Taking Care of Each Other is What We Do

Labour Day Message from Ken Neumann, National Director

Going into this Labour Day, I am reflecting on the last year and a half. I miss our annual Labour Day gatherings and the chance to share some solidarity in person. I am concerned about the worsening fourth wave of the pandemic in many parts of the country. My thoughts are also with our members who have been forced to evacuate their communities due to raging wild fires. Some members in British Columbia have even lost their homes. People have endured a lot and there is no clear sign of these challenges abating. I can see it taking its toll.

It is also my Last Labour Day as National Director. I announced back in May that I would not be seeking re-election. I have been deeply honoured to be a member of and then on staff of our great union for 44 years – first as a member of Local 5890 and then as a member of 4728, both in Regina, Saskatchewan. I have been humbled to have the confidence of members to be elected into leadership positions at my home local union, later as District 3 Director and then National Director.

Leadership and generational change are important for organizations like ours – the world around us changes and so must we.

The pandemic has brought into stark relief the necessity of taking action and being an agent of change to shape the reality around us. As Steelworkers, we know that politics matters, this is why we get involved in elections. But the reality is – the politics of the everyday matters even more than any election cycle – however important each one is. And I can tell you, this current one is very important.

In the face of such difficult circumstances like the pandemic, it can be difficult to know where to start. But there is no magic to social change – it is built on organizing, a lot of hard work, and a sense of purpose that drives us to believe that a better world is always possible.

Politics is how we choose to live our trade union values every single day – in how we treat each other, and how we support and fight alongside others. There are many ways to translate our thoughts into action – like showing up at a demonstration for an issue that is not directly our own and supporting those who are most affected, spending an evening making phone calls for a local candidate, volunteering in the community or supporting a picket line. It’s about making solidarity with others a guiding principle of one’s life.  

There are many issues our union is tackling – from getting involved in the federal election, taking on unfair trade, health and safety on the job, to a worker-centred transition that truly prioritizes and seeks justice on climate change, better labour laws, racial justice, gender equity, and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

There are many dozens of ways to get involved and make a difference. Get engaged through your local union or through the District. Connect with your local NDP candidate for this federal election. Your involvement does matter and it does help. If there is one thing that more than four decades in the trade union movement has taught me – it’s that taking action can make a difference and it can start with you.

Happy Labour Day and thank you for all that you do.

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United Steelworkers
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