Past Canadian Directors

Charlie Millard

Charlie Millard

Charles Millard led fellow workers out on strike in order to win the first contract in Canada between an auto manufacturer and its workers in 1937. The CIO recognised Millard’s talent for organising, and appointed him to be the first head of the Steel Workers Organising Committee (SWOC). At the founding convention of the United Steelworkers, Millard was named the first Canadian National Director. He later served as an elected Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario and was a founding member of the New Democratic Party.

Bill Mahoney

Bill Mahoney

Bill Mahoney worked at the Algoma Steel plant, where he led the then independent union to join the SWOC. During his tenure, tens of thousands of workers joined the Steelworkers in factories across the county. Beyond organising, Mahoney is regarded as an early fighter for Canada’s universal health care system. He helped set up a non-profit health clinic in Sault Ste. Marie – a radical idea at the time. Mahoney later became the first labour leader to be named a member of a board of a university and won the Order of Canada.

 Gérard Docquier

Gérard Docquier

Gerard Docquier became the first francophone elected Director. Docquier joined the Steelworkers while working at Pirelli Cable and became a Staff Representative in the 1950s. His groundbreaking “Back to the Locals” education program energised a new generation of union members. Docquier fought against the manufacturing crisis of the 1980s, spearheading the creation of the Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress (CSTEC), which brought together members of the United Steelworkers and steel companies. A champion for international solidarity, he is a founding member of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, and made the union a more inclusive space with his “Everyone’s Union” policy. Docquier was awarded the Order of Canada in 1991.

 Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard is the son of a miner and went to work himself in a smelter in Sudbury at the age of 18, while a university student. While his tenure as Canadian Director was short, Gerard’s influence on the global union movement is unprecedented. Following his term as USW National Director, he became the international union's Secretary-Treasurer. In 2001 he ascended to the union's top role, and served as USW International President for 18 years, retiring in 2019. Gerard led the creation of worldwide networks of unions to build solidarity and bargaining strength among workers at multinational companies. He also led the labour movement in holding corporations accountable, filing trade sanctions against foreign companies who skirted the rules. The New York Times called Gerard the “No. 1 scourge of free traders.” Gerard received an honorary doctorate of law degrees from the University of Guelph and Laurentian University in recognition of his contributions to social justice.

 Lawrence McBrearty

Lawrence McBrearty

Lawrence McBrearty worked as a miner in Murdochville and was elected to be a local union President at the age of 28. A champion against globalization andneo-liberalism, McBrearty led the fight to amend the Canadian criminal code so that boards of directors, owners and operators could be held criminally responsible for workplace injuries or fatalities. The historic act was adopted by Parliament in 2003 and is named the Westray Law, in memory of the 26 miners who lost their lives in a preventable explosion. After his tenure as Director, Lawrence served as a board member of many steel industry associations and he was awarded a Ph.D. degree Honoris Causa from l’Université du Québec in 2004.

 Ken Neumann

Ken Neumann

Ken Neumann served as the USW National Director for Canada from 2004 to 2022, being reconfirmed in the role in the 2005, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2017 international elections. Born and raised in rural Saskatchewan, Ken was a teenager when he first joined the USW, at Local 5890 in Regina, Sask., and then later Local 4728. He was hired as a staff representative in 1977, elected District 3 Director in 1989, and won every subsequent district election until his appointment as National Director in 2004. Ken had an instrumental role in the USW merger with the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada in 2004. Under Ken's leadership, the union has signed strategic alliances with ACTRA National (the Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists), the Canadian Region of Communications Workers of Canada, Environmental Defence, the Telecommunications Workers Union, Unite Here, the Canadian Football League Players’ Association and the Ontario Taxi Workers Union, as well as creating many international alliances, such as Workers Uniting – with Unite the Union in the U.K. and Ireland, and Mexico’s Los Mineros.

One of Neumann’s passions has been fighting for the dignity and independence of injured and disabled workers. He is co-chair of the National Institute for Disability Management and Research and he helped develop Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences, the first university of its kind.