United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/articles/rss United Steelworkers Canada News Feed Wed, 23 Dec 2015 12:00:00 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 SHF Update – December 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/shf-update-december-2021 Fri, 14 Jan 2022 12:49:18 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/shf-update-december-2021 Between despair and resilience – solidarite ak Ayiti (solidarity with Haiti)!

Haiti has been in the headlines many times over this past year. The media rarely covers what is happening in this small Caribbean country except in times of crisis. Unfortunately, the most recent developments are no exception. Learn more by reading the Steelworkers Humanity Fund December 2021 update.

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SHF Update – September 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/shf-update-september-2021 Fri, 14 Jan 2022 12:39:53 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/shf-update-september-2021 Empowering women for economic development

Women across the world continue to face important barriers to gender equity, in the workplace or other. In Canada, Honduras or Mexico, women have yet to achieve wage equality. This is why the Steelworkers Humanity Fund dedicates part of its project funding to support programs on education and advocacy that addresses such issues and contribute to the advancement of women’s rights. Learn more by reading the Steelworkers Humanity Fund September 2021 update.

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Emergency measures needed to address the health care staffing crisis https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/emergency-measures-address-the-health-care-crisis Fri, 14 Jan 2022 12:25:11 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/emergency-measures-address-the-health-care-crisis Ontario’s hospitals, long-term care (LTC) and home care services face critical and growing staffing crises. Our province’s health care system is not on the brink of crisis, it is in crisis. It is not an overstatement to describe a number of facilities and services as being in staffing collapse. The Ontario government must take measures commensurate to the emergency as a top priority.

Health care staffing shortages were already worsening in the years preceding the pandemic. Inadequate funding and labour force restructuring have resulted in crushing workloads. Insufficient staffing and increasing violence have contributed to untenable rates of injury among health care staff. Planned underfunding, budget constraints and legislated wage suppression turned the shortages into a crisis. In the pandemic, the staffing crisis has become a full-blown emergency, made worse by inadequate PPE and safety protections for workers. For-profit privatization has exacerbated these deteriorating conditions.

The Ontario government must urgently address the immediate emergency in staffing, begin measures to address the pre-existing severe staffing shortages, and set conditions of work that will stabilize our hospitals, long-term care & home care to provide the health care that Ontarians need.

1. Immediate measures needed to address staffing collapse in hospitals, LTC, home care 

  • Provincial and federal governments must immediately deploy military teams to facilities in crisis, as military capacity permits.
  • The Ontario government must set up rapid response teams and immediately create a voluntary health human resource emergency deployment system to sign up health care professionals to help from across the health care system and channel them into hospitals, LTC homes, retirement homes and home care in crisis. Health care providers cannot be left on their own to determine whether they are in crisis.

Ontarians require leadership and coordination from our Ministry of Health and Ontario Health to ensure that concrete resource sharing is happening and that additional staffing resources are provided to facilities and services in crisis.

These measures may be needed for future waves, as they were in waves 1, 2 and 3. They should be able to be deployed as needed until the pandemic recedes.

  • The Ontario government must immediately require hospitals, LTC homes and home care providers to provide and implement the use of proper PPE for airborne protection against Omicron, including fit-tested N95 respirators for all staff. Improved training on the appropriate use of such PPE is required. Essential caregivers, visitors (where allowed), agency and contract staff, delivery staff and anyone entering these health care facilities must be required to wear an N95 respirator or equivalent. Where possible, for regular entrants such as essential caregivers, fit-testing should be undertaken.
  • The Ontario government must require the College of Nurses and the colleges responsible for the health professionals for whom there are severe shortages (e.g., respiratory therapists, laboratory technologists, pharmacists, diagnostic imaging) to clear the backlog of approvals for internationally educated nurses and health professionals. The federal government must immediately remove immigration barriers for internationally-educated nurses and other health professionals. The Ontario government must immediately create a system to sign them up and get them into facilities in crisis on an emergency basis.
  • The Ontario government must require the College of Nurses and the colleges responsible for health professionals to fast-track credentialing of retired health care professionals and waive licensing fees for those who are willing to help temporarily to alleviate the staffing emergency.
  • Public education and communication are inadequate. Much clearer and consistent communication, transparency, and urgency are needed from all levels of government and health care leadership.
    • The pervasive message that Omicron causes mild illness has been devastating, and all public health, political and health system leaders must counter it. We are not on the cusp of a health system crisis, we are in The public is only now beginning to awaken to the gravity of the current wave, and each successive wave of the pandemic is depleting resilience in the health care system. Ontarians need clear honest public education messages about the consequences of the unfettered spread of the virus for all Ontarians in need of health care and about the long-term effects of COVID-19.
    • Government and public health leadership have downplayed the need for protection against airborne transmission of the virus and continue to limit access to and use of N95 respirators. They have failed to provide clear messages to Ontarians promoting the use of more effective masks, such as N95s or their equivalent. Much stronger, clearer messaging must be adopted, and N95 masks — which are prohibitively expensive — must be provided to all Ontarians without charge.
    • In reports over the last week, health professionals are warning that Ontarians are turning down booster doses of the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine, demonstrating a lack of public understanding regarding the severity of the current wave. Clear messaging that vaccines work and encouragement to take the first available booster must be intensified.
    • Where possible, Ontarians on their own may be able to take measures such as improved masking and ventilation, use of HEPA filters, reduction of person-to-person contacts, hand cleaning. Clear leadership and messaging on these issues is urgently needed.
    • The public needs to know where outbreaks are happening in health care, schools and day cares, private businesses and services, both as a public education measure and to deepen consensus regarding public health measures needed. (One model of such transparency has been used in Nova Scotia where all outbreaks in private businesses have been publicly listed along with times of potential exposures as well as in vital public services.)
  • There is a pandemic of COVID-19 that is a real and imminent threat to the health of Ontarians but there is also an ongoing health crisis of staffing shortages that is resulting in irreparable harm to patients. It is vital that there be transparency about the extent of the shortages. Clear and urgent public reporting of actual staffing levels must be required in hospitals and long-term care homes (e.g., under the Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Reform Requirements for Long Term Care Facilities, Final Rule, (2016) homes are required to post daily staffing data on the number and type of staff and the actual hours worked per shift.)
  • On an emergency basis NGOs may be able to provide support, and all appropriate safe options should be considered.

2. Short term measures needed to address critical staffing shortages

  • The Ontario government must launch an urgent intensive recruitment and training initiative, following Quebec’s model from the summer of 2020, to ease crushing workloads for PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and health professionals for whom there are severe shortages. This must be undertaken in addition to urgently required measures to improve working conditions and wages to retain and attract back existing staff. The Quebec model was successful in recruiting and training more than 7,000 PSW equivalents in three months– out of a goal of 10,000– and deploying them in time to mitigate the second wave in Quebec’s long-term care homes in part because it was intensive fast-track training without tuition fees (it was paid), with the promise of full-time work and decent wages.

Ontario’s initiative needs to be similarly ambitious and scaled to the size of our province. This would mean approximately 18,000 PSWs in fast-track intensive training as soon as possible, and a similar number of nurses (RPNs and RNs). In long-term care alone, Ontario needs 21,500 full time equivalent PSWs and 15,500 RN/RPNs by 2025 to get care levels up to safety and open the scheduled new/redeveloped beds. There are currently 22,000 vacant RN positions in Ontario.

This cannot be ad hoc, using private colleges, of variable quality, and at numbers far below projected need, as has been the case to date.

  • Ontario’s health care workforce had already experienced a decade of wage suppression prior. to the pandemic. Under Bill 124, wages are capped well below the rate of inflation, meaning real-dollar cuts in pay for workers that have held our health care system together through the most challenging and traumatic of circumstances. Bill 124 must be immediately repealed. Health care workers’ wages must immediately be improved.
  • The Ontario government must immediately implement a minimum of 10 paid sick days and an additional 14 paid sick days in health emergencies.
  • While wages of regular health care staff in public and non-profit health care services have been suppressed by Bill 124, for-profit staffing agencies are charging exorbitant prices of our public hospitals and long-term care homes for temporary staff. The Ontario government must urgently pass legislation against price gouging by health care staffing agencies.
  • The Ontario government must set clear targets and staff recruitment, retention and training plans for the number of staff needed immediately and in upcoming years, including clear accountable targets for increasing full-time staff and reducing precarity.
  • The Ontario government must urgently implement stronger public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the Ontario Budget, the government claimed that Ontario has the capacity to do 105,000 COVID tests per day. This increase in our public and hospital laboratory capacity must be made real, and the Ontario government must cover the full cost of testing in our public hospital laboratories. Redefining outbreaks, limiting testing, and otherwise manipulating the data to suppress case numbers must stop. Test-trace-isolate must be reinstated.

  • The Ontario government must work with postsecondary partners to ensure the safe resumption of in-person clinical placements and labs for all nursing students.

3. Overall measures needed to address staffing shortages

  • The Ontario government must require a ratio of 70 percent full-time staff in hospitals and long-term care.
  • Staffing agencies have a corrosive effect on health care worker retention. Public and non-profit hospitals and long-term care homes are subject to wage suppression in Bill 124 whereas staff who leave and join agencies are paid sometimes double or more than the staff who stay. To add insult to injury, agency staff do not have the same requirements to work nights and weekends as regular staff. There are widespread reports of staffing agencies charging exorbitant mark ups and engaging in price gouging of our publicly funded health care facilities. The Ontario government must ban the use of private health care staffing agencies by hospitals and LTC homes.
  • Threats and violence against health care workers are contributing to extraordinary rates of staff injury, poor working conditions and retention issues. The Ontario government and health care leadership can no longer fail to take action to prevent the torrent of physical, sexual, and racially directed violence at health care staff. Clear, strong messages from leadership at all levels are needed to ask Ontarians to treat health care workers with respect and tolerance. The Ontario government must issue a directive to health care leadership to take immediate active measures to reduce violence and invest significantly in safety measures.

A substantial proportion of violence can be prevented by adequate numbers of staff — and appropriately trained staff — with enough time to provide care without rushing and long waits.

Safe staffing levels and training must be implemented as a priority to prevent violence and to provide compassionate care for patients and residents with responsive behaviours and mental illness.

  • The Ontario government must create a plan with an accountable timeline to reach wage parity across home care, long-term care and hospitals.
  • The Ontario government must alter its current budget plan which has set health care funding at billions of dollars per year below population need starting in 2022-23 and instead plan for the needed revenue and funding policies to support a quality health care system that meets population need for care.
  • The Ontario government must stop the for-profit privatization of hospital services, long-term care and home care.
  • The Ontario government must report publicly and transparently on progress regarding these recommendations.

The following organizations have endorsed these urgent demands for concrete action by the Ontario government. We represent more than one million Ontarians on the front lines of the crisis, as health care professionals and workers, as patients, residents and families.

Advocates for Long-Term Care Reform Ontario
Advocacy Committee, Family Council Network Region 4
Long-Term Care Action Now
National Pensioners Federation
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)
Ontario Federation of Labour
Ontario Health Coalition
Ontario Medical Students Association
Ontario Nurses’ Association
Ontario Public Service Employees Union & Hospital Professionals Division
Sienna Living Family Council Coalition
Unifor
United Food and Commercial Workers
United Steelworkers
Various Family Councils from long-term care homes across Ontario

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New alliance calls for compensation reform https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/new-alliance-calls-for-compensation-reform Mon, 10 Jan 2022 09:39:53 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/new-alliance-calls-for-compensation-reform There is a powerful new force in Ontario politics. The Occupational Disease Reform Alliance (ODRA), made up of clusters of workers experiencing work-related illnesses, is calling on the Ontario government to fix the broken Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) system.

“Workplace illnesses can affect anyone – from cancer, respiratory disease or hearing loss. The challenge with occupational disease is that people who are sick may not connect their symptoms to exposures they had at work,” said Sylvia Boyce, USW District 6 Health and Safety Co-ordinator, who is assisting the alliance.

“One of the big problems is latency. People may have symptoms over the years but not know what is causing them and they don’t make the link to their workplace exposures – that often doesn’t happen for many, many years,” said Boyce.

Occupational disease can start out mild, but it’s very serious and over time, it can be fatal.

“There are so many carcinogens and toxic substances that people work with and so many single exposures, or combination of exposures that workers have, that are the known cause of many occupational diseases,” said Boyce.

The new alliance – ODRA – is bringing awareness to occupational disease – both for the people and their families experiencing it – and raising awareness with the Ontario government. The alliance brings together eight clusters of workers across Ontario who are experiencing occupational disease, and their advocates who are fighting for recognition and compensation.

Too many people have died from occupational disease without receiving compensation from the WSIB even though their illness, suffering and early death were caused by conditions at their workplace. Families are also affected due to medical costs, reduced earnings from workers who got sick, and even family members who have also become ill from exposures brought home by workers.

A woman standing with USW District 6 Director Marty WarrenGayle Wannan came to the USW’s rubber worker intake clinic in 2019. Wannan’s husband Lynden died from pancreatic cancer after working at Uniroyal for 26 years, aged 49. Wannan believes workplace exposure to chemicals contributed to his illness and death.

USW supports the ODRA

Our union believes in fighting for a fair and just compensation system that would provide benefits for workers, retirees and spouses who have been made ill from work.

The USW represents the majority of workers included in the ODRA, with thousands of workers from four clusters in Ontario.

In addition to Boyce, Steelworkers advocates providing expertise to the alliance include:

  • Andy LaDouceur and Adam Guizetti, Local 2251, working with former steel workers from Sault Ste. Marie and ore mine workers from Wawa
  • Jessica Montgomery, Local 2020, working with former workers from the Neelon Casting foundry in Sudbury
  • Janice Martell, representing the McIntyre Powder Project
  • Gord Assmann, Local 677 retiree and SOAR member, representing the Ontario Rubber Workers Project

“A lot of workers’ claims have been denied by the WSIB. The workers’ compensation system in Ontario has to be overhauled so that workers who are suffering or who have died get their just entitlement under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. Too many of the claims are denied. Only 10% of the rubber workers’ claims have been recognized, for example,” said Boyce.

Illness persists after companies are gone

Many workplaces where people were exposed to toxins and chemicals no longer exist. That makes it harder for the widows and widowers to make the link to the workplace and provide the evidence the WSIB requires in order to justify a claim.

“The records are all gone. The occupational health and safety data may be gone. If there was a Joint Health and Safety Committee, the minutes and any safety data sheets or other records may be lost. This is a huge roadblock in workers getting compensation,” said Boyce.

The ODRA makes four demands of government

The ODRA held a virtual press conference with NDP MPP Wayne Gates at the end of October 2021, to call on the Ontario government to fix the WSIB system.

“After decades of working, these workers have been abandoned not only by these employers but by the workers’ compensation system that was supposed to provide for them,” said Gates.

The ODRA has the support of unions and the Ontario Federation of Labour and community interest from the Ontario Network of Injured Workers.

The OFL stands in solidarity with the ODRA’s four demands, which include:

  • Compensate occupational disease claims when workplace patterns exceed levels in the surrounding community
  • Expand the list of compensable diseases presumed to be work-related
  • Use the proper legal standard; not scientific certainty
  • Accept that multiple exposures combine to cause disease

Ontario government cashes out employers instead of compensating workers

Instead of working to fix a flawed compensation system, the Ontario government has passed legislation that will refund up to $3 billion in WSIB premiums to employers.

In the USW’s submission on Bill 27, the so-called Working for Workers Act, the union calls this proposal “the next step in a long push by this government to write cheques with workers’
money and hand out the giveaways to businesses.”

“Money that was saved at the expense of injured workers or saved by freezing budgets for the
organizations funded by the WSIB should not be passed on to employers. The government’s
desire to simply distribute this money amongst employers shows a complete disregard for the
impact on injured workers and organizations dependent upon the WSIB funding,” wrote the USW in its submission.

The changes ODRA is demanding need to be made before thousands more workers die, and hundreds of thousands of people are put into poverty.

“Put pressure on the government. Make health and safety a priority. Put money into prevention. Award money to the injured workers. The WSIB system wasn’t intended to fund businesses,” said Boyce.

That is what our union, the labour movement and ODRA will continue to do – raise awareness about occupational disease, support those suffering and pressure the government to fix the system and put workers first.

More recent articles and resources on occupational disease

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Pride, hope and optimism this holiday season https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/pride-hope-and-optimism-this-holiday-season Thu, 16 Dec 2021 12:18:23 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/pride-hope-and-optimism-this-holiday-season Dear Steelworkers,

This holiday season, as I reflect on my pending retirement as USW National Director, I am more proud than ever of our collective efforts to advance workers’ rights and build a better society.

Over the last two years, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on countless families across our country, Steelworkers and our progressive allies advocated fiercely – and successfully – for stronger government assistance programs for millions of workers, their communities and local businesses.

Within our union, USW activists and members stepped up to fight for stronger workplace protections and supports for workers who have kept our economy and communities running throughout the pandemic, particularly those in front-line and essential jobs. In some cases our local unions and members mobilized to purchase and even manufacture much-needed personal protective equipment – not only for their fellow Steelworkers but also for at-risk employees in other workplaces.

Unfortunately, we continue to be confronted by the pandemic and the reality that its economic and social impacts will linger for a long time. COVID cases remain high and we must continue to be vigilant. However, we have a highly vaccinated population, and now that children as young as five can get vaccinated, there is reason to hope we will get through the winter without a surge in serious cases.

Across Canada and around the world, through the Steelworkers Humanity Fund and our domestic and global alliances, USW members also have stepped up like never before to provide emergency assistance to workers, families and communities hit hard by poverty, hunger and natural disasters. This has included desperately needed support to thousands of people in Western Canada, including our members, who have been devastated by catastrophic flooding this fall, and prior to that massive wildfires.

These disasters bring further light to the urgent work we must do to combat the climate crisis and to build a new, sustainable economy that puts workers first and that is based on fair trade, investments in good jobs, and racial and social justice. No organization is more committed to this goal than our international union. It is a commitment that Steelworkers demonstrate each day in our workplaces, our communities, our legislatures and through our solidarity and global alliances with labour and social justice advocates around the world.

Throughout my five-decade career as a Steelworker, beginning as a teenaged-steel-mill employee in my hometown of Regina, I have understood that working people have power when we join together for a common cause. Solidarity is why we are a strong union in Canada and the United States and it is the foundation of trade unionism around the world.

Today, I believe Steelworker solidarity with the working class – in our country and beyond – has never been stronger, or more evident. And as I prepare for retirement in the new year, I am more hopeful and optimistic than ever that the USW’s legacy will be strengthened by our members and a renewed leadership within our union.

Our union is well-positioned to take on the challenges ahead under the leadership of National Director-elect Marty Warren.

Steelworkers, it has been a privilege and the honour of a lifetime to have served and worked with you as National Director for the last 17 years. I wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy and peaceful holiday season and all the best in 2022.

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
USW National Director

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Steelworkers union joins drive for labour rights accountability at world’s largest money manager https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-union-joins-drive-for-labour-rights-accountability-at-worlds-largest-money-manager Wed, 15 Dec 2021 11:56:43 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-union-joins-drive-for-labour-rights-accountability-at-worlds-largest-money-manager Roch Drapeau, a trustee on the Comité des avantages sociaux des Métallos, the Quebec Steelworkers’ benefits fund, demanded improvements in the labour practices of portfolio asset managers at a recent meeting with BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.

Drapeau was part of a November meeting of 29 labour-nominated pension fund trustees and trade union representatives from around the globe that met with BlackRock.

“Asset-owner clients are keen to hold their managers accountable and to ask that workers’ capital cease to undermine workers’ rights around the globe,” said Drapeau.

BlackRock manages over US$9 trillion in assets – more than five times the size of Canada’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The trustees called on BlackRock to step up its pressure on the companies that undermine fundamental labour rights and that are part of the manager’s portfolio.  

The Global Unions’ Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC), convened the meeting – the trade union network that drives responsible labour practices across the investment chain. Workers’ capital, which includes pension funds and other union-backed investment vehicles, is a powerful lever to influence the practices of asset managers, in line with fiduciary responsibilities.

In 2020, worldwide pension fund assets amounted to over US$35 trillion. These funds make up a substantial client base for money managers like BlackRock.

During the meeting, trustees urged BlackRock to:

  1. Intensify its engagements to drive better labour practices with companies (including Amazon, Chartwell Retirement Residences, POSCO) that have track records of anti-union practices
  2. Commit to engaging with companies that have been called out by the OECD National Contact Points for violating their labour rights responsibilities under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (e.g., cement maker Holcim in Switzerland)
  3. Require that its portfolio companies uphold the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work

BlackRock committed to raising specific labour issues with a set of companies and it agreed to meet annually with the group of trustees and to incorporate the information provided by trade unions into its engagements with companies.  

The ongoing efforts with BlackRock are part of the CWC’s Asset Manager Accountability Initiative, which was launched in 2019.

Simultaneous engagements are taking place with managers like State Street, UBS and Macquarie. The Initiative convenes asset owners from around the globe to hold their money managers accountable to and drive positive changes for workers whose fundamental rights are being violated by multinational companies. To learn more, visit workerscapital.org.

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Hawkesbury Volunteer Firefighters solidify gains in new contract https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/hawkesbury-volunteer-firefighters-solidify-gains-in-new-contract Tue, 14 Dec 2021 15:28:58 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/hawkesbury-volunteer-firefighters-solidify-gains-in-new-contract Hawkesbury Volunteer Firefighters in Eastern Ontario have ratified a new collective agreement that provides across-the-board 2% wage increases.

The HVFF, members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6565-3, approved the new deal on Nov. 26, by a majority vote. The deal was approved by the employer, the Town of Hawkesbury municipal council, on Nov. 29, 2021.

In addition to fighting fires in the community on an on-call basis, the 20 members work in fire prevention, community education and also perform work assessing 911 calls in medical situations to determine what appropriate response to emergencies.

In addition to wage increases, the one-year contract makes improvements in the agreement to clarify the grievance timelines; and spell out that the USW Unit Chair is entitled to time to provide union orientation to new hires.

At the same time, full-time firefighters in another union are currently in an arbitration process for a new contract with the municipality. As the terms of that contract could have an impact on compensation and working conditions for USW member volunteer firefighters, the bargaining committee sought a short, one-year contract, rather than lock in terms for a longer period.

“The committee worked hard to prepare for bargaining. That helped make the process a collaborative and respectful one with the employer,” said Stephane Constantineau, USW Local 6565-3 Unit Chair.

“These volunteer firefighters are life-savers in their community, providing emergency services with great skill and commitment,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

“Having volunteer firefighters in the ranks of the Steelworkers is an example of the diversity of workers within the union,” said Warren, noting the USW also represents volunteer firefighters in Champlain Township in eastern Ontario, Kirkland Lake, Port Hope, Welland and Thorold, Ont.

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News@6 – December 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/news6-december-2021 Mon, 13 Dec 2021 14:38:20 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/news6-december-2021 Cover of News@6 December 2021 issueIn this issue:

  • Signing off as District 6 Director with deep gratitude
  • Workers in the Legislature – Elected Steelworkers bring worker voices to the table in Ontario
  • Bargaining successes
  • Barrie Steelworkers make great neighbours
  • Sault Ste. Marie Steelworkers mark first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Post-secondary sector updates – Ground-breaking pension plan for members at three Ontario universities; USW Local 1998’s Casual Unit wins new contract
  • New alliance calls for compensation reform
  • Unions the only sure-fire way to help workers: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Download the News@6 PDF

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Ken Neumann statement for International Human Rights Day https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/kneumann-human-rights-day-2021 Fri, 10 Dec 2021 08:45:05 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/kneumann-human-rights-day-2021 Each year on December 10th, the United Steelworkers observe Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations. The recognition of human rights is at the core of Steelworker values and activism.

Without a doubt, one of the largest human rights concerns in 2021 is the effect of the COVID 19 pandemic. This month, there is international concern about the Omicron variant. Over the last two years, my focus on political human rights has now included our human rights to healthcare.

From a health perspective, the effects of COVID 19 and its variants can be contextualized by the inequality of equity seeking groups people to healthcare and physical safety. In Canada, neighbourhoods with the highest numbers of racialized people are also those with the lowest income groups. These neighbourhoods account for 80 percent of cases. With the Omicron variant, these figures may rise. Many Steelworkers who live in these areas are also “front line” workers in healthcare, eldercare, and, other essential services to the public. In addition, Canada is not excluded from crimes of racial discrimination. red. In our own country, numerous incidents related to the pandemic are anti-Asian.

Steelworkers belong to a union that stands up for political equality, and, access to healthy living conditions along with adequate income and healthcare. Human rights for all are fundamental to a safe and decent life, regardless of racial identity.

As a union committed to human rights, I call on Steelworkers to:

  • educate our membership about the benefits of vaccinations
  • continue to lobby for increased paid sick days in legislation in Canada
  • continue to lobby for stronger legislation against racial discrimination and religious hatred
  • negotiate strong equality language for physical and mental health in our collective bargaining agreements
  • during the holiday season, exercise mask precautions, observe public health protocol based on evidence-based advice of health experts
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Ken Neumann’s statement for December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/kneumann-statement-dec6-2021 Tue, 30 Nov 2021 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/kneumann-statement-dec6-2021 On December 6, we remember the women murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. And we also renew our calls for better measures to end gender-based violence.

Because the killings continue. This year, our union lost one of our own. Nadège Jolicoeur, an activist with Local Union 9400 in District 5, was murdered by her partner in March.

Because a woman or girl is killed in Canada every 2 ½ days, we renew our demands on the federal government to adopt a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women.

And we also call on the federal government to ratify the new international convention C-190, to eliminate violence and harassment from the world of work.

In addition, the USW offers courses where activists and local-unions leaders can learn how to support members who may be experiencing domestic violence or harassment and how to be more than a bystander when violence and harassment happens. Contact your district education coordinator to learn more.

Let’s do all we can to end the violence.

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann

National Director

Resources:

USW Action Guide for Raising the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety, including sections on domestic and sexual violence.

USW Bargaining Guide for Addressing Domestic Violence in USW Collective Agreements.

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit/LGBTQ+ People.

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2021 USW Cares District 6 Jefferson Award winner, Local Union 9329 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-uswcares-jaf-d6-winner-lu9329 Tue, 30 Nov 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-uswcares-jaf-d6-winner-lu9329 USW Local Union 9329 represents the service workers and registered nurses of a long-term care home in a rural area of Ontario. President of the local for the last three years, Lisa Cook, nominated her local’s health care units for the 2021 Jefferson Awards because of the incredible compassion and strength the members showed during two serious Covid-19 outbreaks at the CV Homes facility they work at. Because of the sacrifices these members made in order to save lives, stop the spread, and support lonely residents isolated from the world, Local Union 9329 is District 6’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award winner.

The care home Local 9329 members work at was the first facility in the region to have a Covid outbreak. “It was a scary time because it affected lots of families: people’s spouses and kids lost their jobs and were sent home from their work; some of our members were down to one income and everybody still stepped up,” said Cook.

Because members working at the care home are constantly exposed to the virus and risked spreading it, the family members they lived with were let go and weren’t allowed to go to work. In order to keep their families safe and allow for their partners to continue working, some members moved in together and shared accommodations.

For two months several members, some of who were moms of young children, were only able to contact their families digitally. One of these sisters, who left her home so her partner could work, has four children under the age of twelve, another has two kids under the age of seven, and another has two kids that are twelve and ten.

“We didn’t have any option. Even my own two children, they were both sent home from their jobs the day it was announced that the nursing home had an outbreak, so they immediately became unemployed,” said Cook.

“Family and friends didn’t want to be around us, because we were right in the middle of it and there were so many unknowns when it first came out. Obviously we’ve learned a lot since then, but nobody knew if it was safe to leave our work and go to the grocery store in scrubs.

“People in scrubs were frowned upon almost. We were heroes because we were doing it, but to go out in the community with your scrubs on, people were fearful of you because they didn’t know if you were spreading the virus.”

The nursing home lost a quarter of their resident population to Covid, and twenty-nine out of 110 staff tested positive for the virus. One staff member was hospitalized and put on a ventilator. Most of the staff members who tested positive still have long-term effects, like heart palpitations and trouble breathing, to this day.

During the outbreaks it was all-hands-on-deck for these members. It didn’t matter which department someone worked in, everybody helped everywhere. Staff who worked in Dietary would help with lifts or changing residents, because so many people were off sick.

“We were a team. We came together to provide the best care we possibly could with so many staff off. Nurses worked sixteen hour shifts fourteen days in a row. People came in whenever they could to help and wore full-gown PPE to try to protect themselves,” explained Cook.

 

 USW Local 9329

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Breastfeeding and mining belong together https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/breastfeeding-and-mining-belong-together Thu, 25 Nov 2021 13:58:48 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/breastfeeding-and-mining-belong-together Women and gender-diverse people who operate heavy equipment need safe and sanitary places to express breast milk at work. It’s not a big ask, and this workplace took it in stride.

Melanie McConnell is Chair of Local 7619’s Women of Steel Committee.

She said women and gender-diverse people returning to work from maternity leave can request to have a safe place to pump breast milk. The setup has been available on a case-by-case basis for at least eight years, as long as McConnell has worked at Teck’s Highland Valley Copper mine (HVC), near Logan Lake, B.C.

McConnell, a labourer, is also a Trustee on the local’s executive.

Currently, women make up 11% of the almost 1,100-strong workforce at HVC. That’s up from 5% women when McConnell began taking stock six years ago.

McConnell said any breastfeeding location is a safe, private, sanitary place where breastfeeding parents can pump and store breastmilk, use the toilet and wash their hands.

“The space has a fridge and freezer, comfortable chair and is totally private. The expressed milk is either refrigerated or frozen, depending on what time during the shift it was expressed,” said McConnell. 

There’s a privacy curtain and the space is cleaned regularly by janitorial staff and kept stocked with cleaning supplies.

McConnell notes that since maternity and parental leave provisions improved in Canada, with up to 78 weeks’ leave available, not as many women are still breastfeeding when they return to work. However, some parents return early, or breastfeed longer after the birth of a child.

All she did was ask

The latest request for a breastfeeding location came through the Health and Safety Committee in the spring of 2021 and was passed along to the Women’s Committee. McConnell took the initiative from there.

Chad Lindsey, Chair of the Health and Safety Committee, with Melanie McConnell, Chair of the Women of Steel Committee, at USW Local 7619 in Logan’s Lake, B.C.

Photo: Chad Lindsey, Chair of the Health and Safety Committee, with Melanie McConnell, Chair of the Women of Steel Committee, at USW Local 7619 in Logan Lake, B.C.

As in the past, the employer was amenable to the suggestion and worked to provide the safe and sanitary breastfeeding location. To date, the initiative gets activated at the request of the worker who is breastfeeding and returning to work.

To McConnell, it shows that women and gender-diverse people are cared about and that their needs matter.

How are men in the workplace reacting?

“Many men are open to having conversations about accommodations like this. If we are able to have conversations, people come to a greater understanding,” said McConnell.  

“There is always a little pushback against accommodations that women require to be successful in the workplace – like extra bathroom breaks or extra facilities, so if you are working on the haul truck and it’s “that time of the month” you can clean up properly. There is less ill feeling if we are able to explain it and break it down,” she added.

Raising the Bar is a USW campaign to increase awareness of women’s health and safety issues, increase women’s participation in health and safety activism and increase respect and space for women’s voices and ideas in workplaces and our union.

While the breastfeeding locations at Highland Valley Copper were around prior to the USW’s Raising the Bar campaign, the initiative is a great example of what the campaign is about.

“We’re great people to work with! Women do very well in all of our mining situations; we just require some different accommodations because we are not the same as men. Once we can have those conversations, it goes over pretty well,” said McConnell.

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2021 USW Cares, District 5 Jefferson Award winner, Denis Grenier https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-uswcares-jaf-d5-winner-denis-grenier Tue, 23 Nov 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-uswcares-jaf-d5-winner-denis-grenier Denis Grenier of Local 9996 has been selected as District 5’s 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award recipient for founding the non-profit Cancer Fermont, which has donated more than $1 million directly to people with cancer (or in remission) and their loved ones.

Grenier is a laboratory worker at Minerai de fer Québec in Fermont, a town in northeastern Quebec. In 2005, after a friend of his struggled financially after being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment, Grenier began fundraising. Through his fundraising Grenier witnessed not just his friend, but many other cancer patients struggle from the lack of assistance in their region so he expanded his fundraising project and Cancer Fermont was born.

Cancer Fermont fundraises with community events like country music nights; the first Country Music Benefit Night raised $4,000. Grenier then reached out to companies for donations and ended up getting another $6,000 in donations from the companies and at the benefit itself.

In recent years, the “Guignolée de Réginald” has been one of Cancer Fermont’s most successful events. Réginald Bouchard was a senior resident of Fermont who wanted to raise funds for Cancer Fermont for his 80th birthday but lost his battle with cancer. Cancer Fermont pays tribute to Bouchard with the "Guignolée de Réginald" fundraising event every year during the holiday season. They also host a crab dinner and half marathon annually, but donations for Cancer Fermont are collected year-round, not just on special occasions.

Since its start, Cancer Fermont has given more than $1 million directly to people with cancer and their loved ones. Cancer Fermont does not raise money for research, but to help people with cancer during and after their treatments by paying for plane tickets (travel for treatments and doctor appointments are not covered by the government), paying for expenses during these trips (taxi, meals, parking), and paying for wigs, massage therapy, and snow removal at patients’ homes during Fermont’s harsh winters.

People with cancer often are not able to work and insurance money often does not come quickly. The cost of living in Fermont is very expensive, and despite illness and job loss, bills still come at the end of the month. Cancer Fermont does everything it can to assist people during and after cancer treatment with many costs that most people don’t realize will become issues following a cancer diagnosis.

If Cancer Fermont succeeds in easing any burden on people with cancer and their loved ones, then they consider it mission accomplished.

The USW proudly recognizes Denis Grenier, founder and president of Cancer Fermont, with a 2021 USW Cares Jefferson Award for his incredible compassion and fundraising. 

Cancer Fermont

Denis Grenier, founder and president of Cancer Fermont, with his assistant Caroline Boudreau.

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2021 USW Cares, District 3 Jefferson Award winner, Laura Drennan https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/laura-drennan-wins-2021-uswcares-jefferson-award-for-district-3 Mon, 22 Nov 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/laura-drennan-wins-2021-uswcares-jefferson-award-for-district-3 United Steelworkers (USW) member Laura Drennan of Logan Lake, B.C., has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 USWCares Jefferson Award for Western Canada for her long-time community service.

Drennan, a member of USW Local 7619, works at the Highland Valley Copper Mine and has made many significant contributions for workers at the mine that have improved their working lives. Her activism continues in the community through preparing and sharing healthy meals for people who are struggling with health issues as well as volunteering at community events, barbecues and fundraisers. 

“Laura is one of the strongest individuals I know and she has done so much for everyone over the years at the mine,” said Jason Arnold, nominator from USW Local 7619. “Laura does amazing work protecting members’ rights and ensuring the provisions of our collective agreement are enforced. She also helps to train and mentor many members in our local and throughout Western Canada as a union instructor. Her work inspires all of us and it was without hesitation that I nominated Laura for this year’s USWCares Jefferson Awards.”

Over the years, Drennan has helped raise millions of dollars through the annual United Way Campaign, encouraging Steelworkers to donate with funds matched by the company. These essential funds help many not-for-profit community organizations and charities in Kamloops and the surrounding communities.

Drennan suffered a massive stroke last year while attending an executive committee meeting for her local and nearly lost her life. She has made almost a full recovery and is as strong as ever.

“Laura has confirmed what we already know – she is as strong as steel,” said Stephen Hunt, USW Director for Western Canada. “I have seen Laura’s incredible strength and dedication that she brings to her activism and every issue she takes on. She has always been there for others and is one of the most caring and genuine people I have met. This award certainly honours her work and recognizes her outstanding contributions to our union and the community.” 

“I am so honoured to receive this recognition from the USWCares Jefferson Awards,” said Drennan. “I don’t look for, or need, accolades. I do what I do because I believe in a better tomorrow for our members and the people in our community. At some point in life, everyone will need a hand up and some need it now. We have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives – we just need to step up. I am so proud and grateful that my union supports members who want to make a difference in their communities.”

As a regional winner for USW District 3, Drennan will receive a $500 award that will be donated to the Logan Lake WHY (Wellness, Health & Youth) centre in her community. 

Since 2015, the USW has partnered with Multiplying Good (formerly the Jefferson Awards Foundation), to celebrate Steelworkers who do amazing works of community service, and to show the world that Steelworkers have big hearts.

For many Steelworkers, lending a helping hand is part of being a member of our union. Outside of work, our members are known for their quiet generosity in their neighbourhoods. The USW is proud to have generous and compassionate members who foster a culture of giving back in our union.

Laura Drennan Laura Drennan

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Steelworkers negotiate across-the-board improvements at bearings manufacturer https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-negotiate-across-the-board-improvements-at-bearings-manufacturer Tue, 16 Nov 2021 10:32:57 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-negotiate-across-the-board-improvements-at-bearings-manufacturer Members of USW Local 9042-23 have ratified a new five-year collective agreement that brings across-the board improvements for 114 workers at NTN Bearing in Mississauga, Ont.

The employer opened bargaining demanding the stability of a five-year agreement, longer than the union’s preference for three-year contracts. With the solidarity of the workers behind the bargaining committee, the union was able to get good wage gains and other improvements in exchange for the longer term.

The union negotiated wage increases of 2.75% in each of the first three years of the agreement, and 3% in each of years four and five, for total wage gains of 14.25%.

Workers ratified the new agreement with a vote of 80%.

The workers, who make bearings, constant velocity joints and other precision industrial and automotive equipment were successful in bargaining a faster progression to the top wage rate in a number of job classifications, reducing how long someone has to work to earn the top rate to 36 months from 48 months.

The new agreement improves the afternoon and midnight shift premiums. The employer has increased the amount it will pay towards safety boots each year.

Other areas where gains were made include massage benefits and vision care. The new contract maintains 100% employer-paid benefits, with the union successfully resisting the employer’s proposal for an 80-20 co-pay where employees would cover 20% of benefit costs.

“We worked right through the pandemic and haven’t stopped,” said Janet Moffat, unit president of USW Local 9042, Unit 23. “We’ve been recognized as one of NTN’s top plants in North America with the lowest COVID-related incidents. We needed the company to recognize that we are working with them and to be appreciated for continuing to make bearings through this difficult time.”

The bargaining committee successfully negotiated one paid sick day in the first year of the deal and two paid sick days each following year for the term of the agreement.

“Congratulations to the members of USW Local 9042-23 at NTN Bearing. By sticking together, they were able to negotiate good wage increases across the board, a testament to their hard work and determination,” said Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director.

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Every Child Matters – Chaque enfant compte https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/every-child-matters-chaque-enfant-compte Tue, 09 Nov 2021 08:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/every-child-matters-chaque-enfant-compte This summer’s horrific news of the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential “schools” in Western Canada motivated Quebec Steelworkers to develop a way to honour and recognize Sept. 30 – the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Steelworker Staff Representative and National Aboriginal Committee member Jean-Yves Couture, along with two other National Aboriginal Committee members from Quebec, Tshakapesh Jérôme and Christian Chouinard, discussed ways to commemorate Sept. 30 and the tragedy of trauma and death Indigenous children suffered at residential “schools” and how to participate in Orange Shirt Day.

The group approached young Montreal-based Innu artist Alyssa Jérôme to design an image for an orange T-shirt the district would produce and distribute to Steelworkers local unions. Jérôme’s “Chaque enfant compte” design features a mother turtle and her young turtle, symbolizing a child of Turtle Island, a reference in some Indigenous cultures to the continent of North America.

The initiative took off with many locals and members participating. More than 1,000 shirts went out to Steelworkers locals all across Quebec.

Members were asked to share photos of themselves wearing the shirt for Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Members took part in community events including wearing the shirts outside the National Assembly in Quebec City and in many workplaces.

It was a gesture of solidarity with Indigenous people and a recognition of a shameful part of Canada’s history that must be faced. The union believes that we must learn about the “truth” in order to move towards reconciliation.

The topic of Indigenous reconciliation and actions we can take within our union and as individuals will be on the agenda at the District 5 Annual Assembly in November.

We must listen, and then offer and show our support. We must push governments – provincially and federally – to do more than make empty promises on Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people.

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A Fair Deal for Valley Manor Employees https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/fairdeal-valley-manor Fri, 29 Oct 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/fairdeal-valley-manor   ]]> Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/can-bgcanada-facing-fossil-fuels-report-oct2021 Thu, 14 Oct 2021 09:29:30 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/can-bgcanada-facing-fossil-fuels-report-oct2021 Climate Action Network - Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada and Blue Green Canada launched their new joint report, Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions. 

Alarm bells are ringing louder and louder on the need to keep warming to 1.5°C to maintain a livable planet. This means stopping the expansion and scaling down production of oil and gas; a recent report in the journal Nature calculated that Canada needs to keep 83% of fossil fuels in the ground to keep 1.5°C within reach. Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future explores the outlook for workers currently employed by the oil and gas industry under a 1.5°C-aligned pathway, and the new careers that need to be created within the decade to offer these workers opportunities in other sectors.

Teika Newton, Managing Director of CAN-Rac Canada, shared an overview of the report alongside Jamie Kirkpatrick, Program Manager at Blue Green Canada, an alliance between Canadian labour unions, environmental and civil society organizations to advocate for working people and the environment. Meg Gingrich of United Steelworkers and Ken Bondy of Unifor shared their reflections on the topic.

Download the report, Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions

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University ‘Dons’ Achieve Historic First Contract https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/university-dons-achieve-historic-first-contract Tue, 12 Oct 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/university-dons-achieve-historic-first-contract U of T dons

University of Toronto residence dons have achieved a historic collective agreement – the first of its kind at the university.

“The collective agreement brings fairness, equity and a real voice in the workplace that were long overdue for a unique group of workers,” says Colleen Burke, president of USW Local 1998, which represents the residence dons as well as thousands of other University of Toronto employees.

The residence dons act as a resource for students in university residences and are responsible for community development, social/educational programming, crisis intervention, referrals, policy enforcement and residents’ overall well-being. The dons also are university students who live in the same residences as the students they serve.

“I’ve learned so much about your work and the challenges you face – health and safety issues, arbitrary rules from managers and the very serious issue of mental health on campus. You are an amazing, hard-working group of workers committed to serving the residence community,” Burke said in a message to residence dons after they negotiated their first union contract.

The three-year agreement, which runs until the end of 2024, covers dozens of dons at four University of Toronto Colleges – Innis, New College, University College and Woodsworth.

The dons voted to join the USW in 2020, and then persevered through a challenging bargaining process that was prolonged and complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke noted.

“I would like to commend your bargaining committee. When they were elected in spring of 2020, they had no idea that COVID issues would delay bargaining for so long. What would normally be a four-month commitment turned into an 18-month one! Your committee: Khaleel Grant, Stephanie Kroone, Ben Swadron and Sterlin Vaillancourt were dedicated, hard-working and truly committed to improving rights for dons,” she added.

The new contract codifies and improves existing working conditions and standards, including the compensation system, and introduces language and clauses addressing new issues, such as ensuring assistants will have access to the University Employment and Family Assistance Plan for additional mental health and other support.

Residence dons from two other University of Toronto residences who also recently joined USW Local 1998 will be negotiating their first collective agreements in the near future.

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Oct. 26 – Steelworkers Talk Politics – Engaging Hearts and Minds: Voter Engagement and our Union https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-talk-politics-engaging-hearts-and-minds-voter-engagement-and-our-union Tue, 05 Oct 2021 09:52:13 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-talk-politics-engaging-hearts-and-minds-voter-engagement-and-our-union All Steelworkers are invited to join our next Steelworkers Talk Politics online event, where we have a chance to informally exchange ideas and opinions about political issues of the day.

Steelworkers Talk Politics – Engaging Hearts and Minds: Voter Engagement and our Union

Register

Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 7:00 p.m. (EDT)

Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 26 to hear from:

  • Matthew Green, NDP MP, Hamilton Centre
  • Jana Papuckoski, Vice-President, USW Local 5296 and former Ontario NDP candidate
  • Brandon Tozzo, lecturer at Trent University, political commentator and President of OPSEU Local 468

Join our guests online in an open discussion about engaging union members in voting and politics:

  • What is populism and how does it affect our union and union members?
  • The importance of union members engaging in the political process
  • Appealing to those who feel left behind by politics
  • Discussing the rise in right-wing populism and disillusion in the context of the history of unions and worker solidarity
  • Getting to a conversation with those who feel left behind by politics, politicians and governments

All Steelworkers are welcome.

Steelworkers are active in politics to have a positive impact on our workplaces, our communities and in our lives. During the pandemic we can’t gather in person, so let’s get together online.

Brought to you by the USW District 6 Political Action Committee.

Register to receive a meeting link.

We hope you’ll join us.

Briana Broderick and Seppo Vataja
USW District 6 Political Action Committee Co-ordinators

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