Improving Health and Safety an Important Force in Organizing

December 10, 2012, 4:30 PM EST

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Health and safety concerns were a major driver of the unionization effort at her workplace, this year's Bud Jimmerfield award winner Susan Markus told CAW Council delegates.

Markus is a long serving health and safety and workers' compensation representative at Johnson Controls in Tillsonburg, Ontario.

Prior to her workplace being organized, Markus was already active on the joint health and safety committee, challenging the employer to provide safer and healthier working conditions.

Markus said that the changes she and her co-workers saw in their workplace after unionizing were undeniable. "People stood up and exercised their rights," said Markus. Before joining the union, complaints about exposure to toxic chemicals fell on deaf ears at the Ministry of Labour.

After joining the CAW over 15 years ago, Markus continued to share her commitment and passion for improving working people's lives.  Markus is a regular CAW discussion leader and as an instructor for the Worker Health & Safety Center. In addition, Markus helped develop and write a number of CAW courses including the recent "Health and Safety for Women" course.

"Take a look at the chemicals in the work that you're doing, the work that's going on around you and the work that's happening in your community," urged Markus, who is also a cancer survivor.

The award, named in recognition of the late Bud Jimmerfield, CAW Local 89 president, is made each year at the CAW's December Council meeting. Bud was a tireless health, safety and environment and workers' compensation activist.

Bud was a machinist for 31 years and was exposed every working day to cancer causing metalworking fluids at an auto parts plant in Amherstberg, Ontario. He contracted esophageal cancer in 1996 and died 18 months later at age 49, leaving his wife Diane and eight children.

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