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YES to our pro-worker agena

June 20, 2024
Image: Two people sitting in a boardroom, looking at the camera for a photo. The person on the right is wearing a grey suit with a blue shirt, and the person on the left is wearing a black blazer and grey sweater.

After years of Conservative rule in many parts of the country, workers have pushed back and are now advancing policies that make their lives better.

In November, as a result of the NDP-Liberal Supply and Confidence Agreement, the federal Liberal government introduced anti-scab legislation – Bill C-58. At the time of writing, this was being heard by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, to where our union emphasized both the legislation’s importance and the need to shorten the timeline around when it will come into effect.

Similarly, thanks to the advocacy of the NDP and the labour movement, the federal government has introduced the framework for a national, universal pharmacare plan – a longtime missing piece from the medicare promise. This is one of the single most significant national program creations of our lifetime.

We are also working hard to support the Sustainable Jobs Act, Bill C-50, which would create a framework for unions to participate in planning for an economy that will create well-paying jobs in communities across the country by ensuring workers have a role in any economic transition as a result of climate change.

Provincially, there are many crucial wins. In Manitoba, as of this writing, NDP Premier Wab Kinew has announced plans to introduce both anti-scab legislation and card-check certification – taking meaningful action on his commitment to workers and their families. The first-ever Indigenous Premier of Manitoba, Kinew and his government were elected in October 2023, unseating a two-term, right-wing, anti-worker Progressive Conservative government – with the help of members in District 3.

In the fall, there will be general elections in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia, where we plan to elect and re-elect pro-worker NDP provincial governments.

In Ontario, where citizens are suffering drastic cuts to health care and fees for basic services, workers had a vital win when the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently struck down an appeal by the anti-worker Ontario provincial government of its wage suppression legislation, which was found to be unconstitutional in a charter challenge by labour organizations, such as the USW. Now our public sector bargaining units are busy winning stronger collective agreements, with better compensation as contracts open up.

‘No thanks’ to false friends

Steelworkers, we know there are those who increasingly claim to represent us, claim to have our interests and our jobs at heart and claim to be friends of working people. But I encourage all of us to be skeptical of these false friends.

For long-time politicians like Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre, his own commitment to voting against worker-friendly legislation tells a wildly different story. He held several minister positions under the Stephen Harper Conservative government and voted with the Harper government in every single attack on workers. With 19 years as an MP, Poilievre has spent his working life developing and supporting anti-worker policies, voting against anti-scab legislation, pension protections and minimum wage increases on numerous occasions and voting for delaying the age of retirement to 67, supporting back-to-work legislation and much more. Pierre Poilievre and those who seek to mimic him or his policies are no friends of Steelworkers.

I am thrilled by the changes that we are winning and what is possible in the future, but we will continue to face many challenges to ensure our members’ voices are heard at the bargaining table, in workplaces, in legislation and government policies. As Steelworkers, with the strength, courage and power of our members, local union leaders and USW staff, we will continue our ambitious agenda to win the changes that members, their families and communities need and deserve.

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
USW National Director

This article appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of USW@Work magazine.

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