Ken Neumann Statement on 25th Anniversary of December 6

This is the 25th anniversary of the Montreal massacre, and we have many reasons to pause and reflect. In 1989, a man murdered 14 young female engineering students at the École Polytechnique, just for daring to believe that they could break out of gender stereotypes.

Violence is still too present in the lives of Canada's women and girls. At least 1,200 aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered since 1980, according to RCMP research. Recent newscasts are full of stories of physical violence against women, such as the vicious beating of young Rinelle Harper in Winnipeg, and of verbal and psychological harassment. As a result, Canadians are engaging in a vigourous and progressive debate about how to end all these forms of violence.

And now Canada's unions, including the United Steelworkers, have released the results of a nation-wide survey looking at the impact of domestic violence on our work lives. Almost 9,000 workers took part in the survey. The results are shocking, and demand action.

One third of the workers surveyed, predominantly women, have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes. Of these, just over half say that the violence followed them to the workplace. This includes ex-partners stalking them at the workplace, making harassing calls and emails to them at work, and contacting co-workers and managers. Almost a tenth of workers who experience domestic violence say that it contributed to them quitting a job.

With all that unions have won over the years – anti-harassment language and policies, amendments to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (known as Bill 168) to create workplaces free of violence – obviously much, much more needs to be done. Together with other Canadian unions, the Steelworkers will use the national survey results to develop new strategies and programs.

I am proud that many Women of Steel committees and local unions support their community women's shelters. The United Steelworkers has helped fund the development of a blueprint for a national action plan to end violence against women. We endorse the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. And we will call on political parties to do their part to make Canadian society free of violence and harassment against women and girls.

But as long as students like Rinelle Harper spend time in intensive care, rather than in school, we all must do more. As long as girls lower their hopes for the future because of sexist insults and demeaning media images of women, our work must continue. As long as women enter the workplace in fear, we must not rest. This is a struggle that we must take on at the ballot box and at the bargaining table, in our living rooms and in our meeting rooms.

I'm up for the struggle. I ask you to join me.

Ken Neumann
USW National Director


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