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 Health Care Workers Council Spotlight: Ray White, District 3 Coordinator https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/ray-white-d3-hcwc Wed, 10 Jul 2019 09:54:54 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/ray-white-d3-hcwc Ray White, president of Local 1-207 in Alberta, Canada, took his first union course in 1992. He knew right away he wanted to play a role in the fight for workers’ rights and has been an activist ever since.

“I enjoyed helping people and educating myself so I could be a more effective advocate,” said White. 

raywhite

In the early 1990s, he was inspired to fully commit to the labor movement when he noticed his co-workers being treated with disrespect by his employer, Russel Metals. He now uses the knowledge and strength he’s gained throughout the years to continue standing up for fellow workers as president of a healthcare-heavy local union that includes more than 3,000 members and 38 collective bargaining agreements.

For White, who serves on the USW Health Care Workers Council as District 3 coordinator, the experience fighting on their behalf is rewarding because of the workers themselves, many of whom work for long-term care facilities that are ripe with problems like workplace violence and short staffing.

“The people that work in the healthcare industry are there because they care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said. “The emotion that these people deal with on a day-to-day basis is unbelievable.”

The one issue that White believes to be the most dire for healthcare workers is violence. To combat the epidemic, he and his fellow union members lobby the Canadian government and take to the streets to fight for health and safety laws such as the right to refuse unsafe work. He believes employers need to be held accountable and should provide all workers with the tools and support necessary to deal with incidents of violence.

“More staff and training would be a good start,” said White, “but they should also create the right setting to care for violence patients when they have those behaviors.” 

One moment in White’s career that made him particularly proud of the union was when his local distributed “Working Short Forms” to their healthcare members to fill out every time they worked short-staffed. It wasn’t long before they had collected more than 600 forms, which they presented at a news conference in the Alberta Legislature in 2009.

“We spread them out on the floor and reporters from every news station in the Province took pictures of them,” he said. “Our members could see how working together brought their issue to the public like never before.”

When not fighting on behalf of healthcare workers, White enjoys taking it easy out in the wild with a camping trip or kicking into high gear on an ATV ride.

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News@6 Summer 2019 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/news-6-summer-2019 Wed, 03 Jul 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/news-6-summer-2019 In this issue: 

  • Standing Up for Health and Safety - Marty's MessageNews@6-Summer2019
  • Community Rallies to Support Brunswick Smelter Workers
  • A Widow's Victory - Intake Clinic Helps Win Compensation Benefits
  • Vote for Those on Our Side - Apply to a Steelworkers Vote School Near You!
  • Lobbying for Pension Protection
  • Univerity Staff Approve New Innovative, Secure Pension Plan
  • Rubber Workers Seek Justice
  • Ford Fightback - Official Opposition NDP Calls Out Doug Ford's Lies and Attacks
  • Bagaining Successes
  • USW Family and Community Education Fund - Develop a Project, Join the Fund!
  • USW Mentorship Program - Building Our Union Through Mentorship 
  • News from the Locals - Read about What is Happening around District 6
  • Scully Mine Reopens

Download the PDF of News@6

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USW Local 7619 Celebrates 50th Anniversary https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-local-7619-celebrates-50th-anniversary Tue, 02 Jul 2019 07:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-local-7619-celebrates-50th-anniversary 7619-50USW Local 7619 celebrated their 50th Anniversary over three eventful days – a Weekend of Steel in Logan Lake, British Columbia.

The three-day celebration was a great showing of solidarity for all members and retirees. The weekend kicked off with the annual Retirees’ BBQ and live music. USW leaders, International Vice-President Carol Landry (former USW Local 7619 member and president) and USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt (former servicing staff representative for USW Local 7619), joined in on the celebrations. Both Vice-President Landry and Director Hunt have been instrumental over the years in helping build up the local union’s collective agreement.

The rest of the weekend consisted of camping fun, a pig roast feast, golf and horseshoe tournaments. Steelworker kids weren’t left out either – there were fishing lessons, bouncy castles, face painting, drumming lessons, gold panning and paint-ball. There was also live entertainment from local bands, outdoor movies at the campground and a special performance by the Sage Hills Drumming and Performance Group.

Overall, the Weekend of Steel was very successful. Steelworkers and their families not only celebrated the local union’s proud history of strong collective agreements, but also the ways they have made a mark in their communities over the years.

Congratulations to USW Local 7619 – we look forward to seeing you celebrate many more years of solidarity, friendship and unity!

 

Click here to view the photo album from USW Local 7619's Weekend of Steel celebrating their 50th Anniversary:

7619-50banner

 

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Every Vote Counts! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/every-vote-counts Tue, 02 Jul 2019 07:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/every-vote-counts “Every vote counts.” Very cliché, right? Not for the case of Jordan Brown, the newly-minted Member of House Assembly (MHA) for Labrador West (Newfoundland and Labrador).

Jordan Brown is the son of Labrador Steelworkers – his father, Tony Brown, is a member of USW Local 6480 and his step-mother, Marcie Brown, is the president of USW Local 6185.

In April, Jordan announced his intention to run as the candidate for the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party (NL NDP) in the constituency of Labrador West. Tony, Marcie, family and friends quickly got to work to help Jordan get elected.

The campaign period requires long days and a lot of hard work – knocking on doors, phone calls, putting up signs, leafletting and more. But at the end of the day, there was never a question in either Tony or Marcie’s minds of how strong their commitments are to Jordan and the NDP, and it paid off!

On election night, May 16, 2019, Jordan was declared the winner in Labrador West with a five-vote lead over the then-current Liberal MHA and Minister of Municipal Affairs Graham Letto. The five-vote difference automatically prompted a re-count, administered by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

After the completion of the recount on June 21, 2019, Jordan was declared the winner in Labrador West, winning by two votes. Yes, you read that correctly: two votes.

Even though the NL NDP did not win the majority of seats required to form the government, Jordan’s win means that the Liberal government is reduced to a minority. Any laws that they want to pass will require the support of an opposition party, which gives NL NDP MHAs the balance of power.

We asked Tony and Marcie what is the most important message they want to share from this experience. This is what they had to say: “It is extremely important to exercise your right to vote. It matters! A single vote can make a big difference.

“Every vote counts.” Not so cliché anymore, right?


Read: CBC article on Jordan's win

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USW settlement at long-term care facility improves conditions, wages, and benefits https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-settlement-improves-conditions-wages-benefits Thu, 27 Jun 2019 07:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/usw-settlement-improves-conditions-wages-benefits Workers at the Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes in Cobden, Ontario, settled two collective agreements for USW Local 6936 that recognize the growing issues of staffing and increased levels of care. 

“Our members are experiencing more and more stress as they deal with changing workloads, increased patient acuity and government austerity,” said USW District 6 Director Marty Warren. “This is all at a time when long-term care is becoming more important to an aging and ailing population.”

The three-year agreements will see wage increases by a total of 4.5 percent in the nursing home and by 6 percent in the retirement home. The contracts cover service workers, personal support workers (PSWs), registered practical nurses (RPNs), and registered nurses (RNs).

In both contracts, there are increases in uniform allowances, vision care, weekend premiums and benefits covering such services as chiropractors, psychologists and others. Employees will also be able to be paid for 50 percent of unused sick leave.

For the first time, there is also a provision for time off for employees to deal with domestic violence.

“This settlement is a step forward for these 138 members of our union,” said Warren. “At the same time, however, due to government austerity and the consequent restraint practiced by boards of arbitration, wage increases tend to be below the rate of inflation. “That needs to change as long-term care generally faces a shortage of skilled workers. The future demands secure public services for older Canadians and better working conditions for care providers.”


 
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Local 2020 members locked out, rally in Sudbury, Ontario https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/local-2020-members-locked-out-rally-in-sudbury-ontario Tue, 11 Jun 2019 12:21:07 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/local-2020-members-locked-out-rally-in-sudbury-ontario Nearly two dozen workers, all members of USW Local 2020, took to the streets on June 3 to picket their employer, CarePartners, after being locked out on May 31. The union rejected the company’s latest contract that included debilitating compensation cuts and increased weekend work, and took away the workers’ pensions. 

“The union was prepared to continue bargaining to reach a negotiated settlement, but the company opted to lock out its employees, going so far as changing the locks on the office doors,” said USW District 6 Director Marty Warren. “Instead of bullying its employees, CarePartners should get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal." 

All but one of the employees are women and their top wage, regardless of seniority, is $16.15 an hour. 

One of the issues the union is trying to address at the bargaining table is language regarding the company’s harassment policies. 

The two parties will meet again at the bargaining table on June 11. 

Community and union members who would like to show solidarity with the locked-out local can contact the CEO of the North East Local Health Integration Network (LIHN), Jeremy Stevenson, with messages of support for the workers. LHIN is the government provider that funds CarePartners. Stevenson can be reached at jeremy.stevenson@lhins.ca or at 1 800-461-2919, extension 2390. 

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Community Rally to Support USW Local 7085 in Belldune, N.B. https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/community-rally-support-uswlocal7085-belldune Thu, 30 May 2019 11:11:19 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/community-rally-support-uswlocal7085-belldune COMMUNITY RALLY TO SUPPORT WORKERS OF THE SMELTER IN BELLEDUNE, N.B.

Everyone is invited to join the members of USW Local 7085:

  • Tuesday June 4th, starting at 2:00 pm
  • Belledune Ball Field and Recreation Centre, 2404 Main Street
    *In case of rain, we will be using the arena.

 There will be live entertainment and a BBQ.

Agenda

3:00 pm // Busses will transport people to the Picket Line at the Smelter.

4:30 pm // Busses will bring people back to the Ball Field

5:00 pm // BBQ, Music and Games for the Kids

6:00 pm // Speeches by Union and municipal representatives

7:00 pm // Music

8:00 pm // Closing remarks

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USW District 6 Health Care Activists Mobilize in Canada and Prepare for More Action https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/district-6-health-care-activists-mobilize-in-canada-and-prepare-for-more-action Tue, 21 May 2019 10:54:39 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/district-6-health-care-activists-mobilize-in-canada-and-prepare-for-more-action D6HCWC

Approximately 30 USW health care members met to talk about the importance of bargaining and learn how the union approaches negotiating strategies to win the best possible contracts for its members. With health care workers having no right to strike in Canada, activists must use union organizing and other grassroots efforts to obtain the language and standards they need and deserve in an industry plagued with short staffing and workplace violence.   

“Right now, there’s not enough funding or resources to suffice the growing needs in the long-term care industry,” said District 6 Area Coordinator Richard Leblanc. “And the legislated process to resolve impasse during bargaining is broken, so we need to go back to the good old days of activating our membership.”

One major outcome of the council’s meeting was the creation of a subcommittee, which will focus on those mobilization efforts and begin forming an action plan to tackle the many issues health care workers need addressed, including burnout, standards of care, and the right to refuse unsafe work.

The activists in Ottawa last Thursday also rallied at an intersection near the office of Lisa MacLeod, a politician serving in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, to call for real fixes to these challenges. They handed out leaflets to drivers waiting at red lights as well as directly to MacLeod’s office.

“The private sector is not the answer,” said Audra Nixon, president of the District 6 Health Care Council. “Good public policy is, and that’s why we need to make our voices heard.”

For more photos from the event, click here.

D6HCWC2

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CLC/UWCC Post-Secondary Scholarship https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/clcuwcc-post-secondary-scholarship Wed, 15 May 2019 14:26:31 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/clcuwcc-post-secondary-scholarship The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Young Workers Program and United Way Centraide Canada (UWCC) are pleased to present the annual CLC/UWCC Post-Secondary Scholarship.

The CLC and the UWCC are long-time partners in taking action to create prosperous, inclusive, diverse and respectful communities, safer workplaces, and a fairer Canada for working people. We recognize that post-secondary education provides important opportunities for young people but is out of reach for many working-class people due to ever-increasing tuition fees.

Young workers today are facing many social and workplace issues. However, many have taken these challenges as an opportunity to create positive change, and impact their communities for the better. This scholarship is offered in recognition of the efforts and commitment of young workers across Canada who have demonstrated commitment to positively impacting social and workplace issues in their community.

We are pleased to offer a scholarship in the amount of $2,500 to support a young activist who is starting their first year of full-time post-secondary study in September 2019.

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Current union member, or the child/dependent of a union member, that is affiliated to the CLC;
  • Age 30 or under as of September 1st, 2019;
  • Enrolled for September 2019 to enter their first year of full-time study at a Canadian public post-secondary institution: university program (leading to a degree) or college program (leading to a diploma or certificate);
  • Does not have any prior post-secondary studies; and
  • Currently enrolled or not more than two years out of secondary school.
The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday, June 7, 2019. This year’s winner will be announced at the end of June 2019.
 
For more information and to apply, please visit: https://canadianlabour.ca/scholarship
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Join the International Campaign for a New Social Contract for Working People https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/join-international-campaign-for-social-contract Mon, 13 May 2019 12:20:04 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/join-international-campaign-for-social-contract Cartoon image of people holding signs and a banner

Sign ITUC’s petition calling for a fair deal for all working people

We know the economy is rigged against workers: people are disenchanted with a model of globalization that has put profit ahead of people.

On the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for a fair deal for all working people.

ITUC is calling on the ILO to include a New Social Contract in its centenary declaration. That means:

  • Rights for all workers, whatever employment arrangements they have.
  • Fairer wages, including minimum wages on which people can live in decency.
  • More control for people over their working time and more oversight over their bosses to make sure they can’t discriminate or evade responsibilities.
  • Building justice into the climate and technology transitions.

It’s time to make the economy work for everybody.

Sign ITUC’s petition for a New Social Contract to ensure a fairer deal that puts people, not corporate greed, back in the driver’s seat.

USW is affiliated to the ITUC as members of IndustriALL and Workers Uniting.

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Remembering Westray https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/27-years-after-westray Wed, 08 May 2019 15:23:04 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/27-years-after-westray Westray25

In the early morning of May 9, 1992, an explosion ripped through the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, killing all twenty-six miners working the night shift. This explosion not only took the lives of those twenty-six men but it changed the lives, forever, of so many more. Families, friends, co-workers and the communities around the mine collectively suffered the loss. Wives lost husbands, children lost fathers, and others lost brothers. 

What will always stay with me is the story of a young woman who lost her father that day. Many years later, now a mother herself, she told me of how she was waiting that morning for her father to come home with a cake. May 9th is her birthday. Every year, as she celebrates another year in her life, she remembers the terrible day when her father was taken away from her. It is for her and all the other victims of Westray that we continue our fight for justice. 

The Westray Mine disaster was a totally preventable tragedy. The inquiry that followed pointed to greed, incompetence and total disregard for the health and safety of the workers. The presiding judge, Justice Richard, pointed out that criminal law did not provide an avenue to properly punish those responsible, and that the law should change. After a decade of lobbying by the USW, the law did in fact change to allow for the criminal prosecution of employers who blatantly disregard the well-being of workers. The union continues to press for the prosecution and conviction of such employers. 

It has now been twenty-seven years since that tragic day in Pictou Country, Nova Scotia. Since that time, around one thousand workers a year have lost their lives because of their work. Thousands more have suffered life-altering injuries, and the toll of occupational disease is often under reported. 

On the National Day of Mourning, we say “Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living”. In reality, this is what we do every day. We will never stop our fight for justice, and we will never let the death of those twenty-six miners be in vain. 

USW National Director Ken Neumann's Statement (PDF)

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The struggle for an ombudsperson “with teeth” continues in streets of Toronto https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/the-struggle-for-an-ombudsperson-with-teeth-continues-in-streets-of-toronto Wed, 08 May 2019 11:36:37 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/the-struggle-for-an-ombudsperson-with-teeth-continues-in-streets-of-toronto The drizzle and cold weather did not discourage human rights activists from attending an urgent event in Christie Pits Park in Toronto, on May 4. Along with other prominent Canadian human rights organizations, the United Steelworkers union was present to call on the federal government to appoint an ombudsperson with real power to investigate corporate abuses abroad.

Government officials claim that this was achieved last month – more than 15 months after an initial announcement. The proposed powers of the new Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) have been stripped; it currently does not have any real independence or power to compel evidence from Canadian companies operating abroad who have been accused of human rights abuses.

In the announcement, Minister of International Trade Jim Carr said that a study is underway to assess the extent of those powers, but nothing indicates that the upcoming results will be sufficient. Trade unionists know for a fact that companies will not respect labour rights unless there is a strong framework in place to regulate their actions. Relying on the good will of corporations does not work. And stripping the office of all powers sends a clear message to people who have had their labour rights violated by Canadian mining companies: Don’t expect your concerns to be taken seriously.

As the colourful contingent of protesters marched through made it loud and clear, we will continue to push the federal government to be on the side of communities and not cave under the pressure of corporate lobbyists.

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Labour a Key Partner in a Canadian Green New Deal https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/labour-a-key-partner-in-canadian-green-new-deal Mon, 06 May 2019 15:19:19 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/labour-a-key-partner-in-canadian-green-new-deal

In a month where unprecedented floods have ravaged many Canadian communities, the immediate perils of climate change have never been more evident. At the same time, the news is full of reports underlining the economic anxiety felt by many Canadians. One recent poll showed that nearly half of us fear that we’re only $200 away from personal bankruptcy.

South of the border, some U.S. progressives have started floating the idea of a “Green New Deal” — a modern version of President Roosevelt’s historic effort to restore prosperity to America coming out of the Great Depression. Though the idea is still nascent, the core of the Green New Deal concept is to arrest the creeping catastrophe of climate change by decarbonizing the American economy through massive investments in green jobs and infrastructure.

For now, the Green New Deal discussion is in its early stages: an ambition designed to reconcile the often false dichotomy created between economic and environmental priorities. Much work remains to be done, both when it comes to policy specifics and building broad coalitions of political support. The same applies here in Canada.

While Canadians should seek to harness the momentum created by our progressively minded American counterparts, we must generate our own, “Made in Canada” approach. Canada, after all, never had a New Deal. More importantly, our economy and history are distinct and the challenges we face — both in fighting climate change and winning a just transition for workers — are unique.

Designing our own solutions also gives us the opportunity to learn from any missteps south of the border. The lukewarm response from much of the American labour movement to the Green New Deal resolution currently before the U.S. House of Representatives illustrates why co-operation between unions and environmental activists is essential in the work ahead. Labour will be absolutely critical to the success of any effort in Canada.

Our urgently needed transition to a low carbon future won’t be achieved without the support of Canadian workers. That support can and should be won through a plan that guarantees them a just, fair and prosperous future. We can build a formidable coalition to fight climate change by bringing together unlikely allies to reconcile environmental necessities with economic priorities. A partnership between unions and environmentalists may also allow us to break the gridlock of Canada’s current climate discussion, which has been focused almost exclusively in two areas: pipelines and carbon taxes.

Though a juicy target from the point of view of many in the environmental movement, the overriding emphasis on pipelines often serves to alienate workers who see job losses on the horizon. We must remember that jobs connected to energy intensive industries and fossil fuel extraction are good jobs that provide a decent standard of living to Canadian workers. Moreover, in an age of where affordability concerns are rampant, we shouldn’t be surprised to find that carbon taxes have become a popular target for those resisting climate action.

Clearly, an alternative route is needed. And, however we ultimately decide to label it, a Canadian Green New Deal could offer us an exit from this cul-de-sac by putting the concerns of labour and environmental groups to work in a mutually reinforcing way.

The transformative task of greening our economy for a new generation will ultimately depend on the skills and expertise of workers throughout Canada. From pipefitters and electrical engineers; from steelworkers to construction professionals, care workers, teachers, machinists and others, a just transition will require a monumental effort across the country. Millions of good jobs can be created in the process.

Well over a decade ago, we were involved in the creation of Blue Green Canada — an initiative that emerged to address historic mistrust between trade unions and environmentalists. In the years since, friends and allies on both sides of the equation have worked hard to strengthen relations. Once a novel idea, co-operation between union and environmental activists has increasingly entered the mainstream. In the emerging and urgently needed climate discussion, those bonds can become frayed once again or they can be strengthened for a new century.

To win climate progress in Canada and safeguard the future of our planet, let’s make sure it’s the latter.

Rick Smith is executive director of the Broadbent Institute. Ken Neumann is the United Steelworkers national director for Canada.

This article was originally published in The Toronto Star on May 1, 2019.

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Grand Solidarity March for ABI workers! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/grand-solidarity-march-for-abi-workers Fri, 03 May 2019 11:08:50 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/grand-solidarity-march-for-abi-workers On May 25, D6 Steelworkers are making the trip to Trois-Rivières, Québec to bring solidarity from our district to the locked-out members at ABI. These 1,030 workers have been locked-out of their jobs at the smelter for 15-months!

For anyone at the National Policy Conference in April, a real highlight was hearing from USW Local 9700 President Clément Masse who spoke passionately about members’ determination to stand strong against concessionary demands by the employer and a right-wing provincial government. Many of us have been there and can relate to this fight.

Steelworkers locals and conference delegates generously donated more than $100,000 for locked-out workers. The outpouring of solidarity is part of what makes our union great!

Now let’s express our solidarity in the streets and show Alcoa and Rio Tinto (who own ABI) that this fight is with the whole union!

That’s why we are headed to Trois-Rivières on May 25 for the Grand Solidarity March. Thousands and thousands of us will take to the streets in support of ABI workers and their families. The march starts at 10:30 a.m. and the exact location is still being determined.

Interested in arranging a bus to Trois-Rivières? Please get in touch with Tony DePaulo at the district office – 416-243-8792 or d6@usw.ca

We hope to see you in Trois-Rivières on May 25!

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Day of Mourning https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/day-of-mourning Fri, 26 Apr 2019 15:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/day-of-mourning Message from Director Steve Hunt

APRIL 28TH Day of Mourning

Close to 1,000 workers in Canada die on the job every year.

Case after case shows that many of these deaths are preventable yet they still resulted in no Criminal Code charges, sometimes barely mustering a slap on the wrist or a fine that employers dismiss as the cost of doing business.

The law has been on the books since the United Steelworkers successfully lobbied to make the Westray Law a reality by making employer negligence contributing to a worker’s death or serious injury be treated as a criminal offence. But we have more work to do to make police, prosecutors and health and safety regulators aware and equipped to enforce it.

That is why we need to keep asking questions. Why are some police agencies willing to use the law while others are not? Why are health and safety agencies reluctant to work with police? Why are Crown attorneys avoiding prosecutions?  When asked if we are “looking to put every CEO in jail?” -  the answer is no. However, just like other criminal laws, we know the power of deterrence is critical to see the societal change necessary to keep our members and other workers alive.

We are starting to see progress being made with police protocols in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland- Labrador.  Today we have witnessed the successful prosecution of criminal charges filed under the Westray Law.  The work of USW activists and allies are making change a reality.

More charges are being laid across the country. More regulators and police are co-operating. Employers’ lawyers are warning them they too could face prosecution for failing to respect workers’ health and safety. 

In British Columbia Premier John Horgan has pledged to ensure police and prosecutors have the resources they need to enforce the Westray Law.  We are making change. But, as long as too many employers are still getting away with fines, the fight has to continue.

Without pressure from USW members across Canada, we know that workplace deaths will not get the law enforcement attention they deserve and Crown prosecutors will continue to treat this as a regulatory issue and not a criminal one.

It’s far from perfect, and more work remains to be done, but Steelworkers can be proud that they have improved and saved the lives of working Canadians, union and non-union alike. Equally important, we have trained hundreds of health and safety activists who work every day to keep our members safe. We’ve trained even more to lobby and be politically active to ensure workers’ voices are heard by politicians of every stripe. Because if we don’t fight, who will? 

We know every day that the laws that protect workers’ health and safety are meaningless unless they are enforced.   That is why we keep fighting.  So this April 28th yes we mourn for the dead, but we will rededicate ourselves to continue to fight for the living and keep our members safe on the job.

 

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Neo-Liberals Are Not the Answer to Growing Populism https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/neo-liberals-not-the-answer-to-populism Thu, 28 Mar 2019 13:03:31 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/neo-liberals-not-the-answer-to-populism Remarks by USW National Director Ken Neumann at the Broadbent Institute Progress Summit, March 28, 2019.

Thank you.

My name is Ken Neumann. I’m the National Director of the United Steelworkers.

The Abacus Data polling results concretely show that the affordability gap in Canada is increasing.

It clearly shows that Canadians are increasingly anxious about their economic wellbeing. This should not be a surprise to anyone here.

Housing is becoming less affordable. Transportation and auto insurance, prescription medications, tuition for colleges and universities – all are getting more expensive.

People understand that they are falling further and further behind.

And they recognize that their children will be in even more trouble.

This data shows in graphic detail what we all know: Canadians are getting increasingly worried about their financial situation.

In fact, 74% of these Canadians tell us their income is not enough to even cover their “day-to-day” expenses.

This anxiety is real.

This lack of affordability is real.

The decline in living standards is real.

The deep concern people have for their children’s future is real.

The impacts are real, they are profound, and they are heartbreaking.

What we have documented is the subjective, personal impact of the changing economic reality in this country. The real, lived experience of everyday Canadians.

However, we should not be framing this as an “affordability crisis.”

By doing so, we solely focus on the symptom – the economic bind on individuals – rather than the conditions that create this bind.

Focusing on the symptom fails to identify the culprit. It fails to identify why Canadian workers and families are struggling economically, even when the economy is actually growing.

By focusing on an “affordability crisis,” we suggest the solutions are to be found in the situation facing the family under pressure. This often obscures any search for a real cause.

This approach would lead us to fine-tune the specific situation of individual families, rather than understand that the situation is created by economic forces that are not natural, but human-made and based on government decisions.

The real frame, of course, is growing inequality.

If we are interested in more than the ‘psychology of economic decline,’ we should NOT be talking about affordability.

We should rather be talking about inequality and wage stagnation.

We all know that inequality in Canada has been increasing for decades.

The average Canadian CEO today makes 197 times the wage of the average worker. 

Yet for years, real wages in Canada have completely stagnated.

Growing inequality is structural and severe: Canada’s 87 richest families own more than the lowest-earning 12 million Canadians – combined!

But the problem is not just the wealthiest one percent. Inequality is a much broader problem than that.

While real wages have stayed flat, the return on capital has been increasing rapidly.

So, real estate prices, spurred on by greater wealth and more and more speculation, continue to spiral upwards in Canada’s largest cities, while more and more workers simply cannot afford to buy their first house, or pay the rent.

Wages for Canadian workers no longer provide the security they once did.

Traditionally, wages are in virtual lock-step with productivity.

That makes sense. As labour produces more value, workers get a comparable share of the value.

However, this is no longer true today. 

Throughout most of modern times, Canadian productivity has increased at a relatively stable pace. This is true right up to today.

However, in recent decades real wages have stagnated and have not even come close to following productivity increases.

The inevitable structural result is what we see now: affordability problems at the individual level.

And the real problem with framing the issue as an “affordability” gap is that it doesn’t suggest the solution – a way forward.

It provides no real solutions for those analyzing the problem.

And no constructive way forward for those living the reality of this problem.

As the Abacus data shows, many Canadians believe the solution to their affordability problem is lower taxes.

Lowering taxes is NOT a solution. Rather, it intensifies many of the affordability problems across society.

If we look through a glass darkly at the data, we can see that Canadians already sense the problem is not simply “affordability,” but involves profound inequality.

An overwhelming 80% of Canadians believe “the people at the top are making more and more, and everyone else is just struggling to get by.

And, 71% say that inequality – the gap between them and the 1% – is getting ‘worse’ or ‘much worse.’

They are pointing to a concept of ‘equity’ not just ‘affordability.’

This points to the need for solutions beyond a band-aid to the family that is being ‘squeezed.’

Recognizing the structural component, radical changes are needed to our tax system, to reverse the growing inequality in our society. And consider new ideas appropriate to today.

We need to look seriously at increasing the top marginal tax rate – reversing the drop in that rate that started under Brian Mulroney.

We have to consider estate taxes in this country. We need to talk about taxing wealth in Canada, and get serious on tax avoidance.

Ideas such as a Financial Transaction Tax need to be developed.

This is where we as ‘civil society’ come in.

While politicians and parties can champion real change towards more equal taxes, the groundwork for radical changes – like dramatic marginal rates, a transaction tax or a wealth tax – needs to become more accepted in the general public. This requires commitment by civil society and progressives, including debate, education and choosing parties that are committed to transforming inequality.

What we don’t need is what we now have: a neo-liberal federal government that says it “feels the pain” of the affordability crisis.

A government that loves the slogan, “the middle-class – and those wanting to join it,” while at the same time reinforcing the pillars of structural inequality.

From half-measures on stock options, to one regressive trade deal after another.

More galling than anything is the Liberal government’s touchstone of progressive validation. Their so-called “middle-class tax cut.”

Well, this middle-class tax cut gives you $680-a-year if your income is $200,000.

But if, you’re at the median income of $50,000, you get a lousy $71.

And if you earn only $45,000?

Well, you get zero from this so-called ‘middle-class tax cut.’

As we come to the end of Trudeau’s majority government, we find that inequality is unchanged from four years ago.

And we’re still waiting for a national childcare program.

And I don’t know about you – but I don’t see a truly universal public pharmacare program in the Liberal plans any time soon.

More importantly – it has become as clear as it could possibly be, that first and foremost, the Liberals pay greatest attention to the loudest voices in corporate Canada when they make policy decisions.

So workers and their families become cynical. That’s what happens when neo-liberal governments cloak themselves in socially progressive values.

People hear a Liberal government say it wants to “stand up for the middle class.”

Then they see a Prime Minister beholden to corporate Canada.

Workers’ real-life experiences are proving to them that their lives are NOT getting better. 

Viewing our neighbours to the south these days, we can see how these things can get dangerous.

Disaffected, cynical, frustrated workers are vulnerable to right-wing populists who tell them what they want to hear… who can channel their anger and frustration.

If we want to avoid this in Canada, we need to get serious about reforming our tax system.

We need to address wage stagnation.

We must strengthen the universal public services that Canadians need in order to make ends meet.

As Ed Broadbent wrote just a few days ago, the antidote to such populism is not the complacency of the neo-liberal centre.

The solution, Ed reminded us, lies in “a passionately democratic and pro-pluralist left – championing the interests of ordinary people and acting as their voice against prejudice, inequality and the domination of extreme wealth.”

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take action now – send a letter to federal Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and urge him to make the steel safeguards final: www.usw.ca/act/campaigns/safeguard-steel-jobs

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

Watch the video

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Brian Corcoran Wins 2017 Lynn Williams Award https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/brian-corcoran-wins-2017-lynn-williams-award Tue, 05 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2019/brian-corcoran-wins-2017-lynn-williams-award Labrador City, N.L. – It was a pleasure to attend the annual SOAR Chapter 6-SA2 Christmas dinner and dance on Dec. 14 2018. I was there to present the Lynn Williams Award for Service to Chapter President Brian Corcoran. People could not have been friendlier and more accommodating to me and the fact that all former presidents of the chapter were in attendance made the event especially memorable.

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

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

Brian Corcoran is well-known in his community for his selfless service to others. For many years he has served as President of his Canadian Legion Branch as well as President of SOAR Chapter 6-SA2, where he keeps members well-informed of political and social issues and activism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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