From fighting unfair free trade deals to standing up to politicians and corporations who are destroying workers’ rights in the United States and Canada, the United Steelworkers spent their 2017 convention emphasizing unity and solidarity.
“Our founders risked everything to win the rights that all of us enjoy today,” President Leo Gerard said in his keynote address. “They did it against unbelievable odds. They battled hired scabs and thugs. They stood down national guardsmen hell bent on breaking their strikes. They even stood their ground against cops that shot them dead on picket lines.
“And yet, in spite of all that, they prevailed. Their power was – and ours still is – the greatest power ever known: The power of unity, the power of our activism, the power of standing strong, shoulder to shoulder, militant if necessary.”
The struggle continues, added Gerard. That’s because corporate greed uses its political puppets to still attack unions and trash middle class wages, benefits and jobs in both the U.S. and Canada.
“And we’ve still got CEOs who sneer at our demand to put an end to hazards in the workplace,” he said. “Instead they focus on their next yearly bonus and stock options.” Such condescension, or worse, forced USW’s oil refinery workers to strike over safety and health hazards at their plants, he noted. The union won that battle.
But politicians, Gerard warned, cannot take worker and union support for granted. “The day is done when any politician – of any party – can get our support with a promise and a pat on the head. So listen up candidates from every party, left or right in Canada and USA: If you’re not willing to give us your full support, don’t expect to get ours,” Gerard stated.
Delegates reinforced that, approving a resolution that declared: “Workers’ rights are central to the campaigns of candidates seeking office in state and federal governments in the U.S., and provincial and federal governments in Canada.” They pledged “a rigorous political program” to communicate that stand both USW’s own members and their communities.
They also adopted policy resolutions confirming their opposition to unfair trade, supporting the Affordable Care Act with the ultimate goal of national, single payer health care, and denouncing the high rates of incarceration of African-Americans, deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, and other evidence of systematic racism.