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Black History Month: Unifor members speak on activism Week 3

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Colin James, President Unifor Local 222, he is an activist and mentor.  Colin was born in Birmingham, England and immigrated to Canada at the age of 13. His parents worked hard to provide for their family and instilled helping and bringing others up without allowing them to bring you down. Martial arts was his passion through his teen years and taught him discipline, determination and respect.

In 1980, Colin started working at General Motors and decided to get active in the community as well as in the union. Colin was elected as an alternate shop steward in 1992, and was elected to the position full time in 1995. He was elected to this position for 4 terms until 2007 when he was elected District Committee person, on the Bargaining Committee, as well as Trustee on the Local Executive Board.

Colin remained in these positions until 2016, when he decided to run for President of the Local and was elected. Colin became the first worker of colour to become President at Local 222 in 2016, and was recently acclaimed for another term as President. Colin remains active in the community and always finds the time to help others.

Doreen Bassaragh is a proud activist, and an actively involved Unifor Local 6008 Member.  She has participated in many strike actions, picket lines, and rallies. Doreen has also lobbied the government around issues including but not limited to $15 Fairness, National Drug Plan, Child Care, Climate Change.  At the local Doreen is an active member on the Women's Committee, and Chair of the Aboriginal & Workers of Colour Committee. She is the elected Women’s Advocate and also a union Steward.  Doreen believes in mentoring and educating young people on union activism and will continue to fight corporate greed at future days of action.

Angela Downey is a proud activist and member of Unifor Local 4606. Angela lives in Lucasville Nova Scotia. She was one of three women who brought the union to her workplace. Angela stands behind her union fully as she believes the union has done a lot for her and all membership since they became unionized. Angela is actively involved in many committees in her local including, but not limited to the Women’s, Education, Human Rights committees and the Aboriginal & Workers of Colour Committee. In Angela's own words she describes the meaning of her union, “through the education and strength of my union family I was able to find my voice, and was able to be a part of my community association and help within my community.”

Angela was receiving push back and felt her Lucasville Nova Scotia community was shrinking.  But through her learned skills in the union and her loving heart, she fought back with her community to re-establish the boundaries and made Lucasville a heritage site.

As a healthcare worker she brought education to the community by having a health fair open to all community members.  The sessions include information on men’s health, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s. Angela is proud to being apart of Unifor and knowing that she can call on any of the Unifor members and amazing things always happen.

Dana Anne James is a fierce activist at Unifor Local 6006. She always speaks up for others and is deeply involved in her union.  Dana is Chief Steward and Chair of the Human Rights Committee at Local 6006. She is active within her community volunteering for various advocacy groups. Dana serves as a Labour Councillor and is on the Board of Directors for Social Planning Toronto.

Tshweu Moleme was born under Apartheid South Africa, where much of his activism originated. Tshweu is a union Representative at Local 1090 – AWOC, Casino Rama. Apart from his trade unionism, his activism has also touched various areas, such as decolonization, anti-racism education and Afrocentric approaches. He can be found at the grassroots, as a strong advocate for a better, fairer world for all. 

Tshweu enjoys volunteering as researcher and board member with the following organizations: Youth Activism & Community - New College, UofT Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, Municipal Heritage Committee, City of Orillia Information Orillia. He is also a student, researcher and volunteer at the University of Toronto (HBA - Political Science, and MEd); Research - Workplace Learning & Social Change; Vice President Academic – LHAE, at OISE.

When Tshweu is not working, representing members or volunteering Tshweu can be found spending time with his wife Sarah and two sons Mookodi and Thuto.

Hortense Fletcher is a Production Associate at Cambridge Coatings. She along with a team oversees the daily operation of the E-coat Line. Hortense is also an active member of the union, where she is the union representative. Before this role, Hortense was an Early Childhood Educator in the Bahamas. In her spare time she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Dwayne Gunness is a member of Unifor Local 40. Dwayne has been a long-standing member of the former CAW now Unifor. He Currently is the Vice President at Unifor Local 40.  He is servicing units within the local Retail, Language School, and the Not for Profit Sector. At the Local Dwayne is responsible for EI and sits on as a member of Unifor EI/CPP Committee. Dwayne is also a Trustee on Unifor Retail Wholesale Council.

Many are unaware that Dwayne is one of the main reasons Unifor has a section in the Caribana parade.  Celebrating diversity and being an active member of the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour Toronto Caucus and committees has always been a commitment of Dwayne's.

Melrose Cornwall is a proud Unifor Local 112 activist and member.  Melrose was Born in Antigua West Indies, and he moved to Canada in November of 1979 as a Licensed welder.  He has been employed at Toromont formally known as "Crothers" since 1987. Melrose is actively involved in the union. He was first elected as Shop Steward in 1996, and on the bargaining committee in 1999, serving two terms as Committee person. Melrose was acclaimed as Unit Chair in 2005 and served in that capacity until he resigned as Chairperson in 2017.  He was also elected skilled trades Rep for his unit in 2009 and has been a delegate to the National Skilled Trades Council ever since.

Melrose serves on many committees within Local 112 which includes Human Rights, Substance Abuse, Picnic, and the Aboriginal & Workers of Colour Caucus. Melrose has been a Delegate to the CLC, OFL and Unifor Regional Council.

Melrose takes pride in being a delegate to the National Skilled Trades Council and the fact that he has passed all welding tests from 1982 which includes ASME Pressure Vessels, and CWB all.

Melrose uses his favourite quote, “Everyday may not be good, but there's something good in every day" as his daily outlook at work and in his community.

Margaret Olal is a proud activist and member of Unifor Local 3000. Sister Margaret Olal was instrumental in organizing our union into our workplace 22 years ago. Margaret's commitment to her Local and national union has never wavered. Whether it was representing the membership in her workplace at every round of bargaining or becoming Chief Steward, Margaret has always been committed to building Unifor. 

Margaret volunteers her free time to assist the Local and national union whenever she is called upon. She has helped in the Provincial and Federal elections and provided support to volunteers who are new to the campaign process. Margaret is also a member of the Standing Committee for the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour as well as a member of the Equity Advisory Panel. But no matter what Margaret is doing she is never too busy to help the membership, be it in her workplace, on the picket line or members from other workplaces.

Chika Agbassi is a proud determined activist and member of  Unifor Local 5555. Chika is exceptionally passionate about community development through leadership.  In the summer of 2018, Chika noticed the call for the AWOC conference in her Local’s newsletter and decided she wanted to attend.  Barely six months later, Chika has participated at the two weeks AWOC PEL program and has successfully launched Local 5555’s AWOC committee.    Chika also recently ran for and was elected as Trustee on the Executive Board as well as to her Unit Workplace Committee, starting her term January 1, 2019.

Chika hopes to see many more AWOC faces in leadership within the union and the community at large because she firmly believes in the saying, ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’.

Unifor publishes new video on what’s at stake for Crown workers

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Unifor members in the Saskatchewan Crown corporation sector are fed up with austerity bargaining from the provincial government. They’ve made it clear that a fair contract is the only way to avoid the potential of sector-wide job action later this spring.

As part of their effort to raise the profile of the work they do, Crown workers have released a video about bargaining and what it means to the rank-and-file members of Locals 1S, 2S, 649, and 820.

“I was in Regina to open bargaining for SaskTel in January, and I can tell you, our members are ready to fight for a good contract,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We’re going to unite our members across the Crown sectors to get the contract our members deserve.”

With SaskTel now formally in bargaining, the majority of the Saskatchewan Crown corporation workers represented by Unifor are negotiating a new contract, something that Unifor intends to use to members’ advantage.

Unifor’s Western Regional Director Joie Warnock says that there has been gridlock in the public sector after years of austerity mandates from the right-wing provincial government, leaving no room for negotiated gains for workers.

“Incompetent governance from the ruling  Saskatchewan Party has left the economy sputtering and public sector workers with meagre compensation increases,” said Warnock. “This spring, that’s going to end.”

Members at Ventra Plastics ratify collective agreement

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Unifor Local 195 members at Ventra Plastic plant in Windsor, Ontario voted in favour of a new three-year contract. The 330 members working in auto parts manufacturing at the plant ratified the collective agreement on February 16, 2019.

“I am proud of the skill and determination of the bargaining committee," said Tammy Pomerleau, 1st Vice President of Unifor Local 195. “Our members will greatly benefit from the substantial gains made in the round of bargaining.”

The agreement includes annual wage increases, an extra week of vacation, improved ELOA days, an extra Christmas Holiday and increased benefits.

Sting and cast give big boost to #SaveOshawaGM campaign

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A moving performance by Sting and the cast of his musical, The Last Ship, in Oshawa gave a big boost to Unifor’s campaign to convince General Motors to reverse its decision on the Oshawa Assembly Plant.

“You have a duty to support the community that’s worked for you. It should be a mutual support system. It’s about loyalty. These workers have loyally given their lives to the company. It’s a two-way street,” Sting told the crowd as he urged General Motors to do the right thing.

Thousands of Unifor members and the public attended the Valentine’s Day solidarity performance, held in the heart of downtown Oshawa. The legendary musician began with “Message in a Bottle,” and after several numbers from the musical, closed with “Every Breath You Take.”

“We live in a time where people with influence rarely poke out their head,” said National President Jerry Dias as he thanked the British recording artists on stage. “Today is about saying to GM in the strongest terms that we’re not accepting your decision to close down the facility.”

The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by Sting, is based on the closure of the shipyard in the musician’s hometown. The Mirvish musical, playing at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, tells the empowering story of the worker’s fight against the shutdown.

At a post-performance news conference with Dias Sting told reporters he could see the anxiety in the faces of autoworkers.

“It’s very evident to us, performing on stage. We could see everyone’s face. I can see the worry on their faces, genuine concern about the future. It was very moving for us to see that close up. It’s not a game, this is real.”

It’s been 11 weeks since General Motors made the devastating announcement about Oshawa and Dias said Unifor is not backing down in this fight.

“We are telling your story and it’s important that your story is heard….Canada needs to get behind you. This can’t be buried under the political red carpet,” said Sting.

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UFCW Statement on Amazon Canceling NYC Location

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Marc Perrone released the following statement in response to Amazon’s decision to withdraw their plan to establish a new campus in New York City:

“Amazon showed its true colors today and every American should be outraged. Jeff Bezos had the opportunity to listen to the voices of working families and support the good-paying jobs New Yorkers deserve.

“But now we can see this is all about blind greed and Jeff Bezos’ belief that everyday taxpayers should foot the bill for their new headquarters even as the company actively works to eliminate millions of American retail jobs.

“No company that refuses to invest in hardworking men and women should be allowed to stuff their pockets with taxpayer-funded subsidies. Make no mistake, this fight has only begun.”

The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. 

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

Locals contribute to $5.5 million telethon fundraiser for B.C. kids

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Unifor locals, National and B.C. Regional Council donated $ 11,000 of the grand total of $5.5 million raised at the Variety Show of Hearts telethon in British Columbia.

“The services Variety provides touch the lives of countless children facing serious illnesses or special needs, and their families,” said Joie Warnock, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Members played a central role in this fundraising initiative, fulfilling our union’s broader social mandate to contribute meaningfully to our communities.”

Variety, the children’s charity in B.C., funds medical emergencies, specialized equipment, therapies and out-of-town accommodation and travel costs for children and families all across the province. Locals 114, 2002, 780G, 3000, 2200 and 601 made generous donations towards the cause, which surpassed the 2018 total.

“The Show of Hearts has been an integral part of Variety’s legacy and we are honoured to have been able to contribute towards such a worthy cause,” said Gord McGrath, Unifor Local 114 President.

This year’s eight-hour broadcast featured singer-songwriter Shawn Hook, Canadian fusion group Delhi 2 Dublin, country music trio The Heels and a special appearance by George Takei of Star Trek fame.

While the telethon has ended, donations can still be made online here, toll-free by phone at 310-KIDS, or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.

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