Opening remarks What's wrong with open dialogue? A couple of points kept surfacing at Tuesday night's forum on union activities. The first being the forum itself. One speaker objected to the format of the gathering, saying it wasn't so much called for by the community as initiated by a politician, that being Independent MLA David Mitchell. Do you have a forum when the Japanese buy a hotel or a property is sold to an American? the speaker asked. Councillor Hugh O'Reilly made the point that Whistler holds public forums on a number of issues. Mitchell did initiate the forum, broadcast live on Mountain FM, but said it was in response to a number of questions constituents had put to him about the union certification process. The turnout at the forum and some of the questions put to the panel — beyond the speeches made — suggests there was confusion about the certification process and genuine interest in what effect the union would have on Whistler. So why should union supporters question the community's desire for some open dialogue on an issue which will obviously have a great impact on the valley? With four union representatives on the seven-person panel the Steelworkers had a golden opportunity to get their message across. But aside from the union supporters who travelled from Squamish and the Lower Mainland to be at the forum there was precious little enthusiasm for the union message. Which leads to the second matter: the issue of unions being "outsiders." The Steelworkers repeated several times that if lift company employees are organized they will elect their own representatives, form their own bargaining unit and negotiate their own collective agreement. The union will be there only to provide the local with resources. But if the union movement is locally driven and locally run, those people have yet to come forward and make their presence felt. Part of the reason may be because union supporters fear repercussions from their employers if they make their views known. However, some indication of how much support the union has should be apparent more than a month after they arrive in town. Perhaps it was at Tuesday's forum – Bob Barnett

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