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Thessalon First Nation workers make history as first in Canada to unionize

Press Release

June 27, 2024

THESSALON FIRST NATION, Ont. – Employees of Thessalon First Nation in Northern Ontario have joined the United Steelworkers union (USW), in the process making history as the first such unionized group in Canada.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) has officially certified the Thessalon First Nation employees as USW members. It is believed to be the first such union certification of a group of First Nations community workers in Canada.

Thessalon First Nation (TFN) is located on the north shore of Lake Huron, approximately 100 kilometres east of Sault Ste. Marie. The TFN workers fall under federal labour law jurisdiction and therefore were certified by the CIRB – the federal labour relations tribunal.

The newly unionized TFN employees work in the delivery of a wide range of services provided to members in their community, including children’s mental health, elder support, personal support work, recreation, student support, custodial services, and water treatment/public works.

“We’re happy to be joining the United Steelworkers and we’re looking forward to negotiating a collective agreement that will legally define and protect our rights and working conditions,” said a TFN employee and new USW member.

“We love our work and we consider it a privilege to serve the members of our community. We realize that as union members we will be in a better position to continue to deliver the quality services that our community depends on and deserves,” the employee said.

“The United Steelworkers is honoured to have been chosen by the Thessalon First Nation employees as the union to represent them in their workplace,” said Myles Sullivan, USW director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

“Our union will provide these workers with all the support and resources they need to negotiate a collective agreement that improves their working conditions and helps build a solid future for their families and their community,” Sullivan said.

“The USW already provides the best-possible representation to Indigenous workers who are among our general membership in hundreds of workplaces across the country. This includes engaging, supporting and empowering our Indigenous members to become activists and leaders within the union and in their communities,” he noted.

“Our union also has a steadfast commitment to making reconciliation a reality and to engage and build relationships with Indigenous nations and communities,” he added.

About the United Steelworkers union

The USW represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.

Each year, thousands of workers choose to join the USW because of the union’s strong track record in creating healthier, safer and more respectful workplaces and negotiating better working conditions and fairer compensation – including good wages, benefits and pensions.

Media Contact

Myles Sullivan, Director, USW District 6 (Ontario and Atlantic Canada), 416-243-8792
Marc Ayotte, USW Area Co-ordinator, Northwestern Ontario, 705-759-4945,
Lorei Leigh De Los Reyes, USW Communications, 416-544-6009,



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