Speaking Notes - AFL-TWU Rally in Edmonton

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour

Good evening and thank you all for coming.

We've organized this rally tonight to send a message to Telus. And based on the size of the crowd tonight & it's a very strong message.

As many of you know, our rally here in Edmonton is just one of three big rallies being held tonight in support of locked-out Telus workers.

Right at this moment, union members and union supporters are also gathering outside the Telus tower in Calgary and the Telus' headquarters in Burnaby in B.C.

These rallies are the culmination of a week of hard work by the TWU, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the B.C. Federation of Labour.

Over the past few days, our two federations have convened meetings of almost all the major unions in Alberta and British Columbia.

Yesterday afternoon, for example, leaders from dozens of unions gathered at the AFL office.

We had leaders from the United Nurses of Alberta. The Canadian Union of Public Employees. The Communication Energy Paperworkers. The Health Sciences Association of Alberta. The United Food and Commercial Workers.

We were also joined by construction trades unions like the Carpenters, the Plumbers and Pipefitters, and the Electrical workers and by independent unions like CSU 52 and NASA from the University of Alberta.

Similar meetings have been held in Vancouver and Victoria.

The result of all these meetings is that, starting today, under the banners of the AFL and BCFL, we'll be launching a two-province, multi-union campaign of support for locked-out Telus workers.

Our campaign will be coordinated. It will be sustained. And it will be escalating.

The key to our campaign will be our members.

Here in Alberta, we have 120,000 union members from 29 unions affiliated to the AFL.

We also have support from building trades unions representing 40,000 workers and from various independent unions representing nearly 100,000 workers.

All tolled, here in Alberta, we have enlisted the support of unions representing about 250,000 workers.

And it's not just us. In B.C. Federation of Labour has signed up unions representing nearly 500,000 workers.

Telus may think they're taking on one union representing 13,000 workers. But they've miscalculated.

Starting today, they're going to up against the full weight of the entire labour movement in two provinces.

Together, we represent hundreds of thousands of working people and their families - and that means hundreds of thousands of Telus customers or potential customers.

We're going to show them that the flip side of union power is consumer power.

The first component of our campaign will be the leaflet that is being circulated through the crowd tonight.

It's just one piece of paper & but it carries a powerful message.

Our members have been asking what they can do to support you. Now were giving them the information they need.

At this point, we are NOT asking people to boycott Telus services.

Instead, we will be asking our members to do three things.

First, we're asking people to discontinue some of their Telus land line services. And the leaflet tells people how to do that.

Second, we're asking people to discontinue some of the cell phone services. And the leaflet tells people how to do that.

Finally, we're asking people to report service complaints to the CRTC so we can demonstrate that Telus managers are lying when they service has not been disrupted.

The unions who have signed up for our campaign are not just giving passive support. They have committed to get these leaflets out into the hands of their members.

Your message will be mailed, faxed, and e-mailed to hundreds of thousands of people.

And this is just a start. We've got more ideas up our sleeves. This is just the first shot across Telus' bow - it won't be the last.

At this point, I'd just like to say a few words about our friend Darren Entwhistle.

In the days before this lock-out began, he was talking tough.

He told the media and he told investors that he was going to bust the union. And he said the first place he was going to break you was here in Alberta.

Well, we're here tonight to say show the world that Entwhistle was wrong.

This line is solid. Telus workers are solid. TWU is solid. The Alberta labour movement is solid.

And you know what? It's not just union members who Entwhistle has misjudged. He also misjudged other Albertans.

We don't take kindly to what this man, this Rambo CEO, has done.

In five or six short years, he's taken a company that was built largely with taxpayers dollars, a company that had a proud history of service, a company that had a long record of positive labour relations and he's poisoned it.

He's poisoned customer service and he's poisoned the work environment.

So tonight, we're here to say that we want a fair contract for telus workers. But we're also here to say, "we want our company back!"

For me, this is all kind of personal.

My Dad worked in this tower for nearly 25 years. I was an AGT kid.

Unlike Mr. Entwhistle, my dad was never a millionaire. But he was proud of the work he did.

He had a good union job. And, as a result, he was able to pay the mortgage and raise a family. He was able to plan for his retirement and even have a little left over to take me and my brothers on a few vacations.

That's what this dispute is really about. It's about defending family sustaining jobs, community sustaining jobs.

Telus makes its money here, in our towns, in our cities, from our citizens.

As a result, it has an obligation to give something back by investing here and maintaining good jobs here.

But Mr. Entwhistle's contract - the one he's tried to ram down you throats - would allow him to contract out jobs, to strip benefits, to send work down to the southern United States or to the Phillipines.

Tonight we're here to say "no" to this kind of corporate irresponsibility. We're here to say "no way" to the Entwistle way.

I'd like to conclude tonight with two promises and a predication.

On behalf of the Alberta Federation of Labour, our Executive, our members and affiliates, I promise that you will not stand alone.

We will be with you for however long it takes to get the kind of fair agreement you deserve.

We also promise that we will use our people power to make Telus feel the heat.

As far as my predication goes, let me say this.

The problem with this company has never been the workers. And the problem is not your old contract. The real problem is Darren Entwhistle and his Rambo-style management.

Through our collective efforts, and by keeping your picket line strong, we're going to help Telus investors see the light.

And six months from now, I predict that you'll be back at work with a negotiated contract. And Darren will where he should have been three years ago - out of work!

Together we can make it happen. Thanks for coming. Solidarity!


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