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Welcome Words: LiUNA’s Toronto Local Offering Training, Testing in New Members’ Native Languages


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Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 506 in Toronto is doing its part to reach out to immigrant workers. For some members, that includes training and testing in their native language. 

“If we get a call for a specific training need, even something we don’t offer all the time, we’ll organize it just for them,” says Merissa Preston, LiUNA Local 506 Training Liaison. “If our members need it, we just do it”:

With Italian, Polish and Portuguese-speaking trainers, Spanish and Arabic-speaking business representatives on staff, when language support is needed, staff provide it. When large groups of new immigrants work together, they tend to communicate in their common language. Over time, like many immigrants, LiUNA!’s immigrant members have learned English. They communicate effectively on the job site, and access training and support in English.

In addition to native-language training, LiUNA Local 506 has partnered with ACCES Employment and the Ontario Masonry Training Centre to help new immigrant workers develop English language skills:

While they give [native language] support when called upon, Preston emphasizes the importance of speaking and understanding English on the job site. LiUNA! Local 506 instills the need to improve English skills in their members. From a health and safety perspective, English is essential. However, Preston says that understanding English is also important if members move into jobs in other sectors, or with other employers.

LiUNA Local 506 has also made an effort to accommodate newly arrived Syrian refugees:

As immigration patterns change, LiUNA! Local 506 membership is also evolving, just as it always has. Preston says they want to support newer Syrian refugees who are interested in working in construction trades.

[…] Since different groups need different supports, Preston wants to ensure the Syrian refugees they work with are set up to succeed…”We don’t want to put them on a job site and make them a target for employers or other workers. We want them to be able to integrate into the job site like anyone else.”

LiUNA Local 506 is cultivating the sort of diversity and equal opportunity that will help expand and define the labor coalition of the future. They set a powerful example.


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