Unions like the Operating Engineers built this country and we need to continue fighting for what we believe in, Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher told delegates at the 55th IUOE Canadian conference in Nanaimo, B.C.
“We have a responsibility in the labour movement to stand up, stop sitting on our heels and being complacent, and do what we did in the past – march on Ottawa or the provincial Legislature or whatever,” he said in a speech on the final day of the conference.
Gallagher was critical of the way some national labour leaders have handled relations with the federal Conservative government, saying they have a responsibility to stand up to governments.
He told the audience it might be time for the Operating Engineers to say, “If you’re not going to do the job properly, we’re not going to send you another dime of our members’ money while you waste it coddling a government that’s destroying our way of life.”
The audience reacted to his comments with a standing ovation.
Gallagher touched on a number of issues in his remarks, including right-to-work and the failure of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
He said the TFWP is an “abomination” and “a complete failure” and a “failed policy position” because it ignores Aboriginal communities and young people.
“I’m not against immigration,” Gallagher told the audience. “I believe that we should be working with skilled workers who want to come in to this country, become Canadians and live in Canada, not those who take whatever scraps they’ve earned while they’ve been abused on some bridge or mine somewhere, then take it back to where they’re from.”
Unions have to stand up and object and get the government to start spending money on youth, Aboriginals and women, he said.
“Let’s have a policy for made-in-Canada, Canadians first, and cut the crap. We’ve had enough of corporations dishing out little scraps off their tables while creating more failures.
“We have to, in the labour movement and our union, wake up and get out front and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
On right-to-work, Gallagher said Operating Engineers might be wise to take a page from what Local 18 did in Ohio to let people know that it’s not a workplace freedom act, but a workplace imprisonment act.
“What it is, it’s locking away workers from the rights to have a pension plan, a benefit plan and be represented without discrimination in the bargaining unit.”
Local 18, under business manager Patrick Sink, is, in fact, making progress by revealing the truth about right-to-work legislation.
The local has been aggressive in fighting against right-to-work legislation, running TV ads, and placing ads on billboards and issuing stickers for workers to wear on their hardhats.