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Posted: May 1, 2017

USW urges NDP vote

Liberal candidates respond

e-KNOW news

By Ian Cobb

Following the announcement of the devastating tariffs of 20% or more on lumber harvested and mills in the East and West Kootenay, and across B.C., by the U.S. Commerce Department April 25, Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal government chose to play politics and attack Steelworkers in B.C. and International President Leo Gerard, the United Steel Workers (USW) charged in an April 27 press release.

“In a time when our members and the jobs that support working families in the Kootenays and across B.C. need someone to stand up for them, Christy Clark has chosen to attack our members and our international president instead of standing up for workers in our mills; standing up for working families in our communities and standing up to defend our forest industry,” offered USW Local 1-405 Financial Secretary Jeff Bromley, adding, “5,000 Steelworkers live and work in the East and West Kootenay, almost 1,000 of them in the forest industry. These duties are going to harm our members, harm the companies and could cause job losses and all Christy Clark can do is attack our president? How does that help our members? How does that help our families?” continued Bromley.

Clark and the Liberals have attacked the United Steelworkers international president for being part of a delegation to the White House for the U.S. Steel Industry April 20. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office was surrounded by executives from the U.S. Steel industry and USW International President Leo Gerard to announce protective tariffs on cheap imported steel from Asia that is harming the U.S. steel industry.

Following the signing of the Executive Order, Trump decided to go on an unannounced tirade about the Canadian Dairy Industry, while also making mention of lumber and energy from Canada. That was April 20. Six days later, the U.S. Commerce Department announced the softwood lumber duties on lumber coming from Canada.

Gerard, a miner from Sudbury, Ontario, has been the USW International president for 13 years and a Steelworker since the late 1960s. Following the merger of the IWA – the former union that represented 30,000 forestry workers in Canada – and the USW in 2004, Gerard has also lead the fight against U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, both in 2006 and today. “The important thing for my being there is that Canada’s not the problem that the United States has in the steel industry,” said Gerard. “The problem with the steel industries of both countries – Canada and the United States – is the onslaught of unfairly traded steel, primarily from China but also from Japan, South Korea and India.”

“Part of the reason I was willing to go to the Oval Office was to make it understood that it’s not just steel,” Mr. Gerard said. “The same thing’s happening in aluminum, cement, glass. The trade laws don’t work. On both sides of the border, we have to fix the trade laws. The American and Canadian worker should not have to pay this price. Part of my role is to make sure I’m a voice for our members on both sides of the border,” he said. “Steel, rubber, cement, glass – I make it clear Canada is not part of the problem. To prove any trade case there has to be harm. Right now, the U.S. lumber industry is running at almost 100% capacity. Lumber markets are higher than they’ve ever been. Canadian lumber is not harming the U.S. industry.”

Gerard’s reaction to Clark’s attack on both him and the United Steelworkers went further. “(Christy Clark) needs to get her facts straight. We are a very large and diverse union of 800,000 members with 255,000 members in Canada and 30,000 USW members in British Columbia. Are we a big union? Yes, we are a large North American union that serves the interests of all of our members and right now our focus is the 30,000 Steelworkers in B.C. and the protection of those forestry jobs.”

The empty yard at the closed Canal Flats Mill.

“This government isn’t working for steelworkers in B.C. and especially in the Kootenays,” continued Bromley. “Over 1,000 direct jobs are impacted by the U.S. Softwood Lumber tariffs in the East and West Kootenay and Columbia Valley. Christy Clark and the Liberals have done nothing to protect those jobs. In fact, they’ve made it worse. We firmly believe that if the Forest Act of BC had not been changed in 2004 under the BC Liberals, Canal Flats Sawmill – a profitable sawmill – would still be operating today. They changed the act to benefit their forest industry donors and cut the tie of the timber to the sawmill, enabling the timber to be shipped anywhere and the jobs to disappear.”

“Christy Clark and the Liberals need to stop attacking Steelworkers and worry about protecting jobs. They aren’t standing up for B.C. working families; they aren’t standing up for steelworkers. Only John Horgan and the NDP will do that,” Bromley concluded, noting USW Local 1-405 stands in support of the BC NDP candidates in the East and West Kootenay, including Randal Macnair (Kootenay East) and Gerry Taft (Columbia River-Revelstoke).

Contacted by e-KNOW for comment on the USW’s April 27 news release, the two local BC Liberal Party riding associations issued a joint statement on behalf of Kootenay East and Columbia River-Revelstoke Liberal candidates Tom Shypitka and Doug Clovechok.

“The United Steelworkers statement issued April 27 is a last-ditch attempt by desperate union leaders to coerce working mine and forest workers into voting for the NDP. The NDP has become an urban-based party that is controlled by environmental and social justice interests. Their leader rarely leaves the Lower Mainland. The NDP is no longer the party of working people,” the response opens

They say the BC Liberal Party has not worked to protect forest jobs? Sixteen years ago, almost 100% of BC’s softwood lumber was sold into the USA. Today almost 45% of our softwood is sold into Asia, drastically reducing our reliance on the US market. This took a heck of a lot of work by BC Liberal ministers and Premier’s and it took vision, planning and dedication. Take a look at Ontario or Quebec where they remain totally reliant on US markets.

“The release conveniently leaves out the fact that 10,000 jobs in forestry have been added since 2011, the year Christy Clark became Premier. More recently, Premier Christy Clark asked the Prime Minister to stop thermal coal shipments from coming through Canada at West Coast ports. This will not only hurt the US but will make more room for metallurgical coal shipments from our Elk Valley mines,” the candidates’ joint statement pointed out.

Doug Clovechok

“Forest and mine workers do need MLAs who will stand up for them and we take that job to heart. But working families also need a political party that has the guts to find a way to ‘yes’ on job-creating projects like Site C, pipelines, LNG and new mines. The NDP leader speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He cannot be a friend to working people while at the same time opposing every project that comes along.

“Many forest and mineworkers have figured this out in Kootenay East already and have elected Bill Bennett four times. Workers in both Kootenay East and Columbia River-Revelstoke will not be bullied by their union leaders nor will they be led by the nose and told how to vote. Parties and candidates must earn votes and we are working our tails off to earn your trust. On May 9, vote for the party that has made B.C. number one in Canada in job creation, the party that can say yes to projects, the party with the lowest income taxes in Canada, the BC Liberals,” the candidates’ response concludes.



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