Canadian Steelworkers Honour the Life of Nelson Mandela

TORONTO, Dec. 6, 2013 /CNW/ - "The United Steelworkers pays respect to Nelson Mandela, one of history's greatest leaders, an extraordinary freedom fighter, visionary and true friend of labour," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada.

"It is with great sorrow that we pay tribute to the passing of this great man." 

Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison for his political activities against apartheid. The first 18 years were served on Robben Island where he was confined to a small cell and forced to labor in a quarry. In the mid-1980s Mandela was offered his freedom on the condition that he unconditionally reject violence as a means of bringing about change. He rejected the proposal.

"What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned?" he wrote. "Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."

With international voices lobbying strongly for his freedom and escalating domestic civil strife, Mandela was granted his unconditional release in 1990. As African National Congress (ANC) president, he led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections. 

In 1994, he led the ANC to victory and was elected President of South Africa. Mandela's presidency is noted by his forming a Government of National Unity which reduced ethnic and racial tensions, reflecting his belief that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." He also said that "resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies." 

"Nelson Mandela inspired people everywhere around the world," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "His loss is universal." 

"Mandela always understood that working people and their ability to organize through a union are a central building block of a free society," emphasized Neumann.

"Our friend Mandela will always remain in our hearts and at the centre of our dreams."

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Ken Neumann, 416-544-5950
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, bgallagher@usw.ca