TORONTO, May 5, 2014 /CNW/ - Lynn Williams, one of North America's most
influential and respected labour leaders of the 20th century, has died.
Williams, 89, died today in Toronto.
Williams served as International President of the United Steelworkers
(USW) from 1983 to 1994. He was the first Canadian labour leader
elected president of a major international trade union.
"Lynn Williams dedicated his entire career to improving the lives of
ordinary working people, driven by an unrelenting passion for social
justice," said Ken Neumann, the USW's Canadian National Director.
"Steelworkers across the continent are mourning the passing of Lynn
Williams," Neumann said. "But we are also celebrating the life of an
exceptional labour leader whose legacy will be an inspiration for
generations to come."
Williams led the Steelworkers union through one of its most difficult
and turbulent periods, amidst dramatic industrial restructuring and
upheaval in the 1980s and 1990s. He developed new bargaining techniques
and played a leading role in the structural readjustment of the North
American steel industry.
"Lynn Williams held this union together through the worst of times. Lynn
showed that he was a leader of great compassion and ingenuity, securing
deals to help save as much of the industry as possible while at the
same time preserving pensions and benefits for workers," said USW
International President Leo W. Gerard.
"Lynn Williams' gift was to bring people together and get the best ideas
from everyone and then try to move us in a certain direction," said
Gerard, who credits Williams as a role model over nearly four decades.
"Lynn served as a life-long mentor to me," he said. "Lynn taught me
the value of patience, of keeping a clear head in the midst of chaos.
We owe him much more than we can say."
"Lynn Williams is an icon to Steelworkers and to labour and progressive
activists across our country," said Stephen Hunt, the USW's Western
Canada Director. "He always led by example and set a remarkable
standard that guides us all."
"Today we salute a tremendous labour leader who was a great friend and
defender of Quebec," said USW Quebec Director Daniel Roy. "This is a
sad day but it's also a moment that all activists can seize on for
"Lynn Williams will continue to have a profound impact on the lives of
working people," said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and
Atlantic Canada. "Future generations of activists and leaders in our
union will be shaped by Lynn's enduring lessons - by organizing, by
standing up for each other, by fighting for workers' rights and social
justice, we can make a difference."
Lynn Russell Williams joined the Steelworkers in the late 1940s while
working at the John Inglis factory in Toronto. He rose through the
union's ranks and served more than two decades in elected positions on
the USW's International Executive board, including Ontario Director and
International Secretary. He was the first union leader to hold
executive leadership roles with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and
the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial
During his tenure as USW International president, Williams founded the
Steelworkers' Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) to harness the
power and influence of union pensioners. SOAR has grown into a force of
labour, political and social justice activism in Canada and the U.S.
Williams was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005. In
2007 the City of Toronto named a street in his honour, in the
redeveloped former industrial neighbourhood where he began his career.
Williams' memoir, One Day Longer, was published in 2011 by the
University of Toronto Press and Cornell University Press.
A private funeral service for Williams' immediate family is planned. A
date will be announced in the near future for a memorial service for
friends and the public.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, (416) 544-5951
Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, firstname.lastname@example.org