·  by Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

USW Cares: Steelworkers Raise $20,000 For Community Christmas Campaign

(The following article is by Monte Sonnenberg and published on Simcoe Reformer, titled Stelco workers and company provide $20,000-plus gift to Salvation Army. View the Simcoe Reformer version here.)

SIMCOE - This is shaping up to be the best Christmas at the Stelco mill in Nanticoke in a long time.

Ten years of adversarial tension is dissipating now that U.S. Steel has cashed in its chips and left the table. The American giant’s replacement has established a more collaborative tone with workers belonging to Local 8782 of the United Steelworkers.

Bedrock Industries has dusted off the old name and restored it. In doing so, is has sent a signal that it wants a return to the way things used to be.

That includes labour and management sitting down together to hash out major decisions. That also means seeking win-win-win solutions for the benefit of labour, management and shareholders.

Union members reported last week that the work environment in Nanticoke is much improved with a new management group in charge.

Randy Graham, a senior member of the Local 8782 executive, says improved morale is partially responsible for Stelco’s record outpouring of support for the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas campaign.

“Getting back to the old way of doing things has been refreshing,” Graham said. “It’s been 10 years since we’ve had participation like this. The relationship is changing, and it’s been reflected in this drive.”

The Christmas campaign was organized by union members Rick Baetz and Mark Lombardo. A total of $10,854 was amassed at the gate collection while the company chipped in a cheque for $5,000.

Labour and management also contributed 490 pounds of non-perishable food items and nearly 150 new toys. Union and management delivered the goods to the Salvation Army in Simcoe on Friday.

“We think this is a wonderful way to give back,” says Jack DiCosimo, vice president of operations in Nanticoke. “Stelco intends to re-establish itself as a vital part of the community. As Randy said, this is the new Stelco. We have full support for this from our new owners and upper management.

“It’s not so much a new broom sweeping clean as we’re trying to establish a new relationship with the workers. We’re very happy with the way this relationship is developing.”

The Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign kicked off in the local area in mid-November. It runs till Dec. 23. The goal this year is $95,000.

Revenue from the campaign is used to fund a number of different programs. These include emergency food assistance, the Salvation Army’s hot meal program, cooking and canning classes, and the group’s Christmas basket program for needy families.

Terry Simmons, the Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator in Simcoe, says her organization’s outreach would look very different without the annual support of steelworkers in Nanticoke.

“Without them there would be a large hole,” she said. “The need in the community is huge. There would be a big gap without it.”

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