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 Steelworkers Vote Ontario 2022 – Apply today https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/steelworkers-vote-ontario-2022-apply-today Tue, 22 Feb 2022 09:50:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/steelworkers-vote-ontario-2022-apply-today Steelworkers Vote logoUSW District 6 Ontario

It’s election year in Ontario. That means it’s time to get ready for Steelworkers Vote schools.

Steelworkers are involved in politics because laws and policies have a big impact on our union, our workplaces and our communities. These schools are great opportunities to learn about politics, build a network of engaged Steelworkers and volunteer for the NDP.

Apply to attend a Steelworkers Vote school: click here

Choose from one online option or four in-person locations, public health guidelines permitting.



Held over three days, plus volunteer hours expected after class each day. See dates below. Held over 5 weekdays plus volunteer hours on the weekend and after class each day. In-person schools will move online if public health restrictions require it. Proof of vaccination is required. See dates below.

Those accepted to attend must have the support of their local union. Local unions will be reimbursed for participant lost time, per diem and hotel (if applicable) by the USW International Office.**

NextGENers and first-time participants particularly welcome.

“Being a part of Steelworkers Vote has helped me gain knowledge and experience to be a part of exciting campaigns in future elections. I will carry the information and connections made during the course with me for many years. Thank you, Steelworkers, for putting on such an amazing class.”

Shannon Horner
USW Local 8782, Nanticoke, Ont.

"I am calling on members of our union to get involved in this election. We need to bring workers’ issues and voices to the forefront. Let’s see some USW boots on the ground for the Ontario NDP!"

Myles Sullivan
USW District 6 Director-elect

Steelworkers Vote Course Dates

Online • Wed-Fri., April 6-8 (3 days)

Weekday in-person schools

(We will volunteer on Sunday evening before class begins. We are volunteering in the evenings after class, Mon.-Fri., and on Sat. am before returning home.)

Toronto • Sunday, May 1 – Saturday, May 7

Hamilton • Monday, May 9 – Saturday, May 14

Sudbury • Monday, May 9 – Saturday, May 14

Cambridge • Wednesday, May 25 – Tuesday, May 31 (includes weekend volunteering, May 28-29)

Click here to apply to attend a Steelworkers Vote school

Questions? Send an email to vote@usw.ca

* Dates subject to change **Applicants must have local union support to cover costs related to pension or RRSP and benefit contributions.

Steelworkers Local 6500 funds vital care for newborn infants https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/lu6500-funds-vital-care-for-infants Tue, 22 Feb 2022 07:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/lu6500-funds-vital-care-for-infants United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500 in Sudbury has donated $65,000 to help secure vital hospital equipment needed for the care of newborn infants.

This generous donation went on to make an even greater impact on pediatric patients when USW Local 6500 challenged others in the community to give during the Pure for Pediatrics campaign hosted by Pure Country on Feb. 17. This challenge led to Pure for Pediatrics raising over $101,000 to support the best care for the tiniest of patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Health Sciences North hospital system.

“We are proud and heart-warmed to be able to support great care for the tiniest of patients with this donation,” said Nick Larochelle, USW Local 6500 President. “Our members are always eager to make a difference in our community, and there is no better feeling than knowing we are able to help provide quality care right at the start of life for some of the most vulnerable patients.”

USW Local 6500 is a major, longtime supporter of pediatric care in the Sudbury region.

“Standing by tradition to make our community a better place, USW Local 6500 continues to enrich the health of our community with their generosity,” said Anthony Keating, President of Foundations and Volunteer Groups at Health Sciences North.

The success of the recent community fundraising campaign “will ensure that our NEO Kids continue to have access to the latest in specialized pediatric equipment for better care.”

USW LU 6500 donation

The FCEF can help you plan events! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/fcef-plan-events Thu, 10 Feb 2022 14:59:32 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/fcef-plan-events Is your local a contributor to the Family & Community Education Fund (FCEF) but stuck as to what events to host? Feeling too busy to brainstorm a project? We can help!

The FCEF has over 20 project templates on its website – pick the event that best suits the interests of your membership and find event planning tips, resource lists, and more! Visit these templates here.

It’s easy to connect national USW campaigns to your members. Raising the Bar on Women’s Health & Safety is a great initiative to participate in, and helps you get women more involved in your local. Find all the materials you need to give a short presentation on this campaign at usw.ca/RaiseTheBar. FCEF contributors leading Raising the Bar events can easily secure funds to pay for food and swag costs. Reach out to Gabriele, the FCEF Coordinator, for help with drafting your project submission.

Lunch and learn poster EN

Steelworker solidarity in action: no concessions at The Palace! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/steelworker-solidarity-in-action-no-concessions-at-the-palace Wed, 09 Feb 2022 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/steelworker-solidarity-in-action-no-concessions-at-the-palace On February 7, 2022, 40 members of USW Local 9211-14 rallied in the streets of Alexandria, Ontario, to demonstrate their frustration and disappointment with the concessions tabled by their employer, The Palace Alexandria, a Long-Term Care (LTC) Facility and Retirement Home, in their latest round of bargaining.

Although Local 9211-14 members are essential workers and unable to strike under provincial labour legislation, they wanted to send a clear message to their employer and a provincial board of arbitration which is meeting to decide the outcome of their collective agreement. Members demonstrated their dissatisfaction and made it known that if striking were a legal possibility, they would be willing to withhold their labour. Local media covered the solidarity rally and helped raise community awareness of the workers’ struggle. (Read the article: Employees at Alexandria facility picket for a better deal).

The demonstration by Local 9211-14 comes on the heels of similar action taken by members of Local 6946 on October 29, 2021, when they held a Community Awareness Event on the main street of Barry’s Bay, Ontario, to demand that their employer, Valley Manor Inc., another LTC facility, meaningfully engage in the bargaining process. Members were rewarded by a dramatic positive shift in the attitude of the employer for the next round of bargaining. Local media also provided positive coverage of the workers’ action.

While the outcome of both collective agreements remains outstanding, the solidarity and strength of the membership has not gone unnoticed by the employers. It is hoped these events will mark a new chapter in labour relations between the parties moving forward.

Myles Sullivan Statement for Black History Month https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/d6-bhm-statement Tue, 01 Feb 2022 14:41:17 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/d6-bhm-statement Black History Month is here! Each year in February, District 6 is proud to celebrate Black History Month to acknowledge the contributions of Black people, past and present, to the labour movement and society as a whole. This important month will be celebrated virtually, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we reflect on all frontline workers, many of whom are Black people, in the Health Care and other sectors. These workers compromise their health daily and experience increased workloads due to COVID-19. We recognize and appreciate all their sacrifices and commitment to keep us safe, and provide the essential goods and services to our families and communities.

We take this time to reflect and remember great Black icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream for equality and justice which has manifested from Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus to Barack Obama sitting in the white house.  Other examples include Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist of slavery with the Underground Railroad network, and Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier in professional sports.

USW believes in diversity and equality. In collaboration with is allies, we have made significant progress in raising awareness and educating our members and communities on the impact of anti-black racism, systemic racism, and oppression in our workplaces and communities. We recognize that racism is still alive and we will continue to work earnestly with our political leaders to eradicate all forms of discrimination in our workplaces.

We invite you to join the District 6 Human Rights committee in its virtual celebration of Black History Month on February 15, at 7 p.m.

Myles Sullivan, USW District 6 Director-elect

Let’s do better for Ontario – Election 2022 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/lets-do-better-for-ontario-election-2022 Tue, 01 Feb 2022 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/lets-do-better-for-ontario-election-2022 It’s time we did better in Ontario. Voting for better means voting for the Ontario NDP with Andrea Horwath as Premier and voting out the failed government of Doug Ford and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs).

Steelworkers are involved in politics because laws and politics have a big impact on our workplaces and our communities.

I am calling on members of our union to get involved and to be sure to vote in the June election. Here’s why.

USW priorities for the Ontario 2022 election

Steelworkers know we need to bring back good manufacturing jobs in Ontario. We need to develop the value of our natural resources here at home from start to finish. We need a partner in government to do that – someone we can trust. That’s Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP. 

Andrea and the NDP have an infrastructure program that will create good-paying unionized jobs while adding to our long-term care capacity and tackling the school repair backlog.

Members of our union want to see commitments to use Canadian-produced steel, cement, aluminum and wood in Ontario’s infrastructure projects. Choosing local is good for jobs and the environment, as Canadian-made inputs are greener than materials brought in from elsewhere.

We need to invest in clean, green industries – while insisting on good jobs that are unionized with benefits, pensions and paid sick days.

We need a partner in government that will make it easier for workers to form and join unions.

Unions give workers better wages and a voice at work. Union members strengthen our public services. With good union jobs, workers earn better wages, benefits and pensions. All that contributes to our province’s tax base to fund the quality services that we need starting with health care and education.

We want a government in Ontario that will prioritize social justice and work to end inequality.

Our union is proud to have six Steelworkers in the current NDP Caucus. They ran for the NDP because it’s the only party that truly shares our working-class values: Gilles Bisson (Timmins); Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk–James Bay); Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre); Michael Mantha (Algoma–Manitoulin); Paul Miller (Hamilton East–Stoney Creek); Jamie West (Sudbury).

This election is our chance to do all this and more. We can build a better future in Ontario, by electing Andrea Horwath and the NDP.

Ford’s PCs: Too little, too late, too often

Ford has failed us in so many ways. His PC government has attacked workers, collective bargaining, health and safety on the job, education, health care and seniors.

Ford and the PCs attacked free collective bargaining with Bill 124, that caps wage increases to 1% in the public sector. It leaves workers’ behind when inflation is at record levels. The USW is part of a union coalition fighting back with a legal challenge to Bill 124, to assert our union and worker rights to bargain freely.

The wage cap bill has led to the short staffing we’re seeing in health care and other sectors. Frontline heroes such as nurses and other health-care workers are leaving the profession! Our own USW members in health care and post-secondary education are actually going backwards on wages when you factor in record inflation rates.

Ford’s PCs failed workers by cancelling the $15 minimum wage and repealing paid sick days as one of his first acts. He rolled back other protections workers had waited over 15 years of Liberal governments to get.

Workers won’t be fooled by Ford’s false reversal on workers, reinstating the $15 minimum wage three years late.

Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP have a better plan for workers, promising a $20 minimum wage within a first term. And the NDP will bring in permanent employer-paid sick days, not just three temporary days as the Ford government reluctantly did, under pressure from public health experts.

Fumbled pandemic response

Ford’s bad decisions bungled Ontario’s pandemic response. As of January, 2022, more than 3,800 seniors in long-term care have died due to COVID-19. The PCs’ response was callous: bringing in a law to protect long-term care businesses from lawsuits from families who lost loved ones. The PCs are too often choosing corporate profits and priorities over people’s needs.

And don’t forget, it was the corporate-friendly Liberals who relaxed Ontario’s long-term-care home inspections in the first place, long before the pandemic.

Andrea Horwath and the NDP will improve long-term care by increasing spaces, reducing wait times and transitioning to a system that removes greedy corporations from the sector so our elderly are safe and dollars are directed to better care, not profits.

Liberals not the answer

The Ontario Liberal Party had their chance. After 15 years of pro-corporate government, facing historically low popular support, they waited until the very end of their term to propose changes that workers needed. This made it easy for Doug Ford and his PC government to roll back labour reforms when they formed government in 2018.

Clearly, the Liberals aren’t the answer. The Liberals directly attacked workers and unions during the last election, in a desperate attempt to stop the NDP.

It didn’t work. The Liberal party has been in a shambles since the last election when they didn’t win enough seats to keep official party status.

There’s a better choice: Vote NDP

For election 2022, what we need is a real plan and hope for a better future. And that’s just what Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is offering.

She’s from Hamilton, a real Steeltown scrapper. She understands the working class and the struggles we face.

In the last election, the Ontario NDP finished second with 40 seats and formed the Official Opposition. That’s a strong position to build from this time, in 2022.

The Ontario NDP has a plan for a better Ontario:

  • Repair the damage done by decades of Liberal and PC governments
  • Raise the minimum wage to $20 within a first term
  • Invest in health care and education
  • Improve long-term care, reduce wait times and get greedy corporate profit out of care
  • Make $10-a-day child care a priority and sign the deal with the federal government
  • Recruit and retain frontline health-care workers
  • Make renting more affordable and make it easier to buy a home
  • Implement a clear, effective, evidence-based pandemic strategy

I call on Steelworkers in Ontario to get involved in the election. Volunteer for your local NDP candidate. Get involved in our Steelworkers Vote program. Talk to your family, friends and co-workers about how Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP are the better choice. Together, we can do this.

In solidarity and please stay safe,

Myles Sullivan
USW Ontario Director-elect (District 6)

Ken Neumann and Marty Warren statement for Black History Month https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/statement-bhm2022 Tue, 01 Feb 2022 06:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/statement-bhm2022 Black History Month 2022

In our union’s proud history of promoting and supporting equality, Steelworkers celebrate Black History Month each February.

During Black History Month, Steelworkers celebrate the accomplishments of Black Canadian people in society, acknowledge the achievements of activists in our union, and, encourage Steelworkers to continue the struggle for equality. We recognize that despite advances in equality, racism has played an historic part in our national experience.

At the end of 2021, we went through the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Currently across Canada, we are waiting for developments in public health regulations to determine how our communities and workplaces will adapt. Statistically, racialized people live in lower-income areas, are more dependent on public transit to get to and from work, and, form the backbone of services in transport, health care and retail. The combination of these factors mean that our racialized communities have absorbed far greater challenges than other groups.

Steelworkers have created the USW National Anti-Racism Working Group (NARWG). Drawn from membership and staff selected by each district, the NARWG will consult with and help our union develop initiatives against racism in all its forms. The first two events for the NARWG in 2022 will take place during Black History Month.

On Feb. 16, Steelworkers will be hosting the final session in the series “Solidarity in Hard Times” online conferences. As part of day, the NARWG will be introducing themselves and what they hope to accomplish.

In addition, we will be launching the “Building Inclusive Locals” series over the next few months. This series focuses on practical ways our union can do more in addressing issues of equality in our locals and communities. During Black History Month, two members of the NARWG will be co-hosting two sessions on the same topic. Each session will have a prominent Black Canadian trade unionist as a featured speaker. There are two opportunities to join.

  • Wednesday, February 23 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific (8:30 p.m. Eastern); English only. Click here to register
  • Thursday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern (4:30 p.m. Pacific); French-English translation provided. Click here to register 

The principles of equality are essential to Steelworker solidarity in our workplaces, and, social justice in our communities. I ask all Steelworkers to join me in celebrating Black History Month this February. Beyond that, I urge you to always continue the fight for equality.

Ken Neumann, USW National Director
Marty Warren, USW National Director-elect

Taking action on Truth and Reconciliation https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/trc-action Mon, 31 Jan 2022 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2022/trc-action Reconciliation means action. Here are some practical things Steelworkers and local unions can do to build reconciliation:

1. Write your municipal, provincial, and federal politicians and ask them how they are implementing the TRC Calls to Action. Specifically, lobby Members of Parliament and demand the federal government reverse its decision not to fund TRC Calls to Action 72-76, which call on Canada to work with Indigenous communities to locate their missing loved ones and unmarked burial places in a culturally informed way.*

2. Watch one Steelworker’s story about the trauma of residential schools

3. Learn about Chanie Wenjack’s story by showing this Heritage Minute at a membership meeting. Know that his story was shared by thousands of other Indigenous children.*

4. In your local, discuss how your employer can provide jobs, training, and opportunities for advancement to Indigenous people.

5. Make a motion to donate to an Indigenous-led organization working to promote truth and reconciliation, including:

  • The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Foundation
  • The Legacy of Hope Foundation
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society
  • National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Orange Shirt Society
  • Reconciliation Canada
  • First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

6. Join a community event on October 4 or February 14 to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons, and donate to organizations that work to end gender-based violence.

7. Check out USW’s Bargaining guide for advancing Indigenous rights and share it with your local executive.

8. Ask your local union to send members to USW’s course, Unionism on Turtle Island, to learn more about our shared history and how we can work for more justice in the present.

9. Learn how to build good relationships with Indigenous peoples who live near you by reading Guidelines for being a good neighbour and ally from USW’s course, “Unionism on Turtle Island.”

10. In your local union, survey Indigenous members to find out what their issues, concerns, and needs are. That’s just one of the good ideas from Indigenous Steelworkers on our list, How USW locals can support Indigenous rights from USW’s course, “Unionism on Turtle Island."

11. Encourage your local union to start meetings and events with a territorial acknowledgement. To learn how, read Writing a territorial acknowledgement from USW’s course, “Unionism on Turtle Island.”

12. Support a campaign to demand safe drinking water for all First Nations, such as this one by the Council of Canadians: Trudeau: Time to end drinking water advisories in First Nations

13. Find out about the residential school closest to where you live and work. Memorize its name and do a Google search for its history. You can use the CBC’s interactive map Did you live near a residential school? or this map created by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.*

14. Find out what local children are learning at school about Indigenous peoples, Canada’s history, and residential schools. If it’s out-dated or inadequate, ask the school to do better.

15. Read Aboriginal Peoples—Fact and Fiction, produced by the Institut Tshakapesh, an organization created by the Atikamekw Innu First Nation in Quebec to promote culture and language education.

16. Learn a greeting in a local Indigenous language. (To find out what Indigenous languages are spoken where you live, visit native-land.ca*

17. If you live in an area where there is a treaty relationship, read the treaty document.*

18. Visit the website of the nearest First Nation(s) or Indigenous communities. Read their introduction and history.*

19. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports. Start with the Calls to Action, then the Executive Summary. You can even listen to it online at #ReadtheTRC. Better yet, invite your friends or union comrades to read it with you.*

*Selected from “150 Acts of Reconciliation” by Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky, and used in USW’s course, “Unionism on Turtle Island”.


Download and print for your local union:

  1. Guidelines for being a good neighbour and ally
  2. Writing a territorial acknowledgement
  3. How USW locals can support Indigenous rights



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.

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.

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
United Food and Commercial Workers
United Steelworkers
Various Family Councils from long-term care homes across Ontario

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

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

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.

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.

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

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
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


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.

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

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.