Denis St. Pierre, left, presents United
Steelworkers 2020 president Myles Sullivan
with a donation
of $320 to help members of local 6500 in their strike against
Vale Inco. The money was collected at his going away
22 October 2009
Local's journalist-activist president
one career for another
Northern Ontario Newspaper Guild | CWA Canada
CWA Canada's loss is another union's gain
of an activist extraordinaire.
Denis St. Pierre, a reporter/columnist at the Sudbury
Star for one month shy of 25 years, this week started a new job
as communications officer at the United Steelworkers' national
office in Toronto.
"I had mixed feelings about leaving
journalism because I've always loved the profession," says
St. Pierre. "It was the only thing I wanted to do all
those years. The only thing that could draw me away from
journalism was a full-time position in the labour movement."
St. Pierre became a union activist "almost from the
start" when he was hired by the Thomson-owned Star in
his hometown. He first was a steward and then held various
executive committee positions until becoming president 10
Bob Vaillancourt, who has moved from
vice-president to president, says St. Pierre's departure
leaves an "incredible vacancy
and vacuum," but the Local is very healthy and has a
hardcore group of activists. With 18 months left in his term,
it has yet to be decided whether to call an election.
One of the founders of the Local
in 1973, Vaillancourt has nothing but praise for St. Pierre's
time at the helm. "Level-headed,
spirited and determined ... he combined all those traits
in a leader. Denis is not vindictive, he's very subtle. He's
an easy guy to talk to and he got along well with publishers.
He knew when to push and when to accommodate."
Vaillancourt also notes that St.
Pierre was very good with members of the Local. "He
has patience beyond belief."
David Esposti, a CWA Canada staff
representative who was among the 60-plus people at the
official sendoff reception and dinner Saturday night at
a Sudbury hotel, says it was a "bittersweet' moment
"I'm happy for him, but I'm
sad to be losing him and so is the Local. I will miss him
as a friend and as a union leader."
Esposti describes St. Pierre as "a
linchpin of the Northern Ontario Locals."
Arnold Amber, Director of CWA Canada,
says "Denis is
really bright and was a true, wonderful union leader through
and through. You could always count on him to follow up on
things he had committed to do."
There were many speakers on Saturday night, including Sudbury's
mayor, who paid tribute to St. Pierre's influential role
as political watchdog for the city.
"I was overwhelmed by all the kind words," says
St. Pierre. "I'm going to dearly miss the CWA Canada
people. They taught me a lot."
While he's not thrilled about leaving his family and friends
in Sudbury, his wife works in Toronto and two of his children
live there, so it will be a coming together in a city that
he really likes.
His new job will see him involved with internal communications
such as newsletters and union websites, media relations and
news releases, plus communications related to several labour
disputes in Canada.
St. Pierre was well acquainted with one of those disputes,
the strike at Vale Inco in Sudbury. The USW, he says, has
always been supportive of the Northern Ontario Newspaper
Guild, so there is a long history there of quid pro quo.
NONG was able to secure favourable rates for the Steelworkers
to place full-page ads in the Sudbury Star. In addition,
the Local donated money and held fundraisers in support of
Given the lengthy relationship, says
St. Pierre, "I
can't imagine working for a better organization."