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Steelworkers say feds must help forest-dependent communities in wake of U.S. tariffs

Leaders of the United Steelworkers union on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border say Canada must do more to protect forest-dependent communities in the face of tariffs announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“We believe that a fair softwood lumber agreement that provides good paying jobs, supports local communities and produces sustainable forests is possible. This attack has now reached a critical point and it is time for working families to be a top priority, not made the last thing governments think about in trade disputes,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, in a press release.

“We need decisive action,” Neumann said, adding that the federal and provincial governments that allow log exports to the U.S. must immediately apply an equivalent tax on unprocessed logs exported to the U.S.

“The remarkable high export tariffs announced by the Trump administration are unfairly targeting Canadian workers and will put hundreds of Canadians out of work,” said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President. “A softwood lumber agreement that protects local milling and manufacturing jobs is possible, while still ensuring that American markets are also protected. Canada needs fair access to U.S. lumber markets – many Americans depend on our products.”

Bob Matters

In B.C., USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters said the latest move from the U.S. “will confound the issues already facing the wood products industry, with over 100 mills already closed down in B.C. alone during the tenure of Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal government.

“We cannot survive another attack from another right-wing government,” Matters said. “Where is the voice of our government standing up for Canadians? The lack of action by the prime minister and premiers in softwood lumber producing provinces is disconcerting. We know that the American lumber industry is currently funding Christy Clark’s campaign, with lumber baron Weyerhaeuser donating over $240,000 to crush the working families of B.C.”

Gerard said the Steelworkers Tuesday’s announcement as a direct attack on the Canadian industry, and more broadly on the trade relationship between the two countries.

“We will be mobilizing both our Washington and Ottawa bureaus to defend Canadian workers,” he said.

With 40,000 members in the forest sector across Canada, Gerard said American workers in the industry are in full support of their USW sisters and brothers in Canada.

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