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

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

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

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

Health care organizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Macpherson
National Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the PDF of News@6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council Advocacy

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

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

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

Power of the Personal

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

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

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

Get Involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity Beyond the Council

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing Up for Pipelines

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

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

Updating Employment Standards

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

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

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

Critical Investments

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

Protecting Workers’ Health and Safety

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

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

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

Supporting Unions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAFTA to USMCA – A Bad Deal Gets Worse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also found what kind of stuff was needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mail to:

Syndicat des Métallos
8310, rue Desormeaux
Bécancour, Québec
G9H 2X2
Attention: Éric Moore, Financial Secretary

Online donations by credit card can be made here.

Thank you for your support!

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

Remove Steel Tariffs Before Signing New Trade Deal: Mark Rowlinson on Power & Politics https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/remove-steel-tariffs-before-signing-trade-deal Tue, 30 Oct 2018 11:38:04 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/remove-steel-tariffs-before-signing-trade-deal

B.C. Labour Code Recommendations a Good First Step: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/b-c-labour-code-recommendations-a-good-first-step-steelworkers Fri, 26 Oct 2018 14:37:44 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/b-c-labour-code-recommendations-a-good-first-step-steelworkers The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes recommendations for changes to B.C.'s Labour Relations Code, but cautions much more must be done to bring the Code into the 21st century. 

The modest changes proposed to successorship must be expanded to include all sectors, including forestry where loggers face constant contract flipping, the USW says.

"Every B.C. worker deserves to have their successorship rights fully protected, no matter where they work," says USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt.

With employers promoting a gig economy – creating temporary, precarious work and pushing to treat more workers as contractors – workers need a code that recognizes that inherent power imbalance.

"We are grateful that Premier Horgan's working life has given him knowledge and understanding about the value of card-check certification.  We need other B.C. legislators to remember working people and the barriers they face when trying to form unions."

Other steps recommended today around timelines, penalties, mediation and arbitration are welcome changes that bring B.C.'s code into line with most other Canadian jurisdictions. 

However, clear language is required to ensure access to things like remedial certifications and a clear and meaningful penalty for employers who interfere in organizing drives. Small monetary penalties simply become the cost of business for too many employers who face substantive penalties. 

Finally, Hunt noted any recommendations for change are only valuable if the operation of the Labour Relations Board is fully funded.

I Am With You, Sisters! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/i-am-with-you-sisters Thu, 18 Oct 2018 09:03:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/i-am-with-you-sisters Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada addressed delegates on the last day of the International/National Women’s Conference in Toronto, Ontario.

“I have had the privilege to be here over the last several days and hear the women of our great union – on both sides of the border – set out your plans and your ideas for how you will continue the struggle for women’s equality,” said Neumann.

“I want to say that I hear you. I support you and I am with you, sisters!”

Neumann credited the women of the United Steelworkers for the gains and progress USW has made on behalf of women workers.

“I am proud of all we have done and will do. I also recognize that men have a role – as supporters and as allies,” said Neumann.

Neumann highlighted the need to do more to end violence and harassment against women. Delegates applauded Neumann when he said that one of the ways the USW is answering the call to action is by joining the call for a National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

Neumann recognized the success of Women of Steel negotiating domestic violence leave into USW collective agreements.

Today, governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario have passed laws providing all workers with domestic violence leave.

“But it began at the bargaining table,” Neumann noted. “This is a victory of women in the labour movement.”

Neumann cited the USW’s Be More Than a Bystander program that is training male Steelworkers to speak out against harassment.

“Ending violence and harassment is key, but it is not the full solution. Women’s equality is about the presence of respect and opportunity, not just the absence of violence and harassment,” he said. “That is part of what unions deliver and why the work of our union is so important.”

Neumann recounted his personal experiences visiting Bangladesh on the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,138 garment workers, mainly women, injuring 2,500 others.

Visibly moved, with his voice breaking, Neumann told of how he was with the families who had lost loved ones at their first opportunity to visit the rubble of Rana Plaza.

“The families were standing in front, clutching photos of their loved ones. And what they were looking for was closure. Because after the collapse, the building was imploded. They were looking for DNA so they could have some kind of closure, but they didn’t get that,” said Neumann.

“Sisters, you are part of our union’s solidarity,” Neumann told the delegates. “We are stronger together.”

“For three days, this stage and this room has been full of smart, capable Women of Steel who are making our union and the world a better place. We need to see more women in union leadership. Our union will not be a success if we don’t,” said Neumann.

Neumann thanked the sisters for bringing dedication and energy to the conference and thanked delegates for all they will do in answering the call to action.

“Sisters, you have proven again that there is nothing stronger than a Woman of Steel!"

Answering the Call to Action Through Global Solidarity https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/answering-the-call-to-action-through-global-solidarity Wed, 17 Oct 2018 21:01:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/answering-the-call-to-action-through-global-solidarity Tuesday morning, delegates to the International Women of Steel Conference were inspired by the experiences of women activists and union leaders from around the world. USW’s international partners play an important role in the union’s work.

Women are answering the call to action in different ways, responding to unique challenges.

The delegates heard from international guests from Brazil, Mexico, Bangladesh and the U.K.

In Brazil, women are 51% of the population; Black people are 54%. Christiane Aparecida dos Santos of the CUT (National Confederation of Metal Workers), noted that women make up 18.7% of metalworkers. Black women in Brazil face a staggering gender wage gap of 50% compared to white men. Women end up working two to three jobs.

“That influences their ability to dedicate themselves to the struggle on the job,” said dos Santos.

“In our collective bargaining, we try to include clauses that allow women to participate in the labour market: child care, maternity leave,” said dos Santos.

As a result, the CUT has been able to achieve some negotiated agreements with 180 paid days of maternity leave.

Raising Consciousness

“Our fight is to raise the women’s level of consciousness – to draw them into union struggles. We offer training. And we also try to raise the consciousness of the men; we are together in the struggle.”

For Unite the Union in the U.K., women are rising. “We’ve got good structures and we’re proud of those, but we have more to do,” said Louisa Bull a Unite representative from the paper and packaging sector, an area where women make up 17% of the workforce.

In addition to the formal structures that help make gains for women, Unite women are saying to the men in leadership, “Stand aside, brother.”

Unite the Union Vice President Jayne Taylor got started by attending a women’s leadership school. After completing the school, she didn’t just stand for a position as equalities officer; she went back to her local union and ran for branch secretary.

One struggle in paper and packaging is outsourcing to countries with lower wages. So now Unite finances organizing where the workers are, leading organizing in Poland and Hungary to bring up the wages and working conditions of those workers – to improve their lives and to level the playing field.

In Bangladesh, Kalpona Akter fights on behalf of garment workers, 85% of whom are women.

Minimum wage is $68 per month – not enough for one person to live; and many of these women have families and children to support.

“The garment industry is the backbone of our economy, but they’ve been left out,” said Akter.

We Are Fighting Every Day

“Are we sitting down? No! We are fighting every day!”

Answering the call to action means speaking up.

In Mexico, women face exploitation and assault at work. Changing this culture happens through unions like Los Mineros, but also by electing pro-worker representatives.

Los Mineros’ Josefina Martinez shared how women in Mexico wanted a new government and organized “house by house” in her district.

“We needed 42,000 votes,” said Martinez. “We didn’t get 42,000, we got 90,000!”

Now Los Mineros’ General Secretary Napoleon Gomez Urrutia is a senator in the Mexican congress.

“Thanks to the work that was done by women, we brought down barriers,” said Martinez.

Keynote speaker Ritu Bhasin, an author, motivational speaker, and expert in diversity, inclusion and women’s leadership, inspired delegates with her personal story. She told of growing up bullied from the age of five because of her brown skin and Sikh religion.

As a young adult, Bhasin sought to fit in and carried a spirit of sameness, seeking social acceptance. Then she realized how unhappy she was trying to be someone she wasn’t.

Embrace Authenticity

Bhasin’s answer to the call to action is authenticity: to embrace differences as strengths.

“Authenticity is the consistent practise of choosing to know who I am; to embrace who I am; to be who I am.”

Through authenticity and by embracing differences, people can come together and support each other.

Bhasin encouraged delegates to do the work to embrace authenticity.

“When we do this for ourselves, we thrive. But then, it’s incumbent on us to lift others while we climb.”

“Globally, we are in a desperate need to course-correct on how we are living so that everyone can experience belonging,” said Bhasin.

“My hope for today is that you will join me!”

The Women Speak https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/the-women-speak Wed, 17 Oct 2018 21:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/the-women-speak Women took their seats on the final day of the International/National Women’s Conference in Toronto, Ontario, exhausted, yet grateful and ready for action following from three full days of plenaries, workshops and networking.

Women lined up at microphones to speak – many of them first-time delegates and first-time speakers – sharing their inspiration, their action plans and their challenges to our union.

International Vice-President Carol Landry chaired the session Hearing From the Women.

Delee from District 3 began with a moving and emotional plea to take action on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada.

“I’m hopeful we will find a way to mitigate and eventually eradicate the violence against Indigenous women.”

Julie, from Local 1944 shared her Call to Action, motivated by losing a union sister to the disease of addiction. “The call to action for me will be for Local 1944 bargaining in 2021. I’ll be putting forward a proposal to have domestic violence leave in our next agreement.”

Many sisters thanked the United Steelworkers union for hosting women’s conferences and providing the opportunity for women to connect, inspire one another and build a network of ideas and support beyond their Women’s Committees and local unions.

A sister from District 8 spoke of encouraging the women in her local: “I’m going to set a plan. Start the actions. Invite the women and encourage those within my local to get moving.”

A number of delegates spoke of their struggles during strikes or lockouts.

Chantelle from District 7, Gary Works, said, “We stood together for a fair contract and it looks like we got something going. When you stand together and pull together, it helps unite us.”

Multiple women challenged the USW to move forward on increasing the representation of women and people of colour on the International Executive Board. A sister called for USW to pick up on Unite the Union’s “Step Aside, Brother.” Another suggestion was to adopt quotas on the executive board to reflect our own union’s diversity and proportion of women.

Diane from District 6, along with two other sisters, reported that their local, after 60 years, now has a women’s committee.

There was widespread support for Women of Steel and political action. From going out and supporting local candidates, sisters are also stepping up to put their names on the ballot.

“If you don’t like the lack of diversity on your executive board, RUN! If you don’t like the makeup of your government, RUN!” said Tanya, from District 2.

Christa and Sharmin from District 6 committed to take action on mental health.

Bonnie from UBCP ACTRA called for programs of education and awareness for men.

“I know the difference between flirting and harassment. The people that don’t are mostly our brothers. Education has to be towards the men and they need to change their culture,” she said.

Lisanne and Jennie from Local 9700 in District 5 have been locked out by Alcoa and Rio Tinto for 36 weeks. Their passionate call for solidarity brought delegates to their feet.

“Our call to action is solidarity. We need you to help us continue. Go back to your union and tell those men you need to support our local. It’s been so hard on our families,” said Lisanne.

A sister from Local 6787 in District 7 thanked the conference organizers for providing child care during the conference, so she could attend with her child.

Kayla, from Local 7913 in District 3 called for better personal protective equipment for women.

“One size does not fit all. Many of the women talked about ill-fitting gear and having to modify procedures to make up for work gear that doesn’t fit,” she said.

She went on to call for better education through our locals and districts for our brothers on women’s issues.

Josefina Martinez-Hernandez from Los Mineros in Mexico told a story of success.

“Our company has more than 6,000 employees, many of them suspended from their work. This led us to protest, day after day, asking to be reinstated. At the same time, many sisters telling us about sexual harassment they have suffered from some of the leaders or supervisors,” she said.

“We have been standing outside the main entrance of the company and denounced this with megaphones and flyers, saying the name of the perpetrator. This has had results, because the perpetrator is being shamed, and has stopped harassing,” said Martinez-Hernandez.

A sister asked the delegates to change the channel on hatred.

“Check your privilege at the door. We have to realize that racism is here, in our union.”

Joelle from District 3 reported that she and her sisters were going to work for language on getting a safe place to pump for breast-feeding mothers.

“I personally had to go back to work early and had to stop breastfeeding my daughter so this is personal to me,” she said.

Cheryl, from District 8 called for an end to female-to-female bullying.

“My call to action is if you see this going on, put an end to it – in your women’s committees, in your workplaces. We need to work together, not fight amongst ourselves.”

A sister from District 9 said, “I’m retired but I’m not finished. It is time for us to be the change that we wish to see.”

Women were on their feet with a standing ovation for Sister Christiane Aparecida dos Santos of the CNM/CUT (National Confederation of Metal Workers) in Brazil when she called for women to occupy space in their unions.

In closing, Landry emphasised, “Have your voice. Use your voice. Make your presence known. In your locals, in politics. We need to fill those seats with more women. The things we’re seeing in the U.S. and in Canada – I always remember the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, ‘We put them in there – and they should be speaking on our behalf.’ Thank you sisters!”

Taking Action at IKEA and Canadian Tire

Sister Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity began her keynote address with action by asking delegates to sign letters to IKEA and Canadian Tire calling for these companies to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

IKEA sources their curtains, bedsheets, pillow covers and towels from Bangladesh. But those workers are still in unsafe working conditions.

“We are asking IKEA to sign the accord – a legally binding agreement. We are asking brands and retailers to sign the accord, to save these workers’ lives,” she said, noting that if the accord had been in place before the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza collapse, we could have saved these workers.

“In Canada, Canadian Tire is one of the companies that is sourcing from Bangladesh but hasn’t signed the accord. Workers are working in unsafe conditions and that factory could be another Rana Plaza,” said Akter.

Delegates signed letters to Canadian Tire calling on the company to sign the accord and ensure the workers get a living wage in Bangladesh.

“Everyone knows we live in a global village. It is our responsibility to level up the workers who are making our clothes. We are fighting for a package of jobs with dignity. That doesn’t come without a living wage, a voice at work, a safe workplace and a workplace that is gender-based violence free,” said Akter.

Akter called to the crowd, “Do you have our backs?” “YES!” the sisters answered in unison.

To conclude the conference, sisters sang “Solidarity Forever” including a new verse for women.

We’re the women of the union in the forefront of the fight,
We fight for women’s issues; we fight for women’s rights.
We’re prepared to fight for freedom; we’re prepared to stand our ground,
Women make the union strong!

USW President Gerard Calls for Movement, Not Musing at WOS Conference https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-president-gerard-calls-for-movement-not-musing-at-wos-conference Tue, 16 Oct 2018 16:17:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-president-gerard-calls-for-movement-not-musing-at-wos-conference USW International President Leo Gerard took the mic for the keynote speech on the second morning of the International Women of Steel Conference and said the shameful confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh illustrates how vital it is for women to be heard – in the workplace and particularly this November at the polls.

“This election is not only going to set the direction for the country but for human rights and women’s rights,” Gerard said. “If Republicans win in November, they’re going to feel like they have a blank check to do whatever they want.” Republicans rammed Kavanaugh onto the highest court in the United States despite the fact that the judge stands accused of molesting several women.

Republicans in the United States continue to wage wars against voting rights, against workers right to organize, and against immigrant children, many of whom remain in cages along the southern border. Women also are one of the right-wing party’s primary targets, and the solution, Gerard said, lies in organizing.

“Women still make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in the United States,” Gerard said. And it’s less than that in Canada. “Want to change that? Get a union.”

For Gerard, though, organizing isn’t merely a necessity for pay equity—it’s the fight of a lifetime.

“We need to organize politically, organize for our rights, organize to build the union, organize so we have a better life for those who come after us.”

At the convention in Toronto, attended by both American and Canadian USW members, Gerard acknowledged the tension President Trump created by failing to exempt Canada from the tariffs he imposed for national security reasons on steel and aluminum.

“The USW executive board voted unanimously that Canada should be excluded from the tariffs,” Gerard pointed out. Imposing them on Canada, an ally, he said, was offensive. “It was offensive for America to put a tariff on Canada and say it was because of national security. Workers on both sides of the border know whose side they should be on.”

Touching on the conference’s theme ­– A Call to Action – Gerard reminded the more than 1,200 attendees that musing means nothing without movement.

“There’s so much to talk about, but there’s so much more than talk that has to take place,” he said. “If we’re going to make the difference that we need to make, we’re only going to make it through activism.

“There is huge talent here and in this audience. If you go home and do nothing, you have been here under false pretenses. The future is in our hands this time.”

Finally, Gerard urged the delegates, “Take the solidarity and relationships you have gained here and go back to your region, you district, your country and fight like hell for the future.”