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 USW Works to Safeguard Canadian Steel Jobs https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-works-to-safeguard-canadian-steel-jobs Mon, 11 Mar 2019 09:41:31 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-works-to-safeguard-canadian-steel-jobs USW is part of a coordinated industry effort to preserve good Canadian jobs in the steel sector, calling on the federal government to keep current steel industry safeguards in place.

“We need decisive action by this government to preserve 22,000 direct steel jobs and the 100,000 indirect jobs that come from the steel sector,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “The importance of these safeguards cannot be overstated – Canadian workers and their jobs must not be fodder in an international trade dispute.”

USW has been working alongside the Canadian Steel Producers Association to press the government to impose safeguards, similar to those introduced by the European Union, in response to the heavy U.S. tariffs.

The Canadian government imposed provisional safeguards back in October for a period of 200 days, after significant pressure from the union and industry. USW recently testified at the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) that Canadian workers and producers are facing job losses and considerable uncertainty as a result of foreign steel imported into the Canadian market and the imposition of 25% U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel.

The CITT will make a ruling on the safeguards on April 3 and a final government decision on whether to keep them in place is expected for early May.

USW has actively been calling on the government to maintain the safeguards for three years in order to stabilize the sector. 

Do you work in the steel sector? Share your story on Twitter or Facebook and join our social media campaign by using the hashtag #safeguardCDNjobs.

Want to learn more about how to safeguard Canadian steel jobs? Check out the Canadian Steel Producers Association campaign sitehttps://supportcanadiansteel.ca/

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Humanity Fund: Young Musicians of the World https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/humanity-fund Mon, 25 Feb 2019 11:38:29 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/humanity-fund imageaSince 2016, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund supports the Young Musicians of the World music school in the Kitcisakik Anicinape First Nations community, near Val d’Or, Québec. The goal of this unique project is to foster the personal development of children and teenagers through musical learning. Watch this short video (with English subtitles) to learn more about this initiative.

Watch the video

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Brian Corcoran Wins 2018 Lynn Williams Award https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/brian-corcoran-wins-2018-lynn-williams-award Tue, 05 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/brian-corcoran-wins-2018-lynn-williams-award Labrador City, N.L. – It was a pleasure to attend the annual SOAR Chapter 6-SA1 Christmas dinner and dance on Dec. 14 2018. I was there to present the Lynn Williams Award for Service to Chapter President Brian Corcoran. People could not have been friendlier and more accommodating to me and the fact that all former presidents of the chapter were in attendance made the event especially memorable.

The Canadian Lynn Williams Award is open annually to all chapters in Canada to nominate a person whom they believe has demonstrated exemplary service to the membership and community in keeping with SOAR’s constitutional mandate.

The Canadian SOAR executive considers all written submissions and votes by secret ballot to select a winner. Each year the selection become more difficult as the number of quality nominees increases annually.

Brian Corcoran is well-known in his community for his selfless service to others. For many years he has served as President of his Canadian Legion Branch as well as President of SOAR Chapter 6-SA1, where he keeps members well-informed of political and social issues and activism.

Brian’s contributions to his community are too numerous to list, but here are a few examples. He is the go-to person for any senior who has problems with their social security pension or benefits, helping them navigate the complexities of government bureaucracies. He negotiates reduced air fares for seniors and others facing medical emergencies, given that residents of remote Wabush and Labrador City often must fly out of the community for treatment. There is not a community event or a fundraising effort that takes place without Brian’s active participation.

Brian is in every respect the epitome of what Lynn Williams envisaged a SOAR chapter leader to be. He is a worthy recipient of this prestigious award.

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Health Care Activists Advocate Universal Pharmacare on Parliament Hill https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/health-care-activists-advocate-universal-pharmacare-on-parliament-hill Tue, 05 Feb 2019 10:36:28 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/health-care-activists-advocate-universal-pharmacare-on-parliament-hill More than 100 public health care advocates, including members of the United Steelworkers, visited MPs on Parliament Hill last week to push for universal public pharmacare.   

While we in Canada currently enjoy universal health care, this currently does not include prescription medications, with levels of drug coverage varying across the country. This patchwork system leaves many Canadians paying out of pocket for prescription drugs. 

Nearly one in four Canadians reported that they or someone in their household did not take their medications as prescribed in the past 12 months because of cost, according to information distributed by the Canadian Department of Finance in June 2018. An estimated one million Canadians were forced to cut back on food or heating in order to afford prescription medications. 

Momentum has been building for universal prescription drug coverage. The federal government appointed an advisory council last year to research options for how to implement such a system. It is due to receive the final report in spring 2019.  Pharmacare will be an issue in the Canadian federal election, scheduled for October 2019. 

Activists scheduled more than 100 meetings with MPs and other officials on Jan. 29 to advocate for national pharmacare that meets five core principles: that it be comprehensive, affordable, accessible, publicly funded and publicly administered. 

To read more about the lobbying effort, click here and here.

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USW Takes Part in Week of Solidarity with Garment Workers in Bangladesh https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-takes-part-in-the-week-of-solidarity-with-garment-workers-in-bangladesh Fri, 01 Feb 2019 14:11:30 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-takes-part-in-the-week-of-solidarity-with-garment-workers-in-bangladesh image

Bangladeshi garment workers are telling us that more than five years after the Rana Plaza disaster the struggle for better and safer working conditions in Bangladesh is ongoing.

The United Steelworkers union is one of the many voices asking Bangladesh to effectively implement the Bangladesh Accord for Building and Fire Safety, which would make the textile and garment industry safer for workers there. For the past two months, garment workers have been taking to the streets in massive numbers to demand a decent living wage for their work.

The protests have been met with violence and repression by Bangladeshi authorities. As part of a worldwide week of solidarity, USW urges Bangladesh to respect labour rights and to stop repression against garment workers. 

Click here to read a letter from Ken Neumann to the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa.

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What Happened to (Real) Wage Growth? https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/what-happened-to-real-wage-growth Fri, 01 Feb 2019 10:42:19 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/what-happened-to-real-wage-growth The Canadian economy saw improvements in 2016, in comparison to 2015, growing at 1.4%, but well behind its 2.6% average growth in 2013-2014. In 2017, economic growth exploded to 3%, only to slow down in 2018 to 2%. During this period, the unemployment rate declined from 7.2% in January of 2016 to 5.6% in December of 2018 – the lowest unemployment rate Canadian workers have seen since the late '70s. With the economy performing at full capacity, and the labour market in a state of virtual full employment, the Bank of Canada has increased the overnight interest rate five times since January 2016, hoping to maintain inflation expectations within the target range of 1-to-3%. While the Bank of Canada has cited the increased debt load that Canadians are carrying as well as snail’s-paced wage growth as causes for concern, it has continued to hike up interest rates so it has room to manoeuvre and ‘hike down’ when the next economic downturn emerges. Although the necessity of continuing to hike interest rates is questionable, given the concerns cited by the Bank of Canada and mild inflation, one thing is certain: increasing interest rates risk slowing down economic growth, and with it, eliminating the existence of tight labour markets, conditions in which workers’ bargaining power is generally in a more favourable position. 

What happened to my wages?

While the unemployment rate has declined to rates unseen since the late ‘70s, workers’ real wages have largely remained stagnant during this period.

Figure I: Non-Management Nominal Wage Growth, 2016-2018

figure1

In standard economics approaches, a tightening labour market and a subsequent scarcity of jobs generally translates into workers’ wages being bid up by employers. As employers race to find workers from a shrinking supply, they try to outbid other employers as a means to secure workers' services. In other words, tightening labour markets are generally conducive to workers’ bargaining power, as workers have plenty of options to sell their capacity to work. For workers, tight labour markets mean it’s a sellers’ market. Figure I, above, broadly captures this trend. From January 2016 to December 2018, the unemployment rate declined 7.2% to 5.6%. During this time, non-management workers’ nominal wages―the money price of their wages―increased by 5.6%. Most of the wage growth that workers experienced occurred in late 2017 to early 2018. It would appear that workers largely benefited and saw their living standards increase in the previous three years. During the same period, however, workers’ real wages – wages adjusted for inflation, i.e., purchasing power have stagnated. [See Figure II, below] While, since January 2016, nominal wages for non-management workers (80% of the population) have grown 5.6%, real wages have grown by less than 0.5% (0.37%). Real wage growth for workers in traditional industries was particularly bad; blue collar workers[1] saw their wages decline by half a percent, while workers in manufacturing saw their real wages decline by 1.26%.

Although workers as a whole have seen their wages stagnate – and decline in some cases – in the past few years, some workers have seen their real wages increase. Those in the bottom 20%[2], most of whom either directly or indirectly benefited from some type of minimum wage increase across a number of provincial jurisdictions, saw their real wages increase by 3.54%, while the bottom 40%[3] saw real wage increases of 1.57%. Non-management workers employed in sales and service occupations, a group which benefited directly and indirectly from minimum wage increases, saw an increase of nearly 4% in real wages.

In global terms, workers continue to make essentially the same amount of money – in purchasing power terms – in 2019 as they did in January 2016. While those at the bottom end of the labour market saw their real wages increase, this was arguably due more to political intervention in the form of legislated minimum wage hikes and its spillover effects than to the natural workings of the forces of supply and demand of the market.   

During the same period, management, which composes approximately 9% of the population, saw their nominal wages grow by 10.2% and their real wages increase by 4.7%. Senior managers (CEOs, CFOs, VPs etc.), who compose 0.29% of the employed population, have seen their nominal wages grow by 17.6% and their real wages grow by 11.64%. While the vast majority saw their wages stagnate, those in the top 10% and 1% saw their purchasing power increase.

figure2

Why has this been the case? Why has workers’ purchasing power stagnated in the face of an expanding economy and tightening labour market—a condition which is generally conducive for workers’ real wages to grow? The business press, bank economists and even the Bank of Canada can’t seem to understand why. What was once a relationship that was largely taken for granted (tight labour markets=higher real wages), has been so weak, even flat, in the most recent business cycle(s).

Workers and those in the labour movement can help them understand. While it seems obvious to many in the trade union movement, it is less so to the economic elites and their policy wonks in government. Workers’ wages continue to stagnate, because for 40 years, workers’ organized bargaining power has been attacked from all sides. In industrial relations, legislative changes have made it more difficult for workers to organize into unions and engage in collective bargaining; employers themselves have become progressively anti-union, often using dirty and illegal methods to ward off unionization, or worse, moving to low-wage jurisdictions to manufacture goods. In trade policy, our governments, at the behest of the economic elite, have sought to sign trade agreements which place our workers in direct competition with low-wage workers, in addition to permitting an influx of cheap imports from countries with dubious labour standards. In economic policy, government after government has sought to cut and eliminate social services, scale back labour market supports (like E.I.) and chase balanced budgets no matter what the cost and who it affects. In monetary policy, central banks have focused solely on controlling inflation instead of encouraging employment growth, as they are mandated to do, in order to satisfy financial markets and interests. The result? A progressive decline in union density, particularly in the private sector. In one sentence, policies and actions enacted on the shop floor, in society and in government, by employers and Liberal and Conservative governments, have sought to destroy workers’ bargaining power, and in particular, organized bargaining power—the organized capacity of workers to compel employers to pay more than what the ‘market’ (i.e., employers) allocates.

That, and only that, is the reason why workers’ real wages continue to stagnate despite economic growth. Without organized bargaining power, without a strong workers’ movement and a capacity to periodically bargain over the price of their labour-power, workers’ ability to increase their real wages, and thus improve their living standards above what the market provides, will fail and wages will continue to stagnate.

It is obvious that if workers’ living standards are to increase, their purchasing power must also increase. In other words, their money wages have to rise faster than inflation. If enough workers can organize strong unions, they can force employers to share some of their profits without driving up inflation too much. Faced with strong unions pushing for higher wages on the one hand, and competitors keen to take away market share by keeping lower prices on the other, employers will not pass on the full cost (or any) of increases to prices, and instead (made to, through organized bargaining power!) "share" their profits with workers. In this way, unions not only help in increasing real wages for workers but can control product markups and redistribute income away from profits to wages.

The most recent business cycle and the weak relationship between tightening labour markets and (real) wage growth should lay to rest the belief and faith that the interactions between supply and demand are sufficient to increase workers’ living standards. This faith is misplaced because there is nothing "natural" about the market. What we call the market, particularly the relationship between workers and management, is not just a simple “exchange” relationship, like buying an apple from a store. It is a relationship infused by power and characterized by conflict. Employers want to pay the least possible; for workers, this means poorer living standards. Workers, on the other hand, want to earn as much as possible; this means (potentially) less profit for owners. In a situation such as this, characterized by opposing interests, conflict is the name of the game, and force decides. While tight labour markets are fundamental and beneficial to workers’ bargaining power, they are simply insufficient in their ability to provide workers with increasing real wages. Only organized bargaining power – in the form of unions – can do this.


 [KL1]In a particular industry OR In particular industries 

Figure II: Nominal versus Real Wage Growth, 2016-2018


[1] Non-management workers employed in the trades, natural resources, manufacturing and utilities.

[2] NOC 5-7

[3] NOC 4-7


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Health Care Workers Council Welcomes 120 New Members https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/health-care-workers-council-welcomes-120-new-members Mon, 14 Jan 2019 15:21:25 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/health-care-workers-council-welcomes-120-new-members The Health Care Workers Council (HCWC) will soon be welcoming 120 new members as the result of successful organizing drives at two Alberta retirement homes.

Workers at Chartwell St. Albert Retirement Residence, who work as LPNs, aides, dietary technicians, and more, received their union certification last month after overwhelming support for the organizing effort.

Recent changes to the province’s labor code, instituted by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP, allowed them to bypass a union election by collecting cards from more than 65 percent of the unit. 

Workers at another Chartwell residence in Sherwood Park, Alberta, did the same last week.

Health care organizers

The new members will join Local 1-207, which now has 11 health care units.

Local 1-207 President Ray White credits the speed and success of both drives to the two organizers on the ground, both of whom are health care workers. 

“The difference between these two drives and ones in the past is that here the organizers were health care workers. Maybe they didn’t know as much about organizing as others, but they know the industry,” White said.

“They speak health care. They know the acronyms,” said White. “They also know the issues facing people at work and can empathize because they’ve lived it.”

Workers at both facilities intend to bargain to improve wages and working conditions, White said, particularly focusing on concerns over scheduling and seniority.

Alberta law requires the two sides to meet within 30 days after the union certificate is issued.

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SOAR leadership changes in District 6 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/soar-leadership-changes-in-district-6 Wed, 09 Jan 2019 11:10:44 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/soar-leadership-changes-in-district-6 Two recent organizational changes:

Reg Duguay has decided to retire from the position of District 6 SOAR coordinator. Reg served with distinction during SOAR’s formative years and helped grow SOAR across the District. His wise counsel, knowledge and advice will be sorely missed. We thank Reg for his many years of service, and wish him a long and enjoyable second retirement.

I am pleased to advice that USW District 6 Director, Marty Warren, has appointed Lena Sutton to the position of District 6 SOAR coordinator. I know that you join me in welcoming and congratulating Lena as she undertakes her new responsibilities.

Lena, is the president of chapter 6-10, she has served on the executive of the Ontario Federation of Union Retirees (OFUR), and currently serves on the executive of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC). Lena counts among her many awards, the prestigious, Jefferson Award and the Lynn Williams award for service.

Lena can be contacted at lena.sutton@bell.net  and phone number 905-549-1305.

Doug Macpherson
National Coordinator

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USW Cares: USW Local 1998 Women of Steel's Holiday Drive Update https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-wos-1998-holiday-drive-update Fri, 21 Dec 2018 10:54:37 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-wos-1998-holiday-drive-update *This story is an update from the original story posted on November 14, 2018, and can be found here.*

USW Local 1998 Women of Steel Committee put out a call for toiletries donations at the University of Toronto (UofT). Over 35 USW members stood up to be ‘hub captains’ and collection boxes were creatively decorated and distributed across the downtown campus, Mississauga and Scarborough campuses, Victoria University and University of Toronto Schools. Departments and Faculties ranging from Dentistry, Medicine, Information Technology, Political Science, Philosophy, Music, Math and Aerospace all participated. 

More than 50 volunteers not only hosted collection boxes but also used their lunch hours to drop off donations, sort through and package donations into bags, delivered donations and encouraged their colleagues to get involved. USW staff members and their families, UofT students, and the broader UofT community all pitched in to make contributions to the drive. 

"Kristy and I went to Sistering today to drop off some of the gift bags, we could see how excited the women were to be receiving a personal gift bag just for them filled with dental care, shampoo and conditioner, gloves, hats and socks and other personal care items.  It is very rewarding at any time of the year but particularly around this time to give back, not only on a practical level but also because these are our neighbours and we need to look out for each other," Mary-Marta Briones-Bird, Women of Steel Co-Chair, USW Local 1998.

Total donations in volume were 100 personal gift bags plus 10 bankers boxes (sorted by type of toiletry such as dental or hair care.) Based on a value of $100 to $150 per bankers box of toiletries donations, the estimated value of donations received is between $3,500 and $5,000.       

Donations have been delivered to: Herizon house in Ajax, Interim Place in Mississauga, Sistering in Toronto West, Red Door Shelter in Toronto East. We are planning to drop off more donations to a youth shelter in January    

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Trudeau’s Tariff Failure Threatens New Year Devastation for Many Canadians https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/trudeaus-tariff-failure-threatens-new-year-devastation-for-many-canadians Sun, 16 Dec 2018 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/trudeaus-tariff-failure-threatens-new-year-devastation-for-many-canadians The following opinion column by Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director for Canada, has been published in the Globe and Mail.

A gloomy holiday season awaits thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on our domestic steel and aluminum industries, their family gatherings sure to be tinged by a sense of foreboding for what lies ahead in the new year.

For months, workers and manufacturers across the country have increasingly been feeling the threat stemming from U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum – levies that are widely recognized as illegal under international trade rules. These fears are exacerbated by recurring reports that the United States is making unacceptable demands for export quotas as alternatives to the illegal tariffs.

A chilling reality is setting in for more and more Canadians – our government has surrendered its leverage to fix the steel and aluminum crisis and avert devastation for so many families and communities.

Federal government data indicate that since the Trump administration’s “national security” tariffs came into effect in June, monthly Canadian steel exports to the United States have plummeted by up to 29 per cent and aluminum exports have dropped by as much as 25 per cent.

Canada’s steel and aluminum sectors directly and indirectly support 175,000 middle-class jobs across the country. With no positive resolution to the tariff dispute in sight, these Canadian families and businesses are bracing for the worst in 2019.

Business, community and labour leaders have been clear in warning Ottawa of the potential for massive, permanent damage from the crisis.

The chamber of commerce in southwestern Ontario’s Elgin County, for example, reports an imminent, direct threat to 5,000 manufacturing-related jobs – a staggering 25 per cent of all employment in the region – with thousands more jobs indirectly at risk.

Multiply such dire scenarios across the country and it becomes evident that fears of devastating impacts in the new year are not overblown.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But the Liberal government has repeatedly failed in its promise to defend the interests of Canada’s steel and aluminum workers.

There was much sunny optimism at the outset of negotiations on a new North American free-trade agreement, with the Liberals promising Canadians a “win-win-win” deal for all parties.

The Prime Minister launched a photo-op tour of Canadian steel and aluminum plants and buoyantly assured workers that he “had your backs.” He apparently warned Donald Trump that any prospect of U.S. tariffs would result in “a negative impact” on trade negotiations.

Mr. Trudeau said he “accepted” Mr. Trump’s promise that “as long as there is a free-trade deal in North America, there won’t be tariffs.”

Of course, Mr. Trump did impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, freely acknowledging he did so to gain leverage in the trade talks.

Despite such objectionable behaviour, the Trudeau government bowed to Mr. Trump’s demands for significant concessions in the new trade agreement, while refusing to insist on the critical quid pro quo – repeal of the U.S. tariffs.

With this historic capitulation, Mr. Trudeau willingly ceded his greatest bargaining chip to get rid of the tariffs. He set the stage for the crisis now facing so many Canadian families and communities. He betrayed his promise to steel and aluminum workers that he had their backs.

In the ensuing months, the Prime Minister has refused to change course. He cavalierly rejects Canadians’ pleas for his government to refuse to sign or ratify the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) until the tariffs are lifted.

While Mr. Trudeau has taken to musing unconvincingly about regaining an advantage through relationships with U.S. businesses and governors, the Trump administration is contemplating more spurious tariffs against Canada, this time targeting our uranium industry.

Can there be any other credible assumption that – if there is to be a resolution to the tariffs-quota dispute – it will come on U.S. terms and at the expense of Canadian workers?

Unless the Trudeau government decides it will not ratify the USMCA until Canada is exempted from U.S. tariffs and quotas, the answer appears obvious.

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Taxi Drivers Hit Hard by Saskatchewan Government Days Before Busy Christmas Season https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/taxi-drivers-hit-hard-by-saskatchewan-government-days-before-busy-christmas-season Fri, 07 Dec 2018 19:26:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/taxi-drivers-hit-hard-by-saskatchewan-government-days-before-busy-christmas-season SASKATOON, Dec. 7, 2018 - With less than 10 days' notice, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) will be unleashed across the province. The United Steelworkers (USW) Taxi Council is deeply disappointed in the decisions made by the government, SGI, and municipalities to attack the current livelihood of taxi workers. It is also concerning that this move is being championed to reduce drinking and driving over the holidays, while there is no evidence that this is the case.

"We have been fighting for safe working conditions for our taxi drivers for over four years. What the province has announced today will put both workers and the public at risk," says Stephen Hunt, USW Western Canada Director.

"Too many of our members experience physical and verbal abuse every day, and with the allowance of Class 5 licence holders to drive TNCs, we will see an increase in the number of people with physical and psychological injuries," Hunt says.

"Allowing Class 5 licence holders to be de facto taxi drivers with such companies as Uber is totally unfair to current taxi drivers who are held to a higher standard at Class 4," says Malik Umar Draz, President of USW Local 2014 and Chair of the USW Taxi Council. "We have been advocating for regulations that will protect drivers and the public. Unfortunately decisions like this put everyone at risk."

It will now be in the hands of the municipalities to do the regulatory heavy lifting, the USW says.

"We were hoping for stronger regulations at the provincial level," says Darrin Kruger, USW Staff Representative. "The province is shirking its responsibility and further de-regulating the transportation industry. This is not a good day for Saskatchewan and this announcement will only lead to an increase in precarious and low-paying jobs in our province." 

The move is contradictory to other changes earlier in the week where the provincial government raised standards for commercial truck drivers. There doesn't seem to be any predictability to the decisions made by this government, only that it is inconsistent and its motivations are unclear.  

The USW Taxi Council represents over 600 drivers in the province. They will continue to fight for better working conditions and health and safety standards for taxi workers.

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USW Cares: Giving Back to Those Who Built Our Community https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-giving-back-to-those-who-built-our-community Wed, 28 Nov 2018 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-giving-back-to-those-who-built-our-community USW Local 6185 is an amalgamated local that represents members from both the Town of Labrador City as well as the Town of Wabush’s municipal governments in Labrador, Canada.

Our members have proudly worked for the residents in our area for 45 years. We thrive to provide services and a well-balanced lifestyle for the citizens of Labrador West.

This year, in the spirit of Christmas, we wanted to give back to the many seniors who have contributed to and built up our community over the years. Without them we would not be where we are today.

To show our appreciation, we asked people to like our Facebook page and submit names of seniors 65 years and older. Every week we draw names for a free home-cooked meal with dessert, delivered to their door by one of our members. We love seeing the smiles on their faces! In fact, we love it so much, we decided to also host a Christmas dinner for all those away from their families for the holidays. We feel that small, kind gestures are often the biggest in our hearts.

This holiday giving has not only brought smiles to faces of our seniors receiving meals, but it has brought our community together. We have been receiving donations from residents in both towns, and because of this generosity, we are able to provide even more meals each week. We started out with four meals per week and are happy to say that next week we will be up to at least 15.

Cheers to 45 years of supporting our communities❤️ and being able to give back.

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News@6 Fall 2018 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/news-at-6-fall-2018 Tue, 27 Nov 2018 08:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/news-at-6-fall-2018 News@6 Fall 2018In this issue:

  • Powered Up - Marty's Message
  • New Mentorship Program Looking for Participants
  • Emergency Response Team - Expanded
  • Bargaining Successes
  • Steelworkers on Parliament Hill re Steel and Aluminum Tariffs
  • Report from the District 6 Conference
  • Getting Political for Workers' Rights
  • From Steelworkers to Legislators: Jamie West and Guy Bourgouin
  • After 4 Years, Family Wants Inquest Recommendations Implemented
  • Women Join the Call to Action - Report from the USW National/International Women's Conference
  • Woman of Steel Terri Nugent Honoured with Agnes Macphail Award
  • Mayson Fulk – OFL Solidarity & Pride Champion
  • Randy St. Croix – Silkwood Award Honoree

Download the PDF of News@6

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Diversity Council Ups Union Involvement https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/diversity-council-ups-union-involvement Wed, 21 Nov 2018 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/diversity-council-ups-union-involvement 6717groupWhat used to be an all-white, mostly male, local workforce in Weyburn, Sask., is diversifying.

Among the 120 members of USW Local 6717, working at electrical cable maker Nexans, 36 are visible minorities and six are women. They hail from Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Poland, Romania; and in management, Mauritius, Germany and Bangladesh.

Recognizing that “the world is changing everywhere,” Local 6717 developed a human rights training course and established a Diversity Council to help “find a way to ease the transition into something new,” says President Brad Thompson.

Former Local 6717 member Harpreet Singh was one of the original Diversity Council members.

Employees from non-white backgrounds perceived the work culture to be rigid and non-welcoming, Harpreet recalls. Issues and divisions were percolating.

The Diversity Council was keen to deal with this proactively. Working with the USW Regina office, council members got training and learned about human rights laws. The council put up a world map in the workplace with pins marking the countries of origin of all workers in the plant.

“The map helped people from different ethnic groups see themselves represented,” says Harpreet.

The Diversity Council hosted meetings on topics from anti-harassment to world religions, gender diversity, mental health and more. Now well-established, the council hosts four meetings a year – on work time – with union members and management welcome.

Council Advocacy

The Diversity Council also took action for workers left in limbo when immigration rules changed without warning.

Workers were on a path to citizenship when quotas were changed in their category and they became Temporary Foreign Workers with few rights.

The Diversity Council put pressure on company management and the provincial government and succeeded in grandfathering the workers so they could continue on their path to citizenship.

Power of the Personal

The Diversity Council is never short on topical issues for its meetings. During the Syrian refugee crisis, the council held a meeting on the refugee experience and invited a member who was a Romanian refugee from the 1980s.

“He barely escaped with his life under [Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu. He’s been my friend and neighbour for 20 years, but I didn’t know the ordeal that he went through to get to Canada,” says Brad.

“He made an impassioned plea for people to be more supportive of Syrian refugees because unless you’ve lived through something like that, you have no idea what it’s like.”

Get Involved

A machine operator at Nexans for 12 years, Kendall Hibbard has been on the union executive for eight years, currently as a Trustee, Shop Steward and a Diversity Council and Women’s Committee member.

“My dad worked at Nexans for 40 years. He said, ‘You get in that union – and you get involved’.”

As a woman, even with her dad working there, sometimes people would say things to her, and she would cower and push back.

“I’ve taken courses through the union and I know what my rights are. I stand up for myself now.”

Kendall remembers a Diversity Council meeting that explored religions in India – Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.

“It’s really neat to know! We’re all so naïve if we stereotype and think that people are the same – they’re not.”

Diversity Beyond the Council

Beyond the Diversity Council, the local is encouraging workers from different backgrounds to become involved in the union.

Fred Waroma has worked on the extrusion line for seven years, putting jackets on medium-voltage cables. Serving on the Health and Safety Committee makes Fred feel more connected to the union.

“I always like to volunteer. Back in Kenya I was involved in humanitarian activities. I find a way to do it through the union here, too. It’s another avenue to do things around the community, to help people.”

Joseph Intia, one of several workers from the Philippines, was encouraged to get involved in the union and after attending several meetings, he ran to be a Guard – and nominated another Filipino member.

“Somehow, I became an example to my brothers,” Joseph says. “‘Come and attend the union meetings,’ I encourage them. It’s a place where we can be informed.”

Respect

The Diversity Council’s work has branched out: opening a dialogue in the workplace around mental health and addictions issues.

“We have a responsibility to look after our membership and make sure we’re treating everybody equally with the same dignity and respect, and that looks different, depending on the challenges that people go through,” Brad says.

Brad’s advice to USW locals considering a diversity program: “Do it!”

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of USW@Work.

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What Rachel Notley has done for Steelworkers? https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/what-rachel-notley-has-done-for-steelworkers Tue, 20 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/what-rachel-notley-has-done-for-steelworkers premiernotleySince USW member Rachel Notley became Premier of Alberta in May 2015, there has been tremendous positive change for all working people.

Premier Notley has never forgotten who she is working for. After decades of right-wing, anti-worker governments, Alberta is making progress with a government that is on our side.

So what exactly have Premier Notley and the NDP done for Steelworkers?

Standing Up for Pipelines

USW members in Western Canada make the highest-quality steel pipe in the world, to the highest environmental standards – manufactured with a lower carbon footprint than imported products.

Rachel Notley has stood up to attacks on the Trans Mountain pipeline, standing with workers and calling on the federal government to ensure pipeline projects get built. She toured Tenaris Prudential Steel in Calgary in support of USW Local 7226 members and she supports our members at Evraz, too.

Updating Employment Standards

After decades of Conservative Party attacks on workers, Rachel Notley’s government made major improvements to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, which had not been updated since 1988.

  • New leaves after 90 days of employment to support workers in unstable jobs.
  • Job protection extended to 27 weeks for workers needing leave to care for a loved one.
  • Parental leave extended to 62 weeks.
  • Workers are entitled to one 30-minute or two 15-minute breaks for every five hours worked. Previously there were no breaks under Alberta law.
  • People with disabilities are no longer treated as second-class workers; they are entitled to the same minimum wage as other workers.

The Alberta Employment Standards Code is now one of the strongest in Canada and will benefit all Albertans for generations to come.

Critical Investments

After decades of underfunding, Notley’s government has made critical investments in infrastructure, hospitals and education that will improve health care and Alberta’s competitive advantage. The government is reviewing procurement policies to ensure Albertans benefit from government spending.

Protecting Workers’ Health and Safety

Occupational Health and Safety Act changes include improvements to joint worksite health and safety committees, harassment and violence measures and strengthening the right to refuse dangerous work.

The purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act was clarified and improvements made to the Workers’ Compensation Board, including:

  • Restoring a balance of representation at the board.
  • No earnings maximum for WCB benefits.
  • More autonomy for injured workers to choose medical providers.
  • When in doubt, claims are approved in favour of the worker, rather than rejected.

Supporting Unions

Alberta now has the most progressive labour code in Canada, following improvements including:

  • Amending the definition of ‘employee’ to allow contractors to unionize and bargain collectively.
  • Union certification if over 65% of employees sign cards. Employers won’t be given the chance to threaten their employees.
  • Facilitating a union’s ability to communicate with workers in remote or inaccessible locations.

All the progress made for Alberta workers and families will be on the line next May when Albertans go to the polls. Conservative leader Jason Kenney wants to move the province backwards to a time when workers’ issues did not matter. It will be up to Steelworkers to talk to our co-workers, families and friends to make sure Alberta continues to have a government that’s on our side.

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of USW@Work.

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Recalling the Horror Part of Making Improvements https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/recalling-the-horror-part-of-making-improvements Sun, 18 Nov 2018 20:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/recalling-the-horror-part-of-making-improvements verntIn the first few days after the 1992 Westray Mine explosion, Westray miner and rescue team member Vern Theriault had the grim task of transporting bodies to the surface, but only after dark so that the dead miners would not be a spectacle for the media and others gathered at the site, including family members of the 26 who perished.

Twenty-six years after telling his story of post-traumatic stress on every anniversary of the disaster, Vern Theriault has written it all down in “Westray, My Journey from Darkness to Light”. The book recalls the lead-up to and the aftermath of an event that forever changed Vern Theriault and the way the law is expected to treat workplace fatalities.

Often with Vern’s participation, USW continues the Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law campaign to get better enforcement of what we call the Westray Law – Criminal Code amendments intended to hold companies criminally accountable for workplace death and injury.

The campaign, endorsed by municipalities across Canada, and acknowledged by federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers, is making baby steps but, as long as employers are still getting away with fines, the fight has to continue, say USW leaders.

“Every time a province elects a new government or a government appoints a new attorney-general, we must re-educate them on the need for training, protocols and the obligation to investigate workplace fatalities first as crime scenes before turning them over to ministries of labour and other regulators,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

In a memo earlier this year, District 3 Director Stephen Hunt noted some recent guilty verdicts against negligent employers. One was against Detour Gold, an Ontario mining company that failed to properly train a worker who died of acute cyanide poisoning.  In Stave Lake, B.C., a company was found guilty of negligence after a 22-year-old worker who received no formal training was killed when the mine dump truck she had been operating rolled and crushed her to death.          

In Quebec, a jail sentence of 18 months for manslaughter was recently handed down to a contractor after a worker was killed by the collapse of a trench he was in while working on a sewer line.

Each case sets a new bar for others. Steelworkers will build on these cases to ensure training for prosecutors in every province and territory. Without pressure from USW members across Canada, we know that workplace deaths will not get the law enforcement attention they deserve and Crown prosecutors will continue to dispatch cases.

Progress is being made with protocols on dealing with workplace incidents in several provinces.  In Newfoundland-Labrador, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's new involvement in investigating workplace deaths or serious injuries is said to mark a "significant difference" that could land employers and supervisors in jail if a workplace is found to be unsafe.

In an expression of national cooperation, the Calgary Police Service is working with the Constabulary so that the force will now start criminal investigations at the site of every incident, rather than securing the scene and handing things over to Occupational Health and Safety.

"We think we do have the responsibility to make sure we do the right thing here with regards to the Criminal Code," says Constabulary Chief Joe Boland. "So we're going to shift to make sure if there is criminal negligence involved, that we lay the appropriate charges.

"We'll also work with Occupational Health and Safety.  They will run a parallel investigation with us but we will no longer just turn the investigation immediately over to them."

Meanwhile, the federal Department of Justice is preparing a fact sheet on criminal investigations, which should be available later this year.

With his Westray memories and his story now out for everyone to read, Vern Theriault would certainly approve of these developments.

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of USW@Work.

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Concession Bargaining https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/concession-bargaining Thu, 15 Nov 2018 10:24:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/concession-bargaining Thousands of Canadian families were shocked in October to learn they were left in the lurch by Liberal government concessions to the United States on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Liberals agreed to a new NAFTA deal even though the Trump administration maintained illegal tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum that have threatened thousands of Canadian jobs.

Trump acknowledged he was using the tariffs as leverage to get a NAFTA deal with Canada. But even when Trump got the deal he wanted, the Liberals did not insist that the tariffs be lifted.

“Time and time again during the NAFTA renegotiations, the Liberal government assured Canadians that it was defending our steel and aluminum sectors and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Canadian families,” USW National Director Ken Neumann said when the NAFTA deal was disclosed.

“Given the Liberal government’s rhetoric, Canadians expected an agreement on NAFTA would result in the U.S. lifting the bogus ‘national-security’ tariffs. Instead, Canadian workers are being sacrificed along with all the other concessions made by the Liberal government in this deal,” Neumann said.

Once the renegotiated NAFTA details emerged in October, USW leaders, members and our allies demanded that the Liberal government take a hard line against U.S. tariffs or potential quotas on Canadian steel and aluminum.

“The United Steelworkers on both sides of the border continue to insist that U.S. quotas are unacceptable and the current steel and aluminum tariffs must be lifted immediately,” Neumann said.

As of the time of this writing, the Liberal government had not made any such commitment.

NAFTA to USMCA – A Bad Deal Gets Worse

At the outset of the NAFTA renegotiations, the Liberals boasted their ‘progressive trade agenda’ would bring a better deal for Canadians, including new ‘priorities’ ranging from women’s rights to Indigenous rights to stronger environmental standards.

However, the Liberals quickly abandoned their ‘progressive’ vision.

“Rather than give-and-take negotiations to improve Canada’s trading position with the U.S., the Liberals made concession after concession, until the Trump administration got the deal it wanted. In the end, the new deal is worse for Canada than the old NAFTA,” Neumann said.

“So much for the ‘win-win-win’ deal promised by this government.”

The Liberals’ concessions in the new NAFTA, now renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), include:

Supply management: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Canadian farmers he would defend them in the NAFTA talks. Instead, Liberal concessions will harm Canadian producers and workers in five agricultural sectors.

Canada’s dairy market will be opened to more American products, while Canadian exports will be restricted.

The Liberals’ concessions will also affect Canadian farmers in four other sectors that will be subjected to more American imports – chicken, turkey, egg, and broiler hatching eggs and chicks.

The Liberals plan to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars to compensate affected farmers, though the harm to Canadians will endure long after short-term compensation expires.

Higher drug costs: Prescription drug costs in Canada will increase by hundreds of millions of dollars due to the Liberals’ concession on U.S. demands on drug patents benefiting pharmaceutical companies. This concession also will make it more expensive to implement a universal pharmacare program in Canada.

Buy America: While American producers gain greater access to Canadian markets, the Liberals abandoned their key objective to undo ‘Buy America’ rules on government procurement. The Liberals’ failure means Canadian companies – particularly small- and medium-sized businesses – will be blocked from selling their goods and services to the U.S.

Surrendering sovereignty: The Liberals conceded to U.S. demands for new provisions that compromise Canadian sovereignty on trade negotiations with “non-market” countries, such as China. Canada will be forced to inform the U.S. about any intent to pursue such negotiations and divulge the text of any agreement to the U.S. – in advance. If the U.S. objects to such an agreement, it can eject Canada from the USMCA, which would then become a bilateral U.S.-Mexico deal.

The Liberals’ concession bargaining in the new USMCA adds to a failed record on international trade agreements.

In September, the Liberals introduced legislation to ram through the 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a trade deal projected to kill 58,000 middle-class Canadian jobs in the steel, auto, skilled trades and supply-management sectors.

Last year the Liberals implemented the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which has resulted in a flood of imports from CETA countries into Canada, while Canadian exports to these countries have decreased.

The Liberals’ bluster on “progressive trade” is betrayed by its continual support for corporate trade agreements that erode Canada’s manufacturing base, kill good jobs, drive down wages, increase inequality and worsen environmental challenges.

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of USW@Work.

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USW Cares: USW Local 1998 Women of Steel Holiday Drive https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-usw-local-1998-women-of-steel-holiday-drive Wed, 14 Nov 2018 13:42:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-usw-local-1998-women-of-steel-holiday-drive 1998wosLast year, USW Local 1998’s Women of Steel conducted a successful toiletries drive. The committee decided to take it on once again this year with a goal to amp it up even further! 

Last year’s donations went to Sistering, a multi-service agency in Toronto for at-risk, socially isolated women who are homeless or precariously housed. This year, the local’s goal is to distribute all goods received to multiple organizations.

USW Local 1998 members span the three University of Toronto campuses in the Greater Toronto Area – downtown Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga. Donations are being accepted in boxes at all three campuses, as well as at general membership meetings from October to December and anytime at the local union office at 25 Cecil Street, 3rd floor, in Toronto.

There are currently over 25 donation boxes at all University of Toronto campuses.

Items we collected last year included:  shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body lotion, body wash, cosmetics, brushes and combs, tampons and pads, and other non-perishable items. If you feel inspired to also collect socks, hats, scarves, toys for all ages, etc. please feel free to include those items as well.  

For those interested in participating – it’s not too late! If you are willing to collect donation items until mid-December, contact USW Local 1998, info@usw1998.ca, who will also provide the collection boxes!

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USW Cares: Baskets of Solidarity https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-baskets-of-solidarity Tue, 13 Nov 2018 10:59:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-cares-baskets-of-solidarity During the planning stages of the 2018 District 6 Conference, the District 6 Women’s Committee received a request for locals and area councils to ask women’s shelters what items they need donated to help the women and children at the shelters get started again on their own. The plan was to build baskets of these supplies at the conference, as our community outreach.

I called my local shelter (women’s services) and found out that in all of Haldimand and Norfolk we have one shelter, and that is normally full. If they do not have the room then women are shipped to Niagara, Brant or Hamilton.

I also found what kind of stuff was needed.

Because of this, our women’s committee decided to have a social to incorporate solidarity between women, families, wives and retirees from our local, and at the same time raise funds to fill baskets.

The local membership also voted to donate all monies spent on supplies and food to the shelter.

We had enough donations to put together seven stuffed baskets for our local shelter. We raised just under $1,000.

I am very proud of the work of our Women of Steel Committee and participate where I can to show my support for the great causes that they undertake.

 
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Support Bécancour Steelworkers Locked Out by ABI https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/9700-donations Tue, 30 Oct 2018 13:01:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/9700-donations Members of Steelworkers Local 9700 locked out by ABI.

The 1,030 unionized employees at the ABI smelter in Bécancour have been locked out of their jobs since Jan. 11 by Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

The labour dispute hinges on two key outstanding issues – pension plan changes and language related to seniority rights and employee turnover.

Since the lockout began, however, the company has made additional demands. The company has shown no willingness to negotiate, even as the union made repeated overtures.

These workers are strong and standing tall with the solidarity of Steelworkers and the labour movement.

Take solidarity a step further by supporting the locked-out workers of Local 9700 with a donation.

Please make cheques payable to: MÉTALLOS SL 9700 F.D.P.

Mail to:

MÉTALLOS SL 9700 F.D.P.
Syndicat des Métallos
8310, rue Desormeaux
Bécancour, Québec
G9H 2X2
Attention: Éric Moore, Financial Secretary

Online donations by credit card can be made here.

Thank you for your support!

*Don’t forget to write to Alcoa’s board of directors to voice your support for the locked-out workers. Send your email here.

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