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Forestry workers find strong support from municipal leaders at FCM

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Unifor brought forestry workers from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Quebec City to raise awareness about forestry issues and opportunities in the sector.

“Many of us have met with our local representatives at all levels of government, but FCM provided us a unique and valuable opportunity to speak with hundreds of municipal leaders in one venue,” said Ian Hutchison, Atlantic Regional Chair and forestry member in Saint John, New Brunswick. “Mayors and councillors from big cities and small towns alike recognized their community’s important connections to the forestry sector and talked with us about how vital it was to their economies.”

Big city mayors like Naheed Nenshi of Calgary, Bonnie Crombie of Mississauga and Mike Savage of Halifax stopped by the Unifor booth, in addition to hundreds of mayors and city councillors from across Canada. Members plan to schedule follow-up meetings and encourage councils to pass a municipal resolution of support for forestry. Read the Unifor lobby document here.

Unifor represents more than 26,000 forestry workers across the country. The sector is facing several challenges including the growing impact of softwood lumber tariffs, ongoing crises from insect damage, unchecked raw log exports, and several other policies that negatively impact key forestry operations and sustainable harvest levels.

“Forestry has a bright future and can be a key player in greening our economy and providing good-paying, sustainable jobs in communities big and small for generations to come,” said Jerry Dias, National President. “Most city officials understand the value-add in the forestry sector is vital and there’s huge potential for this sector to be part of the green economy policies they’re exploring.”

Dias hosted a reception for delegates and spoke to other challenges faced by municipal leaders. With increased downloading of service responsibility onto municipalities, the urgent need for affordable housing, and increasing infrastructure modernization and growth, councillors have a lot on their plates.

“We have to fight back against the aggressive cuts to services at the provincial level by conservative premiers in order to protect and grow prosperous cities with dependable services where people want to live, work and raise their families,” said Dias. “We can’t cut our way forward – we have to invest in and build the communities we want for our future.”

L-R: Hugues Perrault, Vince Lukacs, Ivan Vasko, Mike Lambert, Terry Farrell, and Shelley Amyotte

“I’ve made my career in forestry and I’m passionate about my industry. We are the tree-planters, the forest-keepers and the crafters of products we build our lives around. I’m intensely proud of that and want to share my optimism for the future of forestry with others.” – Don McLean, forestry worker, Alberta.

“It’s a privilege to have an opportunity to speak about such an important issue for our membership with elected officials from across the country. We need their support and to make them aware of the challenges and opportunities we are facing.” – Hugues Perrault, Political Action Quebec

“Forestry has grown and changed over the years, rising to meet modern standards and developing increasingly innovative and sustainable practices. We’re pushing every level of government to invest real time and resources to protect this sector, our beautiful and productive forest lands, and the hundreds of thousands of forestry jobs so many communities rely on.” – Mike Lambert, Unifor Forestry Director.

Winnipeg General Strike inspires Prairie Council

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Delegates to Unifor’s Prairie Regional Council in Winnipeg drew inspiration from the city’s infamous 1919 general strike as they vowed to build a broad coalition to push back against conservative politicians federally and provincially.

“Everything we have been doing for five and a half years has been in preparation for this campaign,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a speech to 260 delegates and staff.

With a federal election planned for the fall, a provincial election expected in Manitoba and a newly elected right-wing government in Alberta, Dias said it is vital that workers stand in solidarity with other progressive groups to push back against attacks on working people.

One hundred years ago workers in Winnipeg stood together in a broad coalition of union and non-union workers, women’s groups, immigrants, skilled and unskilled in a way that had rarely been seen before, and changed the country. It will be the same recipe for success in 2019, Dias said.

“An eight-hour day. A living wage. Union recognition. These were the demands of the Winnipeg general strike, and today we need to fight to advance these goals,” he said.

Western Regional Director Joie Warnock told delegates they are on the front line of the fight against the right, with conservative governments in every Prairie province determined to roll back worker rights and sell off Crown corporations.

“We’ve had enough. We’re not going to take it anymore. We’re fighting back and we’re going to win,” she said.

On the closing day of the Council, outgoing National Secretary-Treasurer Bob Orr thanked delegates for their dedication and making a real difference for workers. “It’s your hard work that makes Unifor great, and the powerhouse in Canadian politics that it has become.”

Former Unifor Senior Economist Jim Stanford spoke about the future of Canada’s energy industry and shared his analysis of the popular “Green New Deal”. He said the key to an energy sector that works for Canadians is gradual diversification and making sure that no worker’s family is left behind as it transitions away from fossil fuel sources.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he is inspired by the general strikers because they put everything on the line, including their lives, to fight for their rights and a decent standard of living for their families.

“The best way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike is to defeat Brian Pallister as Premier of Manitoba,” said Kinew, pledging to bring back card check for union certification, a higher minimum age, and a crack down on unsafe workplaces.

“I want to get tough on corporate criminals. When Mom and Dad go to work, they should come home alive and safe.”

There were two panel discussions at the council examining the importance of class unionism to build  broad coalitions, and another looking at lessons from the Winnipeg General Strike. “We need to come together as we did 100 years ago,” said Gina McKay, labour director for the Winnipeg United Way. “That’s how we build a stronger movement.”

Unifor Member Mobilization and Political Action Director Josh Coles said Unifor is ready to go as soon as an election is called in Manitoba, and planning for the union’s campaign for the federal election in the fall is already underway.

 

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