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 Solidarity in Hard Times: Upcoming Online Conferences https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/solidarity-in-hard-times-upcoming-online-conferences Fri, 14 May 2021 13:25:46 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/solidarity-in-hard-times-upcoming-online-conferences Solidarity in Hard Times logoCalling all local unions!

Steelworkers have faced a lot during this pandemic. We’ve been laid off and we’ve been declared essential. We’ve helped our kids and elders adapt to online school and medical appointments. We’ve confronted COVID at work and some of us have even gotten sick. We’ve learned how to stay safe at work and in our communities. 

Throughout it all, we’ve cared for one another. Whether it’s lobbying for paid sick days, standing against racism, bargaining good contracts, or supporting a co-worker who is struggling to cope, we stand in solidarity with others. 

That’s why we are happy to introduce a series of three online one-day conferences built around the theme of “Solidarity in Hard Times”. This series of online events will give us the opportunity to meet virtually and exchange ideas on how Steelworkers support one another and our communities during these unusual times. Please plan on sending members to all three events: 

Registration for the July 21 session, Staying Healthy & Safe, is now open!

Join us for engaging panel discussions, presentations, workshops, and discussion groups focused on health & safety issues.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Time: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
Where: Online (a link to access conference platform will be provided after registration) 

Agenda Highlights:

  • Panel discussion on Raising the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety
  • Racism as a health and safety hazard
  • Supporting members with episodic disabilities
  • Mental health myths and realities
  • A variety of workshops/discussion groups to choose from, on topics such as ventilation, masking, support groups for injured workers, USW’s anti-harassment policies and more
  • Equity and allies caucuses
  • Prize draws!

There is no cost to locals and you can register as many members as you would like. Registration page is here.  **IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be sure to have the registration code provided on the call letter that was mailed to all locals – this will be needed to complete your registration. If you did not receive the letter, please contact the National Office at conference@usw.ca. 

Family Care Expenses: if your local contributes to the Family and Community Education Fund, your members who attend the online conferences can get reimbursed for eligible family care expenses. Find all the details here

We’re looking forward to seeing you online in July!

The Family and Community Education Fund (FCEF) is now accepting applications for Labour Day celebrations! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-family-and-community-education-fund-fcef-is-now-accepting-applications-for-labour-day-celebrations Wed, 12 May 2021 12:32:15 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-family-and-community-education-fund-fcef-is-now-accepting-applications-for-labour-day-celebrations  

It pays to plan your Family and Community Education Fund (FCEF) events early! Request funds for your large-scale Labour Day celebrations by June 11th.

Labour Day, on September 6th, is sooner than you think. The FCEF doesn’t provide funding for events retroactively, so apply today to secure funds for your Labour Day celebration. After our June 11th deadline, the final large-scale submission date for 2021 is in the Fall. Reach out to Gabriele Simmons, the FCEF Fund Co-ordinator, for support with your application and/or to begin contributing to the Fund.

Click here for project templates, including a Labour Day event outline.

Requests for projects under $5,000 can be sent to your District Education Co-ordinator at any time.


Super-Exploitation and Resistance - Podcast launched https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/super-exploitation-and-resistance-podcast-launched Wed, 12 May 2021 12:12:37 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/super-exploitation-and-resistance-podcast-launched The Steelworkers Humanity Fund invites you to listen to Super-Exploitation and Resistance, a podcast that brings the voices of labour leaders, activists, organizers, and social movements to a North American audience, sharing the perspectives of people on the frontlines of social struggle and change in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This month's episode, Taking State Power Through Elections, will use the recent elections in Peru and Ecuador as examples of how the quality of life of millions of people can be improved when leftist and progressive politicians win state power through elections – and the limitations of this strategy.

Super-Exploitation and Resistance is produced by Steelworkers Humanity Fund partner Common Frontiers, an alliance of Canadian unions and social organizations supporting local and international work for economic and social justice across the Americas.

Have a “listen” and please share far and wide!

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/SuperResistance

Got the Shot: Steelworkers happy, relieved to receive COVID-19 vaccines https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/got-the-shot Wed, 12 May 2021 10:00:27 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/got-the-shot

Health-care workers have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have borne the brunt of the virus front and centre and have witnessed many tragic moments of this pandemic. Late last year, some collective relief came as we heard news that vaccines to protect against COVID-19 have been approved for use. As vaccinations across the country ramp up, we talked to some Steelworkers working in health care about their experiences and what being vaccinated means for them.

Maria Santos, USW Local 1-207

Maria Santos is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at a retirement residence in Edmonton. She works overnight shifts where she comes across 13-16 residents and staff. Not all shifts are the same in terms of the needs of the residents, but one thing remains the same: keeping them safe is top of the task list.

When vaccines became available, Maria was happy but also had some questions, such as how it works and how her body would accept the vaccine. She thought about how getting vaccinated is ultimately to keep ourselves and others safe.

“My happiness in getting vaccinated was much more than my fear,” said Maria.

For others, Maria recommends that people should talk to their family doctor if they have any fears, but ultimately your life is worth protecting and the vaccine will help you.  

Allyza Delmas, USW Local 1-207

Allyza works as a Health Care Aide at a retirement residence in Edmonton. Day-to-day, Allyza assists residents with their meals, medication, exercises and getting them ready for the day or bedtime. During the course of her shift, she comes across, or is exposed to about 12-14 people.

From fearing for the safety of her family members to seeing people across Canada start to get vaccinated, Allyza has started to feel a little bit of relief. Allyza admitted that she had her own doubts about getting vaccinated – she was not the first in line. But she witnessed the co-workers she trusts receive theirs, so she joined in.

“Everyone who is able to get vaccinated should, because it will help all of us. Trust the people who made these vaccines. It’s for our collective benefit. We can go back to a semblance of normalcy again and not feel scared anymore,” said Allyza.

Audra Nixon, USW Local 9211
Maxville, Ont.

Audra Nixon works as a Personal Support Worker at a long-term care facility in Maxville, Ont., that went almost nine months before an outbreak struck. When it did, workers’ days became longer and more grueling than ever. From changing in and out of full personal protective equipment (PPE) 75 to 100 times a shift, to witnessing the sadness of residents in isolation, the load was heavy. The cycle on most days was work and home with a mix of isolation.

When vaccines were approved and arrived, Audra thought, “OMG, there is a bright light!” She was elated to get vaccinated.

Audra wasn’t only protecting herself, but those around her, including her family and the residents she interacts with. Getting that jab was the first step to things getting better – to protecting ourselves and one another.

Letter from USW denouncing repression in Colombia – Carta de USW denunciando la represión en Colombia https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/letter-from-usw-denouncing-repression-in-colombia-carta-de-usw-denunciando-la-represion-en-colombia Tue, 11 May 2021 13:09:08 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/letter-from-usw-denouncing-repression-in-colombia-carta-de-usw-denunciando-la-represion-en-colombia On May 7th, the United Steelworkers wrote a letter to Colombian President Yvan Duque to denounce the violent repression faced by peaceful protesters since the beginning of the National Strike, on April 28.


2021 Steelworkers Vote Online Campaign School - June 7-9, 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-swvonline-campaign-school-june2021 Thu, 29 Apr 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/2021-swvonline-campaign-school-june2021 2021 Steelworkers Vote
Online Campaign School
June 7-9, 2021

Your chance to learn more and get involved!

The USW is holding virtual campaign schools in preparation for the next federal election.

These three-day schools are great opportunities to learn about politics, build a network of engaged Steelworkers and volunteer for the NDP.

Elections matter and Steelworker involvement can make a difference.

Click here to a apply for a Steelworkers Vote school

Course hours are 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pacific/11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern  plus volunteer hours expected after class.

Be ready to work! While virtual, these are intense schools running over three days including volunteer hours each evening of the course.

Local unions will be reimbursed for participant lost time by the USW International Office.

Don’t delay. Apply today. NextGENers particularly welcome.

“The Steelworkers Vote school taught me a lot about how the political structure works, also that we as Steelworkers need to support the party that has our interest. It opens your eyes to the political world to get involved in.”
–      Vendia Boston, USW Local 1944-502, Scarborough

* Dates subject to change

** As this is an online school requiring no travel, no per diem is reimbursed by the International. If the employer doesn’t cover pension/RRSP and benefits during union leave, local unions will be responsible for these costs as these are not reimbursable by the International.

** Local unions will have to cover participant costs related to per diem, pension or RRSP and benefit contributions.

Do you need help with child care or elder care in order to attend? Learn more about the Family Care Reimbursement Program from the Family and Community Education Fund: usw.ca/fcef

For those who are interested in attending our Steelworkers Vote Campaign Schools and are unable to attend the pilot on June 7-9, sign up here and we will let you know as soon as new dates become available.

Ken Neumann Statement on Asian Heritage Month 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/ken-neumann-statement-on-asian-heritage-month-2021 Tue, 27 Apr 2021 10:59:03 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/ken-neumann-statement-on-asian-heritage-month-2021 Dear Steelworkers, 

In May each year, Steelworkers join with communities celebrating Asian Heritage Month. 

In Canada, Asian people include those from the following countries: 

  • East Asia: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Central Asia: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

While we recognize the contributions of Asian Canadian people to Canada, we are also aware that there is much more to be done to fight for human rights and equality for everyone. And recent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian people during the COVID-19 pandemic clearly show how far we have to go. 

On March 16th this year, in Atlanta, Georgia, a white gunman entered three spas and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

This sparked a huge international outcry against discrimination and hate crimes towards Asian people. While the murder did not occur in Canada, nevertheless, Asian Canadians recognized that anti-Asian sentiment and actions display common patterns, regardless of the action’s country of origin. 

Shortly after the murders in Atlanta, rallies and protests took place in Canadian cities and communities. Organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ) pointed out that current anti-Asian actions emerge in a historical pattern. Beginning with the Chinese Head Tax and the Exclusion Act in earlier Canadian history, to the anti-Asian actions during SARS, to the current pandemic, anti-Asian discrimination and violence has been commonplace in Canadian society.

Now into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Vancouver Police Department, the percentage of anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 717% between 2019 and 2020. A joint 2020 report by the CCNC-SJ and Project 1907 showed that since the onset of the pandemic, there are more Canadian anti-Asian racist incidents per capita than in the U.S. As Canadians, this is shocking. 

COVIDRacism.ca and elimin8hate.org produced a survey which breaks down anti-Asian actions into various categories. The findings showed that: 

  • 44 per cent of cases were reported in British Columbia and 40 per cent were reported in Ontario.
  • 60 per cent of the victims identified as women.
  • 11 per cent of cases included violent physical assault or unwanted contact.
  • 10 per cent of cases included being coughed or spat on. 

Steelworkers have always stood behind justice for equity-seeking groups. During Asian Heritage Month, we celebrate the diversity Asian people bring to Canada, but we also demand that Asian people be protected from the range of verbal discrimination to outright physical violence that is demonstrated today. 

I call on all Steelworkers to: 

  • Intervene against acts of discrimination as bystanders and allies.
  • Include Asian Canadian businesses in your online shopping.
  • Use your collective agreement to promote diversity and prevent discrimination and racism in the workplace.
  • Work with your local human rights committees to educate your membership.
  • Lobby federal and provincial governments for greater equality for all equity seeking groups. 

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
Canadian National Director

Improving Democracy at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/improving-democracy-at-the-canadian-labour-congress-clc Mon, 26 Apr 2021 11:00:08 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/improving-democracy-at-the-canadian-labour-congress-clc At the virtual Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) convention June 16-18, the USW is seeking the support of delegates for a constitutional resolution that will improve CLC democracy.

USW Delegates to CLC Convention – Support the Constitutional Resolution to Improve CLC Democracy

In the past, unions brought in busloads of delegates to CLC conventions on voting day, with the intention of stacking an election. This constitutional change would prevent that from happening in the future.

The proposed constitutional resolution focuses on delegate entitlement and will:

  • make elections at convention fairer.
  • mean that votes on resolutions and other policy matters will be more reflective of our organizations.

The Problem

  1. The CLC is a body of affiliates. Individual members can’t join the CLC, nor can locals.
    But for conventions, the CLC goes around the affiliates and gives credentials directly to the locals of those affiliates.
    • join the CLC
    • have representation on the Canadian Council and Executive Committee
    • make appointments to CLC committees
    • are able to participate in Federations of Labour and Labour Councils
    • pay dues

    Accordingly, decisions about CLC procedures and policies and programs are all made by affiliates of the CLC at the various governing bodies

  2. There is no established definition of what a local is. Our unions each have a unique history and range of terms and internal structures. From locals, to lodges, to branches and components. Different unions use the term local to mean different things.
    Without a set, agreed-upon definition, a union can claim any number of “locals,” and there is no fair way to monitor it.

  3. The current constitution says that delegate credentials for a CLC Convention are to be allocated to locals of affiliates. Locals get one delegate for the first 1,000 members and another delegate for every additional 500 members.
    As a result, unions get delegates based on the way they structure themselves internally, not based on how many members they pay dues for.
    The following example shows actual membership and delegate entitlement numbers for a few national affiliates to the CLC (from a CLC Credentials report), and a comparison of how many delegates unions would receive under the proposed resolution. Union names have been removed.

      Members (#s) Current Delegate
    Proposed Resolution's
    Delegate Entitlement
    Union A 20,000 192 39
    Union B  30,900 100 61
    Union C  31,294 77 62
    Union D  36,313 83 72
    Union E  37,519 110 74
    Union F  93,194 265 185
    Union G  94,575 190 188
    Union H  206,303 958 412
    Union I  238,059 478 475

    Under the current rules, a union with a membership of 94,575 is entitled to 190 delegates. Another union with a membership of 20,000 (less than a quarter of the size) is entitled 192.
    This system has at least two serious problems:

    1. There is no way to control the number of delegates a union can claim, because there is no definition of what a local is. With no way to monitor the system, affiliates can claim any number of locals they care to, and bring a large number of delegates onto the floor on election day and essentially buy the elections.
    2. The CLC can’t keep track of the thousands of locals across the country; “locals” that merge, or cease to be, still receive credentials.

The Proposed Solution

The CLC's resolutions committee has produced a composite resolution on the issue and has recommended concurrence. (Resolution re: Article 10 Regular Conventions (Delegate Entitlement)

The USW Urges its Delegates to Support this Composite Resolution at Convention

The resolution proposes a set and agreed-upon system of representation by membership. CLC-affiliated unions would be entitled to delegates to convention based on their size.

All affiliates would get delegates on the same basis: one delegate for the first 1,000 members, and one for every 500 members above that, based on a union’s dues payments over the year preceding the CLC Convention.

How would affiliates assign delegates? That is up to their own democratic structures and processes.  

Please Support the CLC Constitutional Resolution

Please share this page with others who are attending the CLC convention in June. Move motions in your union or labour council urging support for the resolution.

And most of all, debate the issues! As a democratic union, we fundamentally believe that democratic participation must be at the heart of a strong and vibrant labour movement.

Learn more about the CLC Convention, get the convention call and more here.

We Can Help Bangladeshi Garment Workers, Who Still Struggle Eight Years After Factory Collapse https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/we-can-help-bangladeshi-garment-workers-who-still-struggle-eight-years-after-factory-collapse Fri, 23 Apr 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/we-can-help-bangladeshi-garment-workers-who-still-struggle-eight-years-after-factory-collapse The following opinion column was published by the Toronto Star

By Kalpona Akter and Ken Neumann

Canadians and consumers around the world were shocked and outraged by the horrific images of the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 24, 2013, when at least 1,132 garment workers were killed and more than 2,500 injured. How could Canadian and other global clothing brands be implicated in a human catastrophe of such magnitude?

The international outcry forced these clothing brands to finally recognize fundamental changes were needed to protect garment workers, and to accept that corporations at the top of the supply chain had the power to make it happen.

The resulting Bangladesh Accord for Building and Fire Safety, a binding international agreement between trade unions and global retailers and fashion brands, revolutionized building and fire safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Out of unimaginable tragedy, change was possible.

On the eighth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, however, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers, the majority of whom are women, are suffering devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic shocks.

Global brands, including Canadian retailers, decided to cancel orders without consideration of the impact on workers in their global supply chains, which are designed to force costs down and push profits to the top. The results have been disastrous for garment workers, whose pay has been reduced, withheld, even stolen, or who have been laid off or terminated, often without legally mandated severance.

The Workers’ Rights Consortium estimates the theft of garment workers’ severance pay alone amounts to $500 million across the global supply chain.

Bangladeshi garment workers earn the equivalent of $6 or $7 (Canadian) a day. Not per hour – per day. Long, gruelling days. These are the wages paid by factories supplying well-known Canadian brands, including Joe Fresh, Mark’s, Lululemon, Arc’teryx, the YM Inc group (West 49, Amnesia, Bluenotes, Sirens, Suzy Sheer) and others. A real living wage would be roughly triple what most Bangladeshi garment workers earn. Let’s keep in mind, it would still only be a small fraction of the living wage in Canada.

Garment workers’ existing wages clearly aren’t nearly enough to support a decent life. As documented in a new report, Not Even the Bare Minimum, these wages trap workers in poverty, no matter how hard they work. The pandemic has only made life worse.

We know that changes that will improve the lives of millions of garment workers are within reach — if Canadian retailers and brands are prepared to act. The misery experienced by garment workers makes it an ethical imperative for these corporations to act immediately and decisively.

This obligation extends beyond fancy sustainability reports and revised corporate vendor codes. Meaningful commitments are needed from corporations to ensure payment of lost wages and severance for workers in their supply chains, and to pay a little bit more to suppliers so that workers can receive living wages.

It is important to note that, while garment workers — mostly women — bear the brunt of the pandemic, Canadian companies like Aritzia, Arc’teryx, Canadian Tire, Loblaw and Lululemon have not only weathered the COVID storm, they have done well.

These companies have the power and resources to make change and help build a sustainable recovery for garment workers and their industry. On the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, it is up to the rest of us to push them to do it — from right at the top of the house.

Change is possible.

Kalpona Akter, a former child garment worker, is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity.
Ken Neumann is the Canadian director of the United Steelworkers union, which for years has supported campaigns to improve the working and living conditions of garment workers in global supply chains.

View this column as published by the Toronto Star

Remembering the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster: building a safer, fairer and sustainable recovery for garment sector workers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/remembering-the-victims-of-the-rana-plaza-disaster-building-a-safer-fairer-and-sustainable-recovery-for-garment-sector-workers Thu, 22 Apr 2021 17:54:07 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/remembering-the-victims-of-the-rana-plaza-disaster-building-a-safer-fairer-and-sustainable-recovery-for-garment-sector-workers April 24th marks the grim anniversary of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters that killed at least 1,132 garment workers and injured more than 2,500 when the Rana Plaza building collapsed 8 years ago in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

In the years since, global initiatives, primarily the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, have achieved remarkable improvements to health and safety standards and practices in targeted Bangladesh factories. Much more needs to be done to ensure this progress stays on track and to keep improving the working conditions for the women who make our clothes. Safe factories, workers’ jobs, incomes and benefits remain at risk as the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global markets and economies. The people at the bottom rung of the supply chain should not have to bear the brunt of the crisis.

The Pandemic

Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest clothing exporter and during the COVID‑19 crisis, hundreds of factories closed as international and Canadian brands and retailers cancelled orders and refused to pay for orders already in production. Factories fired over a million workers and many refused to pay legally earned severance pay. Workers were left with no savings from subsistence‑level salaries and no access to social protection to support them in times of trouble. The forecast remains dire for garment sector workers as global demand for apparel items remains low.

It is of immense importance to build up social protection systems in Bangladesh and other garment-producing countries. Trade unions and labour rights organizations call for strengthened unemployment protection and the respect for all workers’ rights, including the right to organize. Retailers and brands must take responsibility for issues in their supply chains and contribute to a global wage assurance and severance guarantee fund to help workers survive the crisis.

Workers in Bangladesh have been courageously organizing and fighting for their rights for years but need the support of voices in purchasing countries such as Canada, in order to push Canadian brands to rebuild a just economy after the pandemic by establishing more sustainable and resilient supply chains that respect workers’ rights and ensure suppliers pay workers living wages and social benefits.

To learn more about the global campaign to pay workers: #PayYourWorkers

To learn more about the Bangladeshi garment sector workers’ working and living conditions supplying Canadian brands: usw.to/3q6

Extend the Bangladesh Accord for Health and Safety

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement between unions and brands and retailers created after the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013, led to real change in making death trap factories safe. Since its establishment, the Bangladesh Accord has provided safer working conditions for over 2 million garment workers by carrying out inspections and overseeing repairs and maintenance in more than 1,600 factories. The current agreement will end in late May and action is needed to safeguard progress in workplace safety.

There are great concerns about the functioning of the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), the body that took over Bangladesh-based operations of the Bangladesh Accord. It is voluntary instead of being legally binding and workers hold less representation in its governing body. To prevent the RSC from becoming yet another industry-led voluntary initiative, the brands and retailers who signed the Accord before, including Loblaws (Joe Fresh), must make sure to lay their commitments down in writing again in a new international legally binding agreement. Now is the time for other Canadian brands, such as Lululemon Athletica, HBC, YM Group Inc, Arc’teryx and Canadian Tire, to also sign on to a new Accord. Brands and retailers must act now to protect progress and ensure an incident like Rana Plaza never happens again.

Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence

A company’s responsibility flows through its entire corporate structure, including its business relationships and through its entire supply chain.

The Government of Canada must legislate companies to respect human rights in their global operations and supply chains. Such legislation should require companies to conduct due diligence on their human rights and environmental risks, take appropriate steps to prevent and mitigate such risks and hold companies accountable in the courts if they abuse human rights.


Support workers in Canadian supply chains by writing to Canadian companies Lululemon Athletica and YM Group to contribute to a Severance Guarantee Fund. Email and/or send a tweet to the CEO of Lululemon and the YM Group.

Endorsed by:
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Centre international de solidarité ouvrière
Inter Pares
Maquila Solidarity Network
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Oxfam Canada
Public Service Alliance of Canada
United Steelworkers
Workers United Canada Council

Day of Mourning 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/day-of-mourning-2021 Thu, 22 Apr 2021 17:09:20 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/day-of-mourning-2021 Sisters and Brothers,

It may be hard to believe, but 2021 is the second year that Day of Mourning activities on April 28th will once again be recognized in the midst of the global pandemic that continues unabated across Canada.

Once again, and in the interest of maintaining health and safety precautions, we are urging activists to hold April 28th for remembrance and dedication to the cause of stopping the killing at work. Too many Canadians continue be injured and to die for the sake of a paycheque. We still hope that we can all prepare for the Day of Mourning in our respective communities, while practicing physical distancing, the wearing of masks and only gathering outside if it can be done safely.

We include in our remembrances the workers who have died – in fact, all those who have died – because of the pandemic. Many were frontline workers and others worked in processing facilities where precautions and personal protective equipment were not used, allowing COVID-19 to spread. These are deliberate acts of negligence, as much as any explosion or faulty piece of equipment.

We must also recognize the toll that the pandemic is having on mental health, partly due to isolation generally, but also the effects of an economy and governments that were neither prepared nor up to the task of facing something that was in fact predicted as far back as 2003. There was an obvious lack of pandemic planning with unacceptable national shortages of personal protective equipment. Our own members voluntarily made face shields when none were being provided by government and employers.

The Day of Mourning only becomes more important every year, as we face the need for mandatory training standards and new challenges, such as paid sick days, a battle now being waged by our allies in the New Democratic Party. We need to address issues such as ensuring easier compensation for diseases such as COVID-19 as well as support for workers exercising their right to refuse unsafe work during pandemics. We also need to give thanks to our members, who continue to work in vital industries and provide the goods and services Canadians rely on – pandemic or no pandemic.

The challenges will always be faced head-on by our union and activists. We continue our campaign to Stop the Killing and Enforce the Law. Last year for the first time in the province of New Brunswick, criminal charges were laid against a Fredericton construction company in the death of a young worker. But there are too many cases that still need to be prosecuted under the Westray Law. We will never stop demanding accountability. Next year will mark thirty years since the tragedy that took the lives of 26 miners at the Westray mine. We once again recommit to never forgetting them and fighting to ensure such preventable incidents are never repeated.

Again, as last year, we encourage you to observe the Day of Mourning in whatever way you are able or is allowed by ever-changing rules around gatherings.

Regardless of how we are able to do so, April 28th remains the day we recommit to fighting for the living, every day.

In health, safety and solidarity,

Ken Neumann, National Director

Steve Hunt, District 3 Director

Dominic Lemieux, District 5 Director 

Marty Warren, District 6 Director

Mourning: A Steelworker Account https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/mourning-ourtimes-gord-hiebert Thu, 22 Apr 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/mourning-ourtimes-gord-hiebert This article originally appeared in Our Times magazine.

Today I am writing to you about my experiences as a unionized worker, and the April 28th Day of Mourning.

It’s not easy.

When I started my working career at the mine, I really knew nothing of the reason for the April 28th Day of Mourning. My previous place of employment was a long-term care home. While I never had a co-worker die at work, there was a lot of mourning over lost loved ones.

I started my career at the mine in February of 1997. It was cold, and I had no idea about what a sheltered working career I had had about death on the job, until then. I was hired as a labourer, doing everything I was asked to do. It wasn’t easy and left me tired at night. I was 27 and physically able to do it all, but could I take it mentally?

Being 27, I just wanted a job.

I was a temporary employee in 1997. Being a temporary employee meant that you had full benefits, but you had no seniority or pension benefits. Being 27, the pension wasn’t an issue. I just wanted a job. I was hired in February and September came, yet still no full-time position. Two of the guys who were hired before me had just been made permanent in July, so it had to be soon I thought.

Lorne McMillan was a loadout worker, a husband, and a dad. Lorne’s job was to drive the Trackmobile. A Trackmobile is a piece of equipment that moves the railcars down the tracks — to get them on the right track, or after they have been loaded with potash. Lorne worked a lot of overtime for the company, driving loader as well as loading cars when required. He worked so much OT that he got the nickname “Scabber.” 

Lorne liked working in loadout and providing for his family. When I was assigned to go to loadout to load cars, it was Lorne who helped me out and gave me some tips on how to get the job done. I was glad it was Lorne, as I was a new employee and not everyone in loadout was happy to see a new guy. He treated me how he would want to be treated.

It was September of 1997 when Lorne died on the job. He was making sure the gates were closed on the cars before loading them when he had a heart attack. His co-workers saw Lorne had fallen and called the supervisor on the radio. Lorne was taken to the hospital in the ambulance. It was later communicated to the workforce that he had died that day.

I started this article by talking about my temporary status, for a reason. When Lorne died, I was made a permanent employee. I think about that a lot. Sure, maybe I would have been made permanent some time down the road, but this was my vacancy.

The Day of Mourning really means something to the mining community. Like I mentioned, I had worked in a long-term care home. I saw a lot of people come in, and I saw a lot of people leave. Those people died, but it didn’t really affect me the way that the death of a co-worker affects you. I felt bad, but I did need to work and make a living. I continued to work at the mine. I was glad to have my job and finally have permanent status.

James Rothecker was a mine-operations employee. He had a family who loved him. He had a girlfriend he loved. It was January in 1999 when I got the call at home. James Rothecker, 22, had died at work. There had been a rock fall underground. It was a weird time I thought. Here the world was worried about Y2K, that everything was going to fall apart at the end of the millennium, and now James was dead. That really was my thought. People worried about so much that may or may not happen, and here was something real that had just happened, and I hoped everyone knew. But they didn’t.

That night I went to a crew safety supper. Here I was, an employee who was barely permanent, at a safety supper, celebrating safety on the day that James died, and I was sad. Our general foreman who was at the supper made a statement about James’s death. No one knew. But I knew: I had gotten the call from a co-worker, but I kept it quiet. I didn’t know what to say. I said nothing.

After that supper, I bought a case of beer and stopped at my former co-worker’s house. I had worked with her at the long-term care home and just wanted to sit with someone. I had family around, but I just wanted to say hi. Maybe I missed my job where no one got killed. We had a beer and the news came on. She asked how it was going, and I was sad. I told her that I had known James from his time on surface mining. He just wanted to work hard and get along with his co-workers. James was always trying to please others, and he was a good guy. A young guy. James’s truck was still in the parking lot for a few days after that. I parked next to it.

The foreman was talking when the phone rang.

It was months later when we were having a safety meeting in the control room at work. The general foreman was talking when the phone rang. I was close to the phone, so I answered it. It was a woman, and she wanted to speak with someone in charge. I handed the phone to the general foreman, and the crew listened as he talked. He seemed shocked, and he wasn’t the kind to be shocked. When he hung up, he looked at the crew and said, “That was James Rothecker’s sister. She wanted to speak to the son of a bitch who sent James underground.” Truth is, James bid for the job; he wasn’t sent. I talked to him when he was looking for a crew to make a career with, after spending time in the mill and in loadout. I wished him luck.  

It was a few months later when I was wearing a company shirt at a bar and a woman asked me if I knew James. I was sad. I told her James was a good guy and it made me sad what had happened to him. She was James’s girlfriend. She was sad too. She was also mad that it seemed like no one cared. I told her we all cared and that, while not everyone was at the funeral, many had been there the day before at the visitation.

 That is when I really started to pay attention to the Day of Mourning. It wasn’t the International Workers’ Memorial Day then, but it was still just as sad. Every year candles are lit for the people who have died on the job from workplace illnesses or injuries. Each candle is someone’s loved one. Parent, spouse, sibling, friend. Someone cared about them. That sadness will not leave. Lorne, James . . . and it isn't over. People go to work and not all of them make it home. That stays with me.

Jason Shulist was a mine-operations employee. Jason had a wife and a baby. It was Family Day, February 17, 2014. I was awake early; I don’t sleep in. I was at home with my family. I got a phone call from a co-worker. Jason Shulist, 31, had died at work. The roof had collapsed in the area of the mine he was working in. Damn. Jason was a young guy with a young child. Age doesn’t matter but. . . .  Damn. I had never worked with Jason but I knew the face. I was sad again. Here was another guy that was providing for his family and didn’t make it home. Every Family Day I think of Jason. It might not be on the exact date that he died, but I always remember he died on Family Day. That is not a day to die at work.

 When you hear of International Workers’ Memorial Day, or the Day of Mourning, as we call it here in Canada, remember, it’s not just Lorne McMillan, James Rothecker, and Jason Shulist. There are many others. People who go to work and don’t come home. People who don’t just die from their work, but die because of their work.

Though the pandemic has restricted what we can do, I will always remember this: In Saskatoon at the Day of Mourning ceremony, the United Steelworkers and members of the Saskatchewan Potash Council attend. The lights are dimmed during the ceremony and we wear our hard hats and cap lamps. It is a moving part of the ceremony and one I am proud to be a part of.

Mourn for the dead, fight for the living.

Gord Hiebert has worked in the mining industry for 23 years — three years in operations, eight in the lab department, and 12 in maintenance. He is a member of United Steelworkers Local 7458.

Federal Budget 2021 Overview https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/federal-budget-2021-overview Wed, 21 Apr 2021 13:50:14 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/federal-budget-2021-overview Download Budget Overview (PDF)

As the first woman to serve as federal finance minister, Chrystia Freeland is also the first woman to table a budge in Canada.

This budget spends big and makes promises on almost everything – the notable exceptions being pharmacare and dental care, both of which were promised in the Liberal government’s most recent throne speech but did not get a single line in this budget. There was very little attempt to tax the rich, which was a missed opportunity to create a stronger funding base for many of the ambitious programs Canadians need.

The pressing question is: do the Liberals have any intention of keeping their promises, or is this one big fancy platform launch?

If the Liberals follow through, there is no question it will be historic. If they orchestrate an election before following through, then it's all just a little bit of history repeating. Time and time again, we’ve seen Liberals make big promises – even in budgets – and ultimately choose partisan interests over the needs of people.

Votes to Look For

Debate will last for up to six days.

As part of the debate, the Official Opposition can propose an amendment. The Bloc Québecois then get the opportunity to propose an amendment to the amendment. Should the Bloc choose to pass (unlikely but not unprecedented), that opportunity would go to the NDP.

It is very likely that the vote on the amendment to the amendment will be held on Wednesday, April 21. The vote on the main amendment (as amended or not) will come Thursday, April 22.

Neither of those votes are technically questions of confidence, but the government can interpret anything it wants as a confidence vote.

After the amendments, there will be a vote on the main budget motion. That will definitely be a confidence vote. With the NDP already saying they will vote for it, it should pass without incident.

After that, there will be a series of budget implementation bills. These bills are how the promises made in the budget actually become legislation. The order in which these are tabled – and the speed with which the Liberals move them through the House of Commons – will show how serious they are about their promises.

What’s Missing?

In a budget that seems to cover just about everything in some way, two key items USW has been advocating for and the government has been promising were completely left out.

Pharmacare – $0

As mentioned above, the Liberals completely dropped their promise to implement pharmacare and dental care.

Their excuse for breaking this promise is that it first requires negotiations with the provinces. The same is true for childcare, and yet the government made that the centrepiece of its budget.

Far from even taking a step in the right direction, this budget doesn’t include a dime of new funding for health care through the Canada Health Transfer. The growing share of the health-care funding covered by the provinces has been the most significant barrier to any negotiations on expanding health care. Not to mention a significant point of contention when the federal government discusses any new programs in provincial jurisdiction.

Making the Ultra Wealthy Pay

Other than small movement on large digital companies and an extremely narrowly targeted tax on ultra-luxury cars and personal aircraft and yachts, the Liberals refused to take real steps to make the very wealthy pay their share. 

Instead of effectively targeting speculators who are driving up housing prices, the Liberals are only going after non-residents that own Canadian properties, if they stay vacant.

What’s in the Budget?

The Numbers

Over the past year, the deficit hit $354.2 billion.

The forecasted deficit for this coming year is $154.7 billion and, according to the budget, it will gradually decline to $30.7 billion in 2025-26. This is lower than the $381.6 billion prediction the government made in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement.

The government is warning though, that these numbers could change depending on how the pandemic continues.

Investments in Social Programs


  • The budget commits to build a Canada-wide $10-a-day childcare system by 2026. The budget pledges $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion a year afterward to create and sustain early learning and child-care programs. 
  • The minister has promised to move on this quickly. Even before getting agreements with the provinces, the government could move legislation through the House to make the funds available and start to set the standards. This will be a cost-sharing program with the provinces.

Long-term Care

  • Investments in Health Canada to ensure national long-term care standards. Little detail was provided to explain exactly how this will be done. 

Post-secondary Education

  • Extend the doubling of the Canada Student Grants until the end of July 2023.
  • Extend the waiver of interest accrual on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans until March 31, 2023.
  • Expand the Canada Student Loan program to allow workers returning to post-secondary education full time to have greater access to more debt through more loans.


  • Additional financial support to increase Old Age Security (OAS) for Canadians aged 75 and over.
  • New supports for low-income and vulnerable seniors.

Other Investments of Note

  • Additional investments to support mental health, including interventions for people disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
  • New spending on Indigenous Services and Reconciliation, including COVID-19 response, health care, water, social services, education, income assistance, infrastructure, job creation, languages and culture, policing and governance.
  • Some investments in addressing gender-based violence.

Promises to Help Create Jobs

When it comes to job creation, the Liberals had significant focus on small and medium-sized businesses. Although there is a specific promise to create 500,000 jobs for young workers, these programs are also more employer centric than focussed on direct help for workers.

  • Funding for the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. This seems to be more targeted to employers than workers and it is not clear how it will be implemented. 
  • A new Apprenticeship Service Program that is again directed at the employer but is supposed to help 55,000 first-year apprentices in construction and manufacturing. There is too little detail to know if or how the government will ensure that these jobs are long term.
  • The budget also doubles the incentives for employers who hire “those underrepresented, including women, racialized Canadians, and persons with disabilities.”
  • A Skills for Success Program and a Community Workforce Development Program have been set up to train workers with soft skills and to “support communities to develop local plans that identify high potential … to upskill and reskill jobseekers to fill jobs in demand.” Who would qualify for this training and who would be allowed to deliver it are both concerning questions that remain unanswered.
  • With the stated goal of supporting the energy industry and workers in it, a variety of incentives are being promised to support increased production and support the use of low-emission fuels. 
  • The Canada Hiring Program is set to replace the wage subsidy and will pay back 50% of the incremental renumeration paid to eligible employees between June 6, 2021 and November 20, 2021. Employers must be Canadian-controlled and not a public institution. Employers must also have had a drop in revenue that would have qualified for the wage subsidy. As has been pointed out as a problem with other programs, the employer must have had a payroll account with CRA on March 15, 2020.
  • There are a variety of supports for farmers, ranging from the extension of support for producers of trade exposed products to support for the utilization and production of clean energy.

Direct Help for Workers

Minimum Wage

  • Establish a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, rising with inflation. This will directly benefit over 26,000 workers who currently make less than $15 per hour in the federally regulated private sector. It will also act as a standard all provinces should be forced to see as a floor.

Extending COVID Supports

While the government is extending some of the COVID-19 support programs, it is doing little to go after corporations and shareholders that profited from the wage subsidy which was intended to support workers. 

  • Extend COVID-19 emergency measures: Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, and Lockdown Support until Sept. 25, 2021.
  • Extend the Canada Recovery Benefit (to 50 weeks) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (to 42 weeks).
  • Enhance sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks.
  • Extension of maximum period of Employment Insurance sickness benefits, from 15 weeks to 26 weeks.

Protection of Pensions

  • The budget doesn’t address broader concerns about pension protection, particularly in the case of insolvency.
  • There is an indication that the government intends to change the legislation for negotiated cost contribution pension plans. This is a change we have been calling for and will affect the Canadian Energy and Related Industries pension plan (CERi Plan) which covers approximately 1,000 USW members and about 3,000 workers employed in the nuclear sector.

Addressing Climate Change

This section is very focused on tax incentives and personal responsibility. 

  • A promise of a new $5 Billion “Green Bond” to support fighting climate change is big on rhetoric, includes no details of how it will work and is not clear how it will impact any individual sector or the workers within them.
  • Funding for homeowners with retrofits.
  • Several investments are promised to deal with disaster mitigation and recovery. 
  • A number of tax incentives and grants are being set with the purported goal of encouraging private investment in clean tech, including significant focus on carbon capture technology.
  • Consultations will be launched on border carbon adjustments. The consultations are planned to begin in the summer and expand more broadly in the fall.
  • Interest-free loans to retrofit homes, including for alternative housing ownership models.
  • Besides some vague language about programs that will support a so-called “just transition” there is next to nothing in the Liberal plan to support workers in the energy sector who have already lost their jobs or are concerned they will soon be unable to continue to support their families.

International Commitments of Interest 

  • Some additional funds were committed to expand Canada’s international COVID-19 response.
  • An increase to the funding for the office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) was not matched with a follow through on the Liberal promise to give the office teeth. Breaking that promise means that Canada will continue to fall short of its international human rights obligations.
  • Public consultations will be launched on measures to strengthen Canada’s trade remedy system and to improve access for workers.
  • The budget commits the government to introducing new legislation that would ensure that, when a service contract changes hands, affected employees are not paid less if they are laid off and rehired to do the same work they were doing before. If implemented, this change would be helpful to USW members particularly those employed in airport security and screening.
Long-Term Care Workers Launch Campaign to Revitalize Sector https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/district-6-long-term-care-workers-launch-campaign-to-revitalize-sector Thu, 15 Apr 2021 10:49:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/district-6-long-term-care-workers-launch-campaign-to-revitalize-sector The USW District 6 Health Care Workers Council is launching a new campaign to take action on staffing ratios and working conditions in long-term care. The campaign, titled “Seniors Deserve Better,” will focus on direct political and community action to improve conditions both for workers and residents.

“The long-term sector has been in crisis for decades,” said District 6 Staff Representative Richard Leblanc, “and the pandemic has exposed the short-staffing and deteriorating conditions inside many facilities.”

Because of this, the council paired up with the ICL (Institute for Change Leaders) last year for a series of organizing trainings offered to health care workers and activists, as well as their friends and families. They also launched a postcard drive in the wake of a deadly spring in 2020, as a result of COVID-19’s titanic spread in Ontario long-term care homes.

A core group of activists have continued to meet regularly to plan this multifaceted campaign that focuses on demanding pay increases for long-term care workers and the establishment of a provincial law mandating long-term care homes to provide a minimum of four hours of care per resident, per day.

“We expect to see a lot of support for this campaign,” said Leblanc. “Everyone has seen the dire conditions, and even the operators of these facilities are frustrated with their low funding and inability to hire and retain workers.”

The campaign organizers even plan to invite legislators (supporting and non-supporting) to spend a night in a long-term care facility to experience the conditions themselves. 

“I can’t wait to get started and make real change in health care, because we certainly need it,” said District 6 Health Care Workers Council President Audra Nixon.

If you are a long-term care worker in the union’s District 6 (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Ontario) and have a story to share, send a message to longtermcare@usw.ca. You can also request to share your story anonymously over the phone rather than write it over email. Schedule a phone interview by sending a message to longtermcare@usw.ca.

Sign up for the campaign by texting ‘longtermcare’ to 32323. Standard message and data rates may apply.

Alma Steelworkers Raise the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/alma-steelworkers-raise-the-bar-on-womens-health-and-safety Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/alma-steelworkers-raise-the-bar-on-womens-health-and-safety In conjunction with International Women’s Day and the USW’s Raising the Bar campaign, Steelworkers Local 9490 leaders launched a joint labour-management process in March to tackle women’s health and safety issues at the Rio Tinto aluminum smelter in Alma, Que.

SL-9490-RTB-3Issues were raised by seven women who are Local 9490 members: Guylaine Girard, Marilyne Gagnon, Lauriane Simard, Suzie Fournier, Marie-Christine Guimond-Beaulieu, Mélanie Tremblay and Sabrina Simard. Local 9490 President Sylvain Maltais also participated in the meeting with two of the smelter’s senior managers.

“It opened the door to a discussion of women’s issues and the irritants that women still face in the plant, even 20 years after it opened,” said Suzie Fournier, Local 9490 Women of Steel committee chair. “We hope it will lead to improvements.”

Each woman addressed an issue close to her heart but which has an impact on all women workers, including: poor-fitting PPE; access to washrooms; adapting work practices and tools to the needs of women; the impact of ageing; sensitivity and respect as workers experience menopause; and ensuring a gender-appropriate welcome and workplace orientation for new female hires.

“The company wants to attract more women and this discussion set clear guidelines aimed at addressing recurring problems,” Maltais said.

The parties agreed to continue this important conversation. Management also pledged to implement provisions of the collective agreement related to equal employment opportunities for women, and to establish a joint committee to assess and improve the employment experience for the plant’s female workers.

Is your local union, health and safety committee or women of steel committee interested in Raising the Bar? For more information, please contact:

District 3: Ed Kent – ekent@usw.ca 
District 5: Julie Hébert – jhebert@metallos.ca
District 6: Sylvia Boyce – sboyce@usw.ca

Stay tuned for more reports about what local union activists are doing to Raise the Bar!

Steelworkers Help Make 2021 Federal NDP Convention a Success https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-help-make-2021-federal-ndp-convention-a-success Tue, 13 Apr 2021 10:52:23 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworkers-help-make-2021-federal-ndp-convention-a-success Steelworkers helped make history at the recent 2021 Federal NDP Convention, held online on April 9-11.

USW delegates were part of the team endorsing and supporting Steelworker Dhananjai (DJ) Kohli for President of the New Democratic Party. DJ’s team was successful and DJ is the first racialized person to hold the role of Party President. Congratulations, DJ!

Steelworkers helped pass important policy including many worker-focused resolutions such as:

  • a $20 federal minimum wage
  • ensuring the wealthy pay their share
  • permanent paid sick days
  • improving long-term care
  • clean water for Indigenous communities
  • a green recovery
  • combatting racism
  • action to end gender-based violence
  • an emergency resolution to stop Asian hate.

Delegates affirmed Jagmeet Singh’s leadership with a resounding 87% vote, a strong endorsement ahead of a possible snap election this year.

Thanks to all the Steelworkers who took time to attend the NDP Convention and helped to make it a success for the only party that is getting results for working people.

Submit your applications now for the Family and Community Education Fund (FCEF)! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-spring-deadline-for-family-and-community-education-fund-fcef-projects-is-coming-up Mon, 12 Apr 2021 11:53:17 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-spring-deadline-for-family-and-community-education-fund-fcef-projects-is-coming-up The Spring deadline for Family & Community Education Fund (FCEF) projects over $5,000 is April 16, 2021! Small project submissions are accepted on an ongoing basis.

The FCEF funds projects big and small! We accept large-scale project requests four times per year, so keep an eye on our large project deadlines. There are three left in 2021 – visit our website to see them listed.

Your District Education Co-ordinator can receive applications for projects under $5,000 at any time. You’ll get a response to your submission almost immediately. Speak with your District Education Co-ordinator or the Fund Co-ordinator at any stage of your project development for support and don’t hesitate to submit proposals for multiple events.

Not sure what kinds of events we give funding to? Check last year’s annual report to get a sense of the sort of projects your local union siblings have hosted!

Closing the Wage Gap Needs an Economic Recovery for Women: Ken Neumann’s Statement for Equal Pay Day 2021 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/closing-the-wage-gap-needs-an-economic-recovery-for-women-ken-neumanns-statement-for-equal-pay-day-2021 Thu, 01 Apr 2021 10:08:34 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/closing-the-wage-gap-needs-an-economic-recovery-for-women-ken-neumanns-statement-for-equal-pay-day-2021 Gender Wage Gap Bargaining GuideEach year in early April, we “celebrate” Equal Pay Day, but it’s not much of a celebration. That’s because Equal Pay Day marks how many extra days into 2021 it takes the average Canadian woman to earn as much as the average man earned in the twelve months of 2020. In other words, the average woman in this country earns 20-30% less than the average man.

And that’s just an average. Women who face multiple forms of discrimination must work even longer into the year to hit their Equal Pay Days. Systemic discrimination in the economy means that women with disabilities face a 56% gender wage gap, immigrant women a 55% gender wage gap, Indigenous women a 45% gender wage gap and racialized women a 40% gender wage gap. 

During the pandemic, women’s work is essential to our economy and well-being. Women are on the front lines at work, in health care, education and key services, and on the front lines at home, helping educate children and keeping family members safe and cared for. Yet women have suffered the most job losses during the pandemic and benefited least from the recovery. 

That must change. We want a recovery that helps women, too. We want a recovery that:

  • Funds affordable, quality child care
  • Makes paid sick days a right for all workers
  • Increases the minimum wage to a living wage
  • Guarantees and enforces pay equity
  • Takes women, in all their diversity, into account when making economic policy 

Women workers deserve better! 

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
National Director

Fact sheet on closing the gender wage gap 

Infographics: Part 1 and Part 2

Bargaining Guide: "Closing the Gender Wage Gap: We Can do it through Collective Bargaining”

The Conservative Pitch For More Union Votes Doesn’t Scare the NDP. Should It? https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-conservative-pitch-for-more-union-votes-doesnt-scare-the-ndp-should-it Wed, 31 Mar 2021 15:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/the-conservative-pitch-for-more-union-votes-doesnt-scare-the-ndp-should-it OTTAWA—There is a “golden rule” at the Highland Valley Copper mine outside Kamloops, B.C.: don’t mess with lunches or paycheques and never talk politics.

But Kyle Wolff is not on the job site. He’s on the phone, hiking in the hills outside town. So he is free to share his thoughts about the federal Conservatives’ recent overtures to private sector union members like him.

“Honestly, to me, it’s a joke,” says Wolff, 37, an electrician and president of USW Local 7619, the union that represents about 1,000 workers at the mine.

“Put it this way,” Wolff adds. “When’s the last time a Conservative or a Liberal phoned me to talk about labour? Never.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Wolff supports the New Democratic Party, which was founded as a coalition of farmers and unions. In the nearly 60 years since, it has always claimed to be Canada’s political party for working people.

Yet in recent months, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has sought to challenge that claim. His party’s rhetoric has shifted, with O’Toole promising to make rich Canadians “pay their fair share” and praising the benefits of union membership. At the party’s policy convention in March, O’Toole pitched directly to private sector union members, who he said share Conservative values of “hard work, family and community.” And he took aim at his NDP opponents, stating New Democrats “no longer stand up for working Canadians and their families.”

It’s a direct push into traditional NDP territory. But much like Wolff and other union leaders who spoke to the Star, the federal party is not treating it as a serious threat. Ahead of its first policy conference since the 2019 election that is scheduled for April 9 to 11, the NDP is projecting confidence with claims to a pandemic track record that secured more government help for Canadians, and more money to spread the word when the next campaign comes.

“I think it’s quite hollow,” said NDP national director Anne McGrath on O’Toole’s push for union votes.

“It’s not enough just to say these things,” she said. “You have to actually have a history and a record of action that shows where you stand on these issues.”

As the Star’s Alex Boutilier has reported, O’Toole’s team sees a realignment coming in Canadian politics, similar to shifts in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, where working-class voters have moved toward conservative parties.

“This voting group has been really cut adrift in terms of their political allegiances. They don’t really have a strong appetite for the conventional centre-right conservative economic agenda, but at the same time they’re repelled by the movement of the centre-left parties — their embrace of more radical identity politics and political correctness,” a senior Conservative source told the Star in December. 

But the NDP and some union leaders argue O’Toole’s record shows the opposite of what his new-found rhetoric implies. For Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, this includes a law passed by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2015, which forced unions to disclose more financial information and spending on political activities. (The Liberals repealed it in 2017.)

“He has yet to apologize for the misdeeds of the Harper regime, which he was part of,” Yussuff told the Star. “That would be starting point to see, is he sincere?” 

Shayne Fields is president of Unifor Local 222, a union chapter that represents auto manufacturing, transit and other workers in Oshawa, the riding next to the one where O’Toole has been the MP for Durham since 2012. Fields said the Conservatives’ recent talk about union workers has “created quite a buzz” in a city that has seen layoffs at its General Motors plant, but he is skeptical about the outreach until it’s more than just words from O’Toole. 

“Will O’Toole stand up for the working class? I don’t see it,” said Fields. “With that said, if we ever did see it, obviously we would give that the respect that it needs.” 

Yet despite the skepticism from the NDP and union leaders, polls show the Conservatives can already rely on significant support from rank-and-file members, even if it is consistently lower than their average among the entire population, said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research.

Graves said his firm privately conducts polls regularly for union clients, and that the overall picture remains similar to a public survey he released ahead of the 2015 election. That poll of 3,382 Canadians found — with a 1.6 per cent margin of error — that about 33 per cent of union members supported the Liberals, 26 per cent intended to vote Conservative, and 23 per cent backed the NDP. 

Graves believes the Conservatives are targeting union votes because it is a constituency that typically drags down their national average. Even notching up their union support a few percentage points could make a difference, especially when elections are as close as the one in 2019, when the Liberals won a minority government despite losing the popular vote to the Conservatives. 

“If they had performed with the union vote as well as they did with the non-union vote in Canada, they probably would have won the last election,” Graves said. “It’s a shrewd targeting strategy on the part of the Conservatives.” 

But Graves added there is no sign yet the strategy is working. “So far it doesn’t look like they’re making much progress on it,” he said.

To keep it that way, the NDP plans to protect its union support as part of its wider electoral strategy, McGrath said. That includes familiar promises to create universal pharmacare and dental care, increase the federal minimum wage, and emphasize the NDP’s “actions not words,” she said. 

The NDP is also already promising to ban for-profit long-term care and forgive large chunks of student debt. 

The party also has a larger war chest this time around. After paying off its 2015 and 2019 campaign debts — which totalled about $10 million — and improving fundraising, McGrath said the party expects to spend $24 million on the next election campaign. That’s more than double the $11 million the NDP spent in 2019. 

For Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, this broad strategy is missing something crucial: a clear political pitch directed squarely at the labour movement. And that makes the Conservatives’ new pro-union rhetoric — which he derided as “snake oil” — a real risk to left-leaning parties like the NDP. 

“There’s no doubt that the New Democrats have to do more to get back to their roots,” McGowan said. 

“They’ve got the substance when it comes to a pro-worker agenda. But that substance is not always reflected in their political messaging, whereas the Conservatives are now trying to adopt messaging that sounds pro-worker, but that’s not reflected at all in their platform or their priorities,” he continued. 

“It would be it would be a shame if working Canadians were to buy the Conservative spin and style over the New Democrats’ substance.”

York University professor Steven Tufts, who studies labour and populism, noted right-wing politicians in other countries have also tried to connect with private sector unions amid a wider distrust of elites and economic insecurity that has fuelled populist movements. 

To counter that, Tufts said the NDP should revamp its “boring playbook for labour” and propose more aggressive reforms in the next election. That could include a federal minimum wage that is always at least $1 above the lowest provincial minimum wage or new unionization requirements for companies receiving federal contracts, he suggested. 

The NDP should “really do some soul-searching at the federal level and come up with a plan that moves labour forward in a more radical way,” Tufts said.

McGrath conceded “political communication can always be improved.” But she made it clear that the NDP is not shaken by O’Toole’s attempt to shunt them aside among union voters. 

“Our whole raison d’être, and our campaign and our actions, show where we stand,” she said.

Steelworker Summer 2021 – Applications Now Open! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworker-summer-2021-applications-now-open Tue, 30 Mar 2021 16:53:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2021/steelworker-summer-2021-applications-now-open District 3 is happy to announce that we are offering the Steelworker Summer Program this year! It is a wonderful opportunity for Steelworkers' sons and daughters to earn some money and learn about our Union. Learn more about Steelworker Summer here.

This year the program will operate differently than in previous years.  This ensures that we are safe and following provincial health authorities and their regulations, and work requirements as per workplace safety regulations.

Eligibility will depend on the following factors:

  • The Local is an active participant in the Family and Community Education Fund.
  • The successful applicant lives in the same city/town as the Union Office hosting the Program. (No travel is allowed).
  • The Local will provide the District with a work project(s) that the successful applicant will perform during their internship.

Eligible applicants can download the registration form available online at www.usw.ca/districts/3/steelworker-summer and email their applications to ghoogeveen@usw.ca or fax (604) 688-6416.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Ginette Talbot-Hoogeveen at the District 3 office at 604-683-1117 or email: ghoogeveen@usw.ca.

In solidarity,

Stephen Hunt