Rally in Chatham for EI Reform and Made-In-Canada Policy

January 26, 2009, 12:10 PM EST

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More than 500 workers and community activists rallied in Chatham, Ontario outside the office of Conservative MP David Van Kesteren on January 24 calling for improvements in EI and a Buy Canadian policy for publicly funded purchases.

CAW President Ken Lewenza addressed the crowd about the devastation of the manufacturing jobs crisis and the pressing need for EI reform. He also urged the federal government to establish a Buy Canadian policy covering all publicly funded purchases.

CAW members from Leamington, Windsor, Wallaceberg, Chatham, Tilbury and surrounding area took part. In addition, CUPW, PSAC, Steelworkers and other trade unionists protested the lack of federal government action on the manufacturing crisis. Local councilors and Chatham Kent Essex MPP Pat Hoy also attended.

Chatham-Kent Labour Council President Mike Byrne pointed to the devastation facing workers laid off from the Navistar plant in Chatham. He highlighted the outrage sparked by the federal government decision to award Navistar a $254 million contract to build 1,300 new medium duty trucks for the Canadian forces. The company plans to build the trucks in Texas.

"I'm really proud of the way the community came together to defend manufacturing," said Byrne, also vice-president of CAW Local 1941.

CAW Local 127 President Aaron Neaves said local politicians are supportive of the need to protect manufacturing. But the federal government just doesn't understand the destruction caused by Canada's crumbling manufacturing base and high unemployment in the area, he said.

"Chatham Kent is a poster child for what is wrong with the economy."

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