Ken Neumann statement for International Human Rights Day

Each year on December 10th, the United Steelworkers observe Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations. The recognition of human rights is at the core of Steelworker values and activism.

Without a doubt, one of the largest human rights concerns in 2021 is the effect of the COVID 19 pandemic. This month, there is international concern about the Omicron variant. Over the last two years, my focus on political human rights has now included our human rights to healthcare.

From a health perspective, the effects of COVID 19 and its variants can be contextualized by the inequality of equity seeking groups people to healthcare and physical safety. In Canada, neighbourhoods with the highest numbers of racialized people are also those with the lowest income groups. These neighbourhoods account for 80 percent of cases. With the Omicron variant, these figures may rise. Many Steelworkers who live in these areas are also “front line” workers in healthcare, eldercare, and, other essential services to the public. In addition, Canada is not excluded from crimes of racial discrimination. red. In our own country, numerous incidents related to the pandemic are anti-Asian.

Steelworkers belong to a union that stands up for political equality, and, access to healthy living conditions along with adequate income and healthcare. Human rights for all are fundamental to a safe and decent life, regardless of racial identity.

As a union committed to human rights, I call on Steelworkers to:

  • educate our membership about the benefits of vaccinations
  • continue to lobby for increased paid sick days in legislation in Canada
  • continue to lobby for stronger legislation against racial discrimination and religious hatred
  • negotiate strong equality language for physical and mental health in our collective bargaining agreements
  • during the holiday season, exercise mask precautions, observe public health protocol based on evidence-based advice of health experts

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