Mediaplanet  What is your history with unions in Canada?

Don Cherry  My dad was a charter member of the electrical union in Kingston, Ontario. We’re union people all the way! I belong to two unions, I’m a member of ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Artists), guess they think I’m an actor or something and I’m also part of a union down in the states, SAG (Screen Actors Guild).

MP  How do unions benefit you as a employee?

DC  If you have any serious problems, you always know somebody is there to back you up. Which I think means a lot to workers, knowing that a union is there thinking of you, and you get benefits as we all know. It’s mostly that they know they have someone they can talk to if something goes wrong and their not on their own. That’s the way I think about unions, they’re there to back us up.

MP  What advice would you give to young Canadians looking for secure employment?

DC  Go through a company that has a union. You know it’s a chartered business and if it has a union it’s legitimate — it’s not a fly-by-nighter. That’s the way I feel about businesses that have unions.

MP  How do unions protect NHL players?

DC  Take a look at unions right now, if there’s a grievance they’ve got to go through a union and with an association I think it’s the same thing too. Look at football players too, they have somebody to back them and support the date of suspension or not. In hockey, look at salaries they have at least tripled compared to years ago – that was the unions doing it.

MP  What role do training and apprenticeships play in providing more skills for unionized members?

DC  I think when you have journeymen or an apprentice, you’re protected. You’re not just thrown out there on your own. You know that if you’re a member of the union you just have someone there to look after you. That’s the way I feel about it, it helps the labour workers too, as I was a labour worker all my life, they have labour unions that make employees feel protected. Protection is the one word I think of when I think of unions.

"A lot of people put down unions, but I’ll tell you one thing if you’re a worker and have a strong union you go to sleep better at night."

MP  How do unions benefit the community beyond membership?

DC  You always see they’re doing charity work, when I see union members getting together like the firemen and policemen, giving toys out to the kids. That’s the unions getting them out there to do it.

MP  What do you see for the future of Canada’s labour force?

DC  It’s easy to say you have to be part of a union. A lot of people put down unions, but I’ll tell you one thing if you’re a worker and have a strong union you go to sleep better at night.

MP  What’s your involvement with the Helmets to Hardhats program?

DC  I’ve done a couple of commercials for them, I’ve supported them right from the start and I think it’s wonderful that construction companies get together and help our servicemen coming back. That’s the kind of people that we have in the unions and companies.