Top Officer Training Report


Picture by: Salvatore Yuono, accessed from

Top Officer Training Report

Ron McKenzie Oct, 11 2012

I was recently given the opportunity to attend a leadership training session put on by the USW in Cranbrook, at the home hall of our fellow steelworkers 1-405 in the East Kootenay’s.

There, I was given a look at challenges facing other members struggling against the same companies that we struggle with, fighting the same issues that we fight and the being split by the same demographic and administrative controls that have been forced on all of us.  It amazed me how no matter where you go, companies try to pull the same stupid …tricks again and again waiting for someone who’s not paying attention!

I was given the opportunity to see how, some very experienced and some very innovative people are finding success with these issues.  From the use of social media tools, that most people use for fun, to force one of our companies to stop dropping lights on its workers; to stories of how other leaders have learned to engage their members to wake up and fight against the erosion of our rights together, not just at bargaining time, but all the time.  I got a glimpse into how much talent and experience we have available to all of us in USW.

I had what I already knew reinforced;  that none of us are alone in our fights and that at every level there is support available for those who are willing to take a stand on an issue that they know is wrong.  From: serious health and safety issues, to claw-backs of fairly bargained legal rights, to feelings of alienation, to issues of discrimination and mistreatment.  Someone within our union has seen it all, and you usually don’t have to look that far.

I have worked in many different industries, in different countries and in different roles: staff, owner, and worker.   At any level, I’ve always gone to work to do my job the best that I could and really just want to get through each day safely, without getting punished, so I can do it again the next day.  But, I see now more than before, that as a Union member I have something that no person on staff has.  That is, the right to speak about what we see to be true, to ask uncomfortable questions and to make honest mistakes without the fear of not coming back to work the next day.  I’ve seen it work the other way many times.  As a unionized employee I know that this freedom is my greatest right.

We all have to stand up and fight for what we have, all the time because working to take it away is a whole team of highly educated, highly paid staff, who are working hard to increase shareholder value or on paper quarterly profits through the elimination of our rights.  That is their job and they get paid better the better they do at it.

We all need to step up and do our part as Union members to maintain our rights and freedoms.  We can’t sell out future workers, our own kids, our parents generation, our friends … for quarterly gains or bonuses in our bank accounts.  The rights and benefits we enjoy were gained through the struggles of our parents, and grandparents, they are not ours to give away, it’s our turn to fight for the next generation so they too can enjoy the lifestyles we are accustomed to. We can’t expect someone else to do it for us, because we are the Union.  I’m willing to fight as hard as I can, I just ask that you stand beside me and help with the fight!

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