Union representation in the 21st century is evolving and changing. And the United Steelworkers union is at the forefront of a ‘New Labour Movement.’
The last century was characterized by large-scale industrial organizing in industries that employed thousands of people in a single workplace. There are few of these concentrations of workers left in today’s decentralized, yet global, economy. Those that are left are mostly already unionized.
In Sudbury, there are still two such large groups of workers. For them, the biggest change in the nickel-mining industry has been the takeover of Canadian companies by large foreign-based corporations.
The new Brazilian-owned Vale-Inco has yet to be tested in collective bargaining with our union — in Sudbury, at least. But, at the time of writing this, members of USW Local 6166 in Thompson, MB, were in negotiations with Vale-Inco over familiar issues, such as pensions, wages, control over contracting out and health and safety. They are also working to protect the nickel price bonus, negotiated by the union in both Thompson and Sudbury, more than a decade ago and protected in every set of negotiations since.