30 June, 2020
Today is bittersweet. We are saying farewell to two dear friends and colleagues from our Canadian IAM Staff – Sister Heather Kelley and Brother Ron Fontaine are moving on to their much-deserved retirement. And it is not without some misgivings that we see them go forward to the next chapter of their lives. But I know it is “fare well” and not goodbye.
Both of them have been a great part of building the Machinists Union into the organization it is today, and both have been great mentors and colleagues to so many of us along the way.
I take this opportunity to thank Heather for the great work she has done throughout her career of more than 20 years as a Grand Lodge Representative. Heather has worked tirelessly as an advocate for all workers, fighting for social justice and worker’s rights in every jurisdiction where the IAM has members. She has been a crusader for women’s rights at every level within the organization, and has taken that enthusiasm into our workplaces, into the legislatures and into the hearts and minds of a new generation of Sisters who continue to advocate on behalf of IAM members across Canada.
Heather, you will surely be missed for the work you do and for leading the way among IAM Sisters in Canada and across North America.
A 50-year member of the IAM, Ron has worked as a full time Union Representative for over 38 years. He has been an IAM activist at every level of the organization, and has been a mentor to dozens of members across the organization. Ron’s passion for representing working people has been the hallmark of his career, and it shows in the results he has achieved and the friendships he has maintained across the years. Whether it was his work at the bargaining table, or the pride he brought to the organizing campaigns we pursued, Ron has been a strong and powerful leader.
As our Territorial Organizing Leader, Ron led the way for the IAM in Canada to win the very first International President’s Organizing award. I had the privilege and honour of standing alongside Ron and the rest of Canada when we were presented with the trophy. Ron has been a personal mentor and friend to me; I have always been able to rely upon his sage counsel and measured approach to solving labour relations problems.
I simply wanted to take this opportunity to thank both Heather and Ron for the work they have done, and for the example they have set. You have both touched so many of us, and we all know that our organization is a better and stronger place because of the passion you brought to this work. Travel well, and I know we will see you along the road as we continue to build upon the work you have set forth for us.
In Solidarity and in Friendship,
General Vice President