TORONTO, June 17, 2014 /CNW/ - United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard has received an honorary degree from Brock University in St. Catharines, in recognition of his "unwavering commitment to social justice."
Gerard received an honorary doctor of laws degree during Brock's convocation ceremonies on June 5. Gerard previously received honorary degrees from the University of Guelph and from Laurentian University in his hometown of Sudbury.
Brock University cited Gerard's "significant contributions to the advancement of workers' interests in both the social and economic spheres.
"Leo Gerard's forward-thinking style of leadership, his capacity to bring people together, his willingness to stand up for what is right and his unwavering commitment to social justice causes is something we should all strive for."
The university praised Gerard's vision in an "economic and political landscape that presents a new set of challenges for working-class people who continue to struggle for economic equality and social justice."
Gerard also has distinguished himself through "his commitment to environmental justice, having long championed the transition to a clean and green economy… and has consistently fought to ensure that global trade agreements include provisions to safeguard environmental protections as well as workers' rights," the university said.
"Transforming ideas into action has been central to the work and activism of Mr. Leo Gerard, whose career in the labour movement, spanning several decades, has undeniably improved the working lives of women and men in Canada, the United States and internationally."
In his convocation address, Gerard encouraged graduates to strive to "build a better world" by staying true to their values and remaining idealistic.
"As you go out into the world after you get your degree and you feel the sense of relief, you're not a hundred per cent sure what path your life will take you down," he said.
"But I do want to encourage you to stay idealistic. I do want to encourage you to think that your education has given you the tools to build a better world. We can't just sit back and let things happen. We've got to fight for the values that we hold dear."
Brock University also acknowledged the historic contributions to the university by the United Steelworkers and its former international president, the late Lynn R. Williams.
In the 1960s, the Steelworkers and other unions in the Niagara region rallied behind Brock's development, becoming major contributors to the fledgling university's founding fund.
Williams, then the assistant to the Steelworkers' Ontario director, was the labour representative on the Brock University Founders Committee. Williams led a highly successful campaign in which union members throughout the community pledged one day's pay per year, over five years, to the university. Union members ultimately contributed one-quarter of total donations for Brock's founding fund.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, [email protected]