In March of this year, Local 594 was able to send four delegates to represent and work for all of us at the 2023 Unifor Prairie
Regional Council in Calgary. Unifor’s 2023 Prairie Regional Council (PRC) focused on the union’s work to build worker power through political fightback, social activism, and tough collective bargaining. Approximately 150 delegates from Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Alberta participated in the three-day council during March 8-10 in Calgary.
Council opened with a welcome from Prairie Regional Chairperson Guy Desforge followed by a blessing from Elder Bruce Starlight and a dance performance by Brown Bear Woman Events.
Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle delivered a comprehensive report to delegates, highlighting the work that Unifor has undertaken since the last PRC and what’s possible in the year ahead.
“We’ve been pushing governments at all levels on many important issues and calling out the Bank of Canada for their attacks on working people while turning a blind to corporate greed. We’ve been demanding EI reform, anti-scab legislation, and continued our organizing efforts. The work never stops. We are firing on all cylinders, busier than ever,” said McGarrigle.
McGarrigle outlined key challenges including the healthcare crisis, growing retirement concerns, and wage growth in a time of record inflation. He warned about the need to mobilize in upcoming provincial elections in Alberta, Manitoba, and then Saskatchewan.
“We must organize so that it becomes politically toxic for governments to attack workers and our union rights,” said Payne. “We are going to expose politicians who pretend to support workers when their policies will make things worse for working Canadians.”
Payne called for a coordinated economic plan with strong industrial policies and public investments, stressing that workers must be involved in planning Canada’s future.
“We plan. We fight. We organize and we imagine a world that puts workers at the heart of public policy and industrial strategies.”
Payne pledged to support energy jobs in the prairie provinces, telling delegates there will be workers and production in Fort McMurray for a long time to come.
“We must be the union that imagines, that proposes, that defends, that stands up for the kind of world we know is possible. It starts with good energy jobs, in Fort McMurray and all across the Prairies.
We can recognize their work, fight for their fair share of the economic pie, and call for national industrial strategies that benefit workers at the same time...because our members need us to do both – represent them with everything we have right now and fight for a future that has good jobs at the core.”
Delegates were introduced to Unifor’s Bargaining Worker Power tour, which will be held at locals across the country in the coming months. Members will engage directly in developing the union’s bargaining priorities and strategies.
Delegates marked International Women’s Day at Council with messages of empowerment and demands for inclusivity and equality. The day closed with an event that provided women delegates the opportunity to connect before welcoming the entire delegation to participate. Between raffles and donations, more than $15,000 was raised for Elizabeth House, a life skills program and family-oriented home which welcomes at-risk pregnant and parenting women who need a safe place to live.
On day two of the conference, during powerful and emotional discussions, delegates unanimously supported a recommendation to support MMIWG2S families and to defend reproductive rights.
Delegates also participated in two successful mental health matters courses in conjunction with PRC and were motivated to pass a resolution encouraging locals to schedule more mental health courses.
On Wednesday, two nurses from the area were invited onsite to train members on how to administer Naloxone to someone they suspect might be experiencing an opiate overdose. Delegates were encouraged to pressure the employer to help add Naloxone to job sites in first aid emergency kits.
Young worker Teddy Hudye, a member of Unifor Local 1-S, shared his experience after an accident left him paralyzed. Delegates heard how Hudye continues to do everything he did before, including hunting, hockey, and track and field, just in a different way.
Delegates had the privilege of a presentation by historian and filmmaker Cheryl Foggo who shared stories of the Black Canadian experience in Alberta, with many migrating from the American South, and the lasting effects of racism and slavery.
During the council elections, Local 445 member Guy Desforges was re-elected chairperson. A number of committee positions were up for re-election this year. 594 delegate Nathan Kraemer was nominated and re-elected to another term as the chair of the PRC Health, Safety, and Environment committee to continue representing local 594, and all of the prairie Unifor locals in
PRC wrapped up with a call to stay engaged in an exciting year of union activism while we continue to expand our reach and grow our influence in the prairie provinces, and nationally as a union.
Nathan Kraemer, President