with locking members out of their jobs for years with no indication of a settlement in sight.

This final lesson brought us back to why politics matters to our union and our members. We need to elect representatives who have working people’s best interests at heart, so employers like U.S. Steel or Sears can’t take pensions away from workers and retirees; so employers like Mana can’t continue operating with replacement workers in a lockout or strike – that the company is forced to come back to the table and negotiate.

Where To Next?

For most of the participants, this training marked the very first time that they have participated in any activity with their union. This training demonstrates that USW young workers are interested in their union, in electoral politics, in electing representatives who best represent us and in improving the lives of workers and families.

With the support of USW Directors, NextGen National and District Coordinators will work with the graduates to help recruit other NextGen members and expand this program in all corners of our district.

When we need to lobby an elected official on an issue, count on NextGen to be there. When our fellow members are on the picket line, NextGen will be there. When we need to talk to our neighbours to support our cause, NextGen will be there. When there is an election, NextGen will vote and volunteer on NDP campaigns.


The NextGen political activisim course was incredibly run. The hands-on learning of canvassing and working united will help me grow as a member of the NDP and as a Steelworker. Remember you have power.
John Medeiros
USW Local 862, NextGen Area Representative (Canadian General Tower, Cambridge, Ont.)

The Political Action course was a perfect blend of in-class and real world training. It was obvious that hard work went into preparing this course and the enthusiasm of the instructors was infectious. In the evenings amongst the students, we discussed the impact this course had on us and how we have an obligation as young Steelworkers to get involved and be community leaders. From the people I met in this course, I can say with certainty that our union has a bright future! I hope this course continues in the future to develop and enlighten the bright minds coming up!
David Ligi
USW Local 2020-62, Unit Chair (Northland Power, Kirkland Lake, Ont.)

This course was interactive in the way it was implemented with 'textbook' learning in the morning and executing that in the afternoon whether it be lobbying a city councillor or by canvassing a riding. My highlight of the course was when the 30 of us, young brothers and sisters from all over the district, were standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from USW Local 1005 on the picket line and not letting one scab in without waiting no matter if they were going in the entrance or trying to sneak in the exit to the plant.
Drew Craig
USW Local 2251 (Algoma Steel, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario)

I am new to the union and I consider myself a NextGener. I must say this course was so much more than I expected. You really get connected with the union and the people who are part of your union! I really enjoyed this course, it taught me a lot more about politics and working together with the community. It portrays a strong message to NextGens members as to why you should be a part of the union. I think the union should do more of these courses. Great course!
Ashton Selby
USW Local 5296 (Garda World, Mississauga, Ont.)

The political action course that I attended was very informative. The instructors were as knowledgeable as they were passionate. The value of the experiences is immeasurable and I will recommend this course to everyone looking to get educated and involved politically.
Matt Smith
USW Local 5328, Local Steward (ArcellorMittal, Hamilton, Ont.)


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