Canadian forestry workers urge U.S. to negotiate softwood agreement
June 13, 2017 - A delegation of Canadian members of the United Steelworkers (USW) from the wood products industry are telling U.S. politicians today that workers on both sides of the border will benefit from a negotiated settlement on lumber and the termination of unfair countervailing and anti-dumping duties imposed by the United States.
"The only way forward is together," said Bob Matters, USW Canadian Wood Council Chair and leader of the delegation of nine Canadian forestry sector workers. "Canadians and Americans have a long history of working together and we are here this week to advocate for a fair deal that will benefit both Americans and Canadians."
USW members are meeting with several members of Congress and Senators who work on trade issues. They are also meeting at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton has been actively involved on this issue since duties were announced in late April.
USW Canadian National Director Ken Neumann pointed out the American lack of understanding of the Canadian industry.
"Canada has faced more unfair trade disputes from the U.S. over softwood than any other country," Neumann said. "All of these actions failed and Canada's forestry industry was not found to be subsidized. This repetition of failed assumptions about our industry is not only hurting Canadians, but also the American economy, where Canadian wood products sold in the U.S. will be more expensive."
Matters added that, "Canada is at a disadvantage now when compared to other countries that export wood products to the U.S. All we want is to have fair access to the U.S. market and the recognition of how integrated our economies are. In America, attacking Canada is like attacking your own economic stability."
USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt said the current situation is setting the stage for displaced workers and communities in Canada.
"Hundreds of Canadians have already been laid off or are facing a layoff," Hunt said. "This is the fifth time that we have tried to get a fair deal on softwood; it's time that we all start putting working families first."
The delegation is hoping to inform U.S. representatives of the realities of the Canadian forest industry and how important it is to work together.
USW Quebec Director Alain Croteau said Quebec workers are facing the same challenges as those in Western and Central Canada.
"With the support of the USW in the U.S. and Canada, as well as union allies, we will be bringing the views of all Canadian workers to the American elected officials," said Croteau.
USW Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren said, "Ontario's forestry workers are feeling the economic insecurity of these needless attacks and never-ending dispute – our communities deserve better."
The USW is one of the largest private-sector unions in Canada, representing workers in all economic sectors.
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