Taking potshots at international unions a disservice to Canadian workers (Op-Ed)

Taking potshots at international unions a disservice to Canadian workers (Op-Ed)

19 October, 2018

In response to columns in your newspaper by John Ivison, I am writing to correct the record, as well as to engage in a broader debate about the state of trade and related issues which are relevant to Canadian workers and their families.

The Machinists Union opposes the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian workers. Period. There is no debate about the damage these tariffs do Canadian workers, business, and especially IAM members in Canada. Our members oppose the tariffs because it adversely affects their jobs. We are also on the record in our opposition.

IAM Canada is a “territory” of the IAM, but only within the structural setup of the IAM. Make no mistake: we run our own affairs independently. I am the top-ranking Canadian officer, and I am elected by our Canadian members. I appoint all of our Canadian staff, all of whom are Canadian citizens. In fact, there are a number of Canadians working out of the International Headquarters and our excellent education and training facility in the U.S.

Dues money contributed by IAM Canadian members stays in Canada and is deposited into the Royal Bank of Canada– all of it. It stays here. It is budgeted here. It is spent here! Most importantly, it is used to represent our members in Canada.

Being part of an international union requires a two- or three-step explanation, but we are glad to give it. We prefer it to the facile descriptions of “Canadian-only” unions being amplified by media outlets known to be hostile to unions and working people.

When corporations are increasingly buying out other corporations and spreading their influence in many more parts of the world than before, it becomes the responsibility of unions to make sure that we inform ourselves on an international level. Far too often, corporations share information across borders. Governments do the same to allow corporations to work globally. Why should unions do any less?

It is not only a legal responsibility to represent our members (and all workers), it is a moral one. Corporations seem not be held to any moral standard while being hailed for profit-driven results. The IAM and other international unions are proud to work and collaborate internationally to share strategies that protect and advance the cause of our members. These are real people whose working lives and rights we have sworn to defend. We are constantly puzzled as to why this is portrayed as a bad thing.

At their core, unions are people. Our goal is to make the voices of workers and their families heard by those who make decisions affecting their lives. This is a good thing. We will continue to fight for all workers – and their families, on both sides of the border. This is our duty, and we take it seriously.

Stan Pickthall,
Canadian General Vice President,
IAM Canada