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Steelworkers Local 1976 donates $70,000 to Lac-Megantic rail workers' defense fund

(Source: United Steelworkers press release, July 16, 2014)

MONTREAL — A $70,000 contribution from a United Steelworkers (USW) union local has boosted a legal defense fund for workers charged in the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has raised nearly $120,000 to date, following the $70,000 contribution from USW Local 1976. The local represents 6,000 members across Canada, including 1,000 railway workers. Contributions to the defense fund also have come from other union locals, individual union members, other organizations and the public.

On May 12 this year, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) were charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train explosion.

Following their arrest, the employees, including USW Local 1976 members Thomas Harding and Richard Labrie, were publicly paraded in handcuffs before the Lac-Mégantic community.

No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

"Our colleagues should not be held criminally responsible for negligent management practices of a company like MMA or the government's lax regulation that so easily allowed an engineer working alone to operate a train carrying explosive materials," said USW Local 1976 President Steven Hadden.

"We ask everyone who feels solidarity with the workers who have been arrested to contribute to the defence fund," said Richard Boudreault, the Steelworkers' Area Coordinator in Montreal. "This type of criminal prosecution can lead to broken lives. Let's stand in solidarity with these ordinary workers."

Donations to the defence fund can be made online via PayPal, at www.justice4USWRailworkers.org. Donations also can be made by cheque, payable to the United Steelworkers, with the notation "Justice for USW rail workers." Cheques can be sent to 565 Crémazie Boulevard East, Suite 5100, Montreal, QC H2M 2V8.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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