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Steelworkers International president comes to the West Kootenays

Leo Gerard, the international president of the United Steelworkers is coming to the Kootenays on October 2. He will be speaking at a fundraising dinner for the Kootenay West NDP at the Labour Centre in Trail.

“It’s a great honour for us to get such a distinguished labour leader to speak at our dinner in Trail,” said Katrine Conroy, the NDP MLA for Kootenay West.

Conroy added that, “the Steelworkers have a long and successful history representing working people in our region, and throughout North America. This is a great opportunity to hear unique solutions to a number of issues including health care, the green economy and the world economic situation. I have heard Leo speak a number of times. He is a very engaging speaker and people of all political stripes and interests, will really enjoy hearing him talk after the traditional Italian dinner we are planning.”

Doug Jones, President of USW Local 480 in Trail, will serve as master of ceremonies for the evening. “We are really looking forward to Leo coming to our hall. We hope that a lot of people will come out to hear our international president. He always has a lot of interesting things say about what is happening in Canada and over the border,” Jones said.

Gerard was elected international president of the United Steel Workers in 2001. He is the second Canadian to hold the union’s highest office.

The son of a union miner, Gerard went to work at 18 at the Inco nickel smelter in Sudbury. As international president, Gerard has worked hard to improve working conditions in the North American steel industry which has gone through a long and painful restructuring over the past decade as a result of globalisation.

More broadly, under Gerard the Steelworkers have focused on reversing the decline of manufacturing in the US which has had such a negative impact on workers and contributed to the American health care crisis. He has fought for workers’ rights to be included in trade agreements, investment priorities, and corporate governance.

Gerard has also been active in American politics, working hard to get Barack Obama elected president and the Democrats in control of Congress. He was also active in BC during the last provincial election, taking a real interest in what was happening, and giving his support to NDP candidates including Conroy.  

On the world stage, Gerard has made the Steelworkers a force for positive change by fighting for worldwide standards for workers in the tire, rubber, aluminum, mining, and forest products industries. 

In recent years, the USW has expanded its membership in Canada through mergers with the Industrial, Wood & Allied Workers of Canada, the American Flint Glass Workers Union, the Canadian National Railway Track Workers and other independent unions.

It is one of Canada’s largest and most important unions.

The Labour Centre is located at 910 Portland Avenue in Trail. The dinner begins at 6:30pm. For tickets phone: Trail 250-368-9131; Castlegar, 250-365-3670; Rossland, 250-362-9461; Slocan Valley, 250-226-7624; Nakusp, 250-265-4542.

This article is a press release from the Kootenay West NDP Constituency Association.