STRONG President Speaks Out

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Northern Ontario was strongly represented at a May Day Rally on May 1st and a Nation Building Conference on May 2nd hosted by the United Steel Workers Local 1005 in Hamilton which included many different unions and locals from across Ontario and Canada.

At the rally Rolf Gerstenberger, President of USW Local 1005 called for unity to defend manufacturing jobs and protect pensions. CEP president Dave Coles spoke on forestry, communications and energy related issues.

Many workers from USW Local 6500 traveled from Sudbury to participate in the May Day celebration. They are in a bitter 10 month strike against foreign owned Vale-Inco’s demands for huge concessions.

It was very encouraging and inspirational to witness the three largest industrial unions in Canada, the USW, the CEP and the CAW along with many other large unions marching shoulder to shoulder waving their distinctive banners for the same common cause. Such unity is something STRONG has pushed for in Northern Ontario for over five years.

The May 2nd conference chaired by Rolf Gerstenberger introduced several speakers who formed discussion panels. The first speaker of the day, Al Simard of STRONG, (Saving The Region of Ontario North Group), spoke on forestry followed by Ben Lefebvre, chairperson for the CAW Local 599 bargaining committee and their president Dennis Couvrette who addressed mining issues and the injustice of Xstrata’s closure of the Kidd Metallurgical facility near Timmins.

The consensus was we must continue to build, expand, support, participate and promote a collective power of the people to vigorously oppose the ongoing government supported suppression of workers, orchestrated in a team effort between giant multi-national corporate monopolies to control our natural resources and our economies.

Government top priority should be the health and welfare of its citizens including First Nations. Instead they wave the flag of democracy with the left hand while implementing policies with the right that leave us at the total mercy of the faceless multinational corporations who often display heartless arrogance while wiping out entire communities, forcing families into poverty in their own pursuit for profit.

I’m not saying we should close our borders or we shouldn’t play ball with multinationals but the record shows that both senior levels of government obviously do not have the back-bone or the will to protect their own people from this invasion of our economies and our quality of life. We must hold them responsible and not forget come election time.

Al Simard  – STRONG president