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REPORTING · 7th September 2010
Walter McFarlane
The Canadian Auto Workers 2301 held their annual Labour Day picnic on Monday, September 6th at the Rod and Gun Club. The hot dogs and hamburgers were sizzling and children were playing games and walking around with balloon animals. Members of the Provincial and Federal governments were present including Councillor’s Rob Goffinet and Mario Feldhoff from the District of Kitimat. Around 1:30, other visiting guests began their speeches.

Gary Warren, president of the CAW 2301 stepped up and introduced the speakers and thanked every one for coming. “Kitimat has gone through a pretty tough time with the closure of Eurocan and we’re continuing to keep jobs in the community. I can assure you that here at Rio Tinto and between CAW, we are pushing the company the best we can and I can assure you there will be a new smelter that will be built here,” said Warren.

Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen took the microphone next. He expressed he had been speaking to people at the picnic and wanted to tell the people assembled what he was going to do with the Labour Council and communities.

“A while ago, about a year ago, the Federal Government gave a forestry company up here 32 million dollars in the black liquor subsidy. The day they announced that, the minister called me over and sat me down and said, we’re going to give them this money but just so you know, the company is allowed to move this money wherever they want, even though we’ve given it to the community of Kitimat. And as you all know, the company did and then shut down 535 jobs, 535 families out of this community. I want to work with you folks to get that money back. I think this community is owed from the federal government, 32 million dollars to help it out in it’s time of need. We’re going to get people back to work, we’re going to celebrate Labour day the way it should be celebrated with a community, not looking to dark times but to hopeful ones,” said Cullen.

Cullen said it was good to see the start of the modernization and also thanked the people of Kitimat for all the gifts they have sent him and expressed the Northwest was a great place to raise a family.

Member of the BC Legislative Assembly, Robin Austin, stepped up next. He expressed we need to consider why we were here. He asked people to watch a clip on Youtube entitled: “What Have Unions Done for us Lately” which shows some of the accomplishments Labour Unions have had.

“Times are tough and we’re going to see government go into negotiations shortly and try to minimize all kinds of wage increases and try to take away benefits that people have fought for years to give them dignity and enable them to raise their families,” said Austin.

He expressed he had just returned from a country where there were no unions and people were living in poverty because there was no movement to raise social conditions.

Tom LaPorte from the Kitimat Terrace Labour Council spoke next. He asked the people to reflect on two things. One was to put the movement back in the labour movement as there are too few people doing the work. The other involved economics.

“A lot of people are afraid to broach the subject of economics. And any economics you can’t easily understand is only designed to take advantage of you. It’s not that complicated of a topic and it’s something we need to talk more about amongst ourselves. The issues are really quite clear and once you really see what is being done right now, especially with the deficit hysteria and when you come to the realization that there is no need for it, there are solutions. We need to express our voice clearly as to what we want to demand,” said LaPorte.

Warren thanked all the people who made the Labour Day picnic possible.