“We will celebrate our successes, tackle our challenges, and chart the course to build our union, defend our members and create our members’ future,” said USW National Director Marty Warren, in his opening address to 600 USW delegates, staff, retirees and guests, at the union’s National Policy Conference in Toronto.
Over four days, delegates made moving, personal contributions as they debated and passed 48 resolutions on bargaining, health and safety, antiracism, action for equality, education, legislative advocacy, the green energy economy and more – an ambitious agenda for the USW’s next three years.
Immediately prior to the conference, members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), NextGen and USW National Locals held their own gatherings.
Guest speakers at the conference included federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske, USW International President Thomas M. Conway and Toronto Star Work and Wealth investigative reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh.
“The economy is going through such dramatic change and it brings to the labour movement tremendous opportunities that we haven’t really seen in generations. It also brings tremendous challenges and threats to our jobs,” Conway said.
“We need to be prepared to make organizing our focus for the next decade.”
The USW’s organizing efforts will include workplaces where new jobs will be created as a result of huge investments in public infrastructure and cleaner industries.
“No one is going to hand us those jobs. We’re going to have to go out and get those cards signed,” said Conway.
Roxanne Brown, USW International Vice-President at Large, reminded delegates that the words engage, mobilize and organize “are a blueprint that lays out the approach we take as a union to maintain what we have now and to continue making gains.”
Brown congratulated Canadian Steelworkers on the recent passage of Bill C-228, which protects workers and pensioners in the event of corporate bankruptcy. The win was largely due to USW members and pensioners who committed to engaging the membership, mobilized their allies and communities and relentlessly organized.
“It’s always impactful for lawmakers to hear from our members. You are the best messenger of your story, our story,” said Brown. Keynote speaker Mojtehedzadeh credited the union’s track record on health and safety. “The USW has been on the forefront – particularly on worker compensation and workplace safety,” she said, noting that precarious workers – often newcomers – are most at risk of mistreatment and danger.
Throughout the conference, delegates heard from insightful panels including the National Anti- Racism Working Group presentation on how to be a good ally. Delegates subsequently voted to pass a resolution to enshrine the working group into a standing committee of the union.
Warren talked about the urgency of moving quickly to push Liberal MPs to support anti-scab legislation without delay, seizing the opportunity created by the NDP-Liberal supply-and-confidence agreement. As part of the agreement, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh secured a commitment from the Liberals to introduce anti-scab legislation before the end of the year.
Anita Bryan, District 6 Co-ordinator, led delegates in a “how-to” session on lobbying politicians on crucial issues such as anti-scab legislation. “A scab is a scab is a scab,” said Bryan, to a cheering room.
Following adjournment on April 28, a crowd of USW delegates joined the Toronto and York Region Labour Council’s National Day of Mourning ceremony to honour those who have been killed or injured at work.
Daily photo albums from the conference are posted at usw.to/photos.
This article was featured in the Summer 2023 edition of USW@Work magazine.
USW@Work Magazine Summer 2023
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