Open Letter to B.C. Steelworkers from President Gerard

April 27, 2017

To: All B.C. Steelworkers,

No matter what side of the border I work on, more and more I hear from right-wing politicians who don’t really have any ideas of their own so they just make things up. Apparently this B.C. election is no different.

BC Liberal leader Christy Clark has falsely claimed that my meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump was about softwood lumber – she just made that up – in fact it was about protecting our members’ jobs in the steel industry in both the U.S. and in Canada.

Clark even claimed she’s been to Washington, D.C. to defend B.C.’s lumber industry—she made that up too. Again, in fact, I have been to Washington, D.C., to defend our members in Canada’s forest industry and I’ll go again and again and again until we get a fair deal that protects our members’ livelihoods and Canadian forest communities.

The tariffs filed by Trump have nothing to do with protecting jobs in the US; in fact it will cost Americans 8,000 jobs in the construction industry alone. It has more to do with US lumber companies trying to drive up prices and increase their profits. And quite frankly Canadian lumber companies like West Fraser and Interfor stand to benefit no matter what. They’ve taken profits from B.C. to buy mills in the US and hedge their bets. It’s the small operators, the value added sector, and most importantly our members and their communities that get hurt the most. Think Christy Clark is on the side of the little guy? Think again.

Clark is attacking our union and me personally, because she wants to distract from the fact that the BC Liberals have been the most corporate government in North America. Our members work hard for the wages they earn, Christy Clark’s actually been fattening her wallet with money from corporate donations, including companies like Weyerhaeuser – one of the very same lumber companies that instigated the softwood lumber dispute. She’s pocketed $300,000 from donations from big companies, including many of our biggest employers in the forest industry. We support John Horgan and the BC NDP’s plan for election finance reform, the real question is why Clark and her corporate cronies don’t.

Outside of powerful U.S. lumber companies most Americans don’t want a trade fight with Canada. Like Canadians they want to stop unfair dumping of manufactured goods from overseas and end the race to the bottom on lower standards for workers and the environment. Just a few years ago Christy Clark had a chance to stand with us when the United Steelworkers intervened to fight the unfair dumping of overseas rebar.

Instead she opposed our efforts and stood with anti-union groups who claimed rebar was driving up the cost of B.C. homes —she made that up too. Thankfully she lost, and we won.

We’ve canvassed, surveyed and talked to our members all across British Columbia. A massive majority are tired of a government that only cares about the wealthy and big corporations. They want change in B.C., and it’s no surprise to me.

Let’s remember the BC Liberals closed over 100 mills and killed 35, 000 forestry jobs, while allowing raw log exports to skyrocket. When Christy Clark and the BC Liberals encouraged the exploitation of temporary foreign workers in B.C. mines and other workplaces, instead of hiring local workers, Steelworkers stood up and fought back. And no one has fought more against the BC Liberal deregulation of health and safety standards than the United Steelworkers. From botched investigations to poor enforcement and cuts to pensions we’ve held Christy Clark and the BC Liberals to account. We’re a union that fights and the BC Liberals just don’t like it.

Our members have been clear; we want a government that’s on the side of working people for a change. That’s why this election we’re supporting John Horgan and the BC NDP.

So Steelworkers you know the old adage, when under attack, stand up and fight back. I’m asking you for your help; hand out more leaflets, knock on more doors, make more phone calls, get our fellow members and their families out to vote. Get involved with #SteelworkersVote. Let’s make sure this election we send Christy Clark and the BC Liberals a message where it counts—at the ballot box. Together, this May 9th, let’s elect John Horgan and the BC NDP.

In solidarity,

Leo W. Gerard
USW International President

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United Steelworkers
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Toronto, ON M4P 1K7