·  Media Release

Historic Miners' Strike Led to Important Health and Safety Advances

40th Anniversary Forum commemorates Elliot Lake miners

SUDBURY – "The most important thing to come out of the mines is the miner," wrote Dr. James Ham in his 1976 Royal Commission report on the Health and Safety of Workers in Mines.

The United Steelworkers (USW) shares that conviction, 40 years after Elliot Lake uranium miners went on a wildcat strike for better health and safety conditions.

"Today all workers have laws to protect them, thanks to the courage of the Elliot Lake miners 40 years ago. Miners were getting sick and dying from silicosis and lung cancer. They went on wildcat, got everyone's attention, and that led to the Occupational Health and Safety Act," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

The Forum to Commemorate the Elliot Lake Miners' Strike takes place April 15-17 at the USW Local 6500 Steelworkers Hall and Conference Centre in Sudbury.

On Wednesday, April 16, participants will travel to Elliot Lake for a mock picket at the entrance to the former Denison Mine, a tour of the Elliot Lake Nuclear and Mining Museum and a re-dedication ceremony at the Miners' Memorial.

"The miners and their union - our union - the Steelworkers, were pushing for change, for better laws and for a role in their own health and safety at work," said Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director. "That continues today. We just lost another brother on April 6 at Vale - the fourth Sudbury Vale worker to be killed at work in three years. So we need to do more. We need to stop the killing."

Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law is a USW campaign aimed at better enforcement of the Criminal Code amendments that hold corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for workplace death. The campaign asks federal and provincial attorneys-general to take steps to enforce the Westray Law. City councils from British Columbia to Nova Scotia have passed motions endorsing the campaign.

Through videos, presentations and panel discussions, the Elliot Lake Forum will cover:

  • The history of the Elliot Lake miners' wildcat strike
  • The 1976 Royal Commission on the Health and Safety of Workers in Mines, known as the Ham Commission
  • A review of occupational disease
  • The USW campaign to Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law
  • A trip to Elliot Lake including a mock picket line at the entrance to the former Denison Mine
  • A re-dedication ceremony at the Miners' Memorial in Elliot Lake
  • An update on the current Ontario Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review

"The United Steelworkers is the health and safety union," said Neumann. "That reputation is thanks to our history with the Elliot Lake miners, fighting for their lives."


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