One of Québec’s most colourful and effective labour leaders, Louis Laberge was a unique friend of workers whose achievements will be long remembered not only in Québec, but across Canada. Nationally respected, Brother Laberge was an ardent and eloquent spokesperson for the Québec labour movement. He died on July 18, aged 78.
As president of Québec’s federation of labour, the FTQ, from 1964 to 1991, Brother Laberge was at the centre of virtually every momentous event on the Québec scene. He never shied away from controversy or confrontation if it meant defending the interests of workers. This was especially evident in his personal commitment during the Front commun (Common Front) resistance in 1972, when Laberge and two other central labour body leaders were imprisoned for several months in defiance of the government, resulting in Québec’s first general strike in support of them.
Louis Laberge was equally well known for his fundamentally pragmatic approach that led to many enduring victories. His greatest achievement was the central role he played in the development of Québec’s anti-scab legislation in 1976, the first of its kind in North America. For this alone, members in Québec and across Canada are indebted to his efforts.
Another of his great legacies is the Fonds de solidarité FTQ (Solidarity Fund), which has helped safeguard and protect hundreds of thousands of jobs, including those of UFCW Québec members. Québec’s major credit union, Caisse Desjardins, evolved from the credit union established by Laberge for his co-workers at Canadair in Montréal in the 1950s. Louis Laberge truly proved himself a brother to our members, too, when he worked tirelessly on behalf of thousands of UFCW Canada members to help find a solution to the collapse of the Steinberg empire in the late ’80s - early ’90s.
Active until the end, Louis Laberge continued to sit on the board of directors of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Louis Bolduc, UFCW Canada assistant to the director for Québec, who sits on the same board and frequently dined with Brother Laberge, recalls the news conference when the Fonds was established. “Louis was asked how much the fund might grow to, and, off the top of his head, he answered ‘$100-million!’ – more as a joke than anything else,” Bolduc says. “Today, because of his vision, the Fonds is worth $4.6-billion!”
Bolduc remembers Laberge as someone always looking for a solution, rather than a fight, and a man always with time to talk with workers. Not a tall individual, “Ti-Louis” (Little Louis, as he was affectionately known) was indisputably one of labour’s giants, and will be greatly missed by UFCW Canada members everywhere.
Ann Young, a member of UFCW Canada Local 1977, has been named a recipient of the UFCW International Scholarship for 2002, worth $1,000 per year over four years.
The international award is provided annually to seven UFCW members or their children, based on high academic achievement and community involvement. Sister Young, who works in the pharmacy at a Zehrs Food Mart store in Keswick, Ont., is the only Canadian recipient for this year.
Seen in the photo with chief steward Brad Morrison, UFCW Canada director Michael Fraser, and Local 1977 president Brian Williamson, Ann will be using the scholarship to study medicine at Brescia College of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.
A graduate of Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Keswick, Ann maintained a grade point average in the high 90s, and was active in her school community as a student mentor and participant in the Spirit, Athletic, and Youth Awareness councils. She also volunteered at Southlake Regional Hospital, and participated in charitable events such as the Terry Fox Run and the CN Tower Climb for the World Wildlife Fund.
More: Brian Williamson, UFCW Canada Local 1977, www.ufcw1977.ca
Members of UFCW Canada Local 832 at the Lucerne Milk plant in Winnipeg have ratified a new three-year agreement.
The 35 members will receive some $1,200 each in back pay along with a wage increase of $1.05 per hour over the life of the agreement. Other improvements include an increase in employer contributions to the pension plan by more than 16%, as well as substantially improved contract language. All new lead hands will receive a $1.00 per hour premium, and the boiler check rate on weekends and holidays rises by $5.00 to $30.
More: Don Keith, Grant Warren, UFCW Canada Local 832, www.ufcw832.com
A seven-month strike by 66 UFCW Canada Local 503 members at IGA Drapeau in Charlesbourg, Qué. has ended with the ratification of a new collective agreement.
Highlights of the agreement include a 2% wage increase in each year, and medical, dental, and pension benefits extended to members who have been employed fewer than 18 months.
More: Louis Bolduc, UFCW Canada
Members of UFCW Canada Local 175 who work at poultry processor Pinty’s Premium Foods in St. Catharines, Ont. have ratified a new three-year agreement.
The 225 members will see their wages increase by $1.00 an hour over the life of the agreement. Members are now part of the Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan (CCWIPP), with employer contributions starting at 15¢ per hour worked per member, rising to 25¢ in the second year, 35¢ in the third, and 45¢ on October 1, 2004. Previously, the employer had contributed to a group RRSP to a maximum of $225 per member per year.
Other improvements include increases to the extended health care plan, life insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.
More: Cheryl Mumford, UFCW Canada Local 175, www.ufcw175.com
UFCW Canada Local 1518 has filed unfair labour practice charges against Wal-Mart Canada, arising from an organizing campaign currently underway in Quesnel, B.C.
“Wal-Mart Canada has no more respect for the labour laws of the province than it does for its employees’ right to join a trade union,” says Local 1518 president Brooke Sundin. “What we are asking the Labour Relations Board to do is to compel Wal-Mart to simply abide by the law, nothing more and nothing less.”
The organizing campaign in Quesnel is part of a broader province-wide effort, which is seeing a growing number of calls from Wal-Mart employees.
More: Andy Neufeld, UFCW Canada Local 1518, www.ufcw1518.com
More than 100 members of UFCW Canada Local 509 employed by Supermétal Québec in St-Romuald, Qué. have ratified a new collective agreement that will see a wage increase of 2.5% per year for three years, with negotiations resuming at that time.
The agreement also includes new and improved benefits, including an employer-contribution to an RRSP plan for members.
More: Pierre Bolduc, UFCW Canada Local 509, www.tuac509.ca
More than 200 UFCW Canada Local 832 members at two Garden Market IGA stores in Winnipeg have won major wage increases in a new contract.
Top-rated employees at the Burrows Avenue and Maples locations of these Sobeys-chain stores will see their wages rise $3-to-3.50 per hour, netting a 26% increase over the three-year agreement. These include sales/service clerks who comprise nearly 75% of the workforce at these locations.
Workers at each location will also receive a 50¢-per-hour signing bonus for all hours worked between the June 30 expiry of their old agreement and ratification. Other improvements include severance in the event of cutbacks or closure, and improvements to leave language. The stores are covered by separate contracts, but they are identical in most respects, including pay rates.
More: Don Keith, Grant Warren, UFCW Canada Local 832, www.ufcw832.com
The UFCW Canada Racing for a Cure program got a real boost on July 21 as driver Kerry Micks scored a tight second-place finish in the CASCAR Super Series event at Speed City in Calgary.
“This is fantastic!” says UFCW Canada motorsports coordinator Brian Noonan. “The exposure we received in the Calgary media was amazing – making it to the top-three means exposure on the winner’s podium, even if we didn’t win the race. And the big front-page colour photo of the UFCW Canada car on the Calgary Herald was the kind of publicity you just can’t buy!”
The Micks Motorsports #02 car was featured throughout the three-day event in Calgary, with Kerry’s crew – the first unionized race team in Canada – winning a special pit crew competition, giving them bragging rights as the fastest team in CASCAR.
In addition, recent adjustments made to the team’s Ford Taurus racecar made it a top qualifier, and the race leader for most of the race. Only some poor luck in lapped traffic near the end of the race allowed Jim Lapcevich’s #25 car through for his first-ever CASCAR win.
You can see a QuickTime video clip of the exciting last lap of the Calgary race by visiting the CASCAR web site, by entering the full URL: www.cascar.ca/east_quicktime_calgary.html .
Photos show Kerry and crew being presented with the pit crew award, the UFCW Canada crew in action during the race, and Kerry on the winner’s podium after the race with Jim Lapcevich and third-place finisher Al Turner.
While some 275 UFCW Canada Local 401 members remain on strike against the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, the local has called for a boycott of not only the centre and the city of Edmonton, but also of three pop bands that chose to cross the picket line and perform despite the strike.
“It is so unnecessary,” says Local 401 president Doug O’Halloran. “Other musical acts and full conventions have cancelled their plans rather than cross our picket line. Unionized lighting crews and support workers have respected our strike. These bands show they have absolutely no class whatsoever.”
The bands being boycotted are SUM 41, Goldfinger, and Auto Pilot Off. “They walked in, supporting Edmonton big business and a racist working environment,” O’Halloran says. “They play scab music, and we’re not listening any more.”
While Economic Development Edmonton, or EDE, which runs the Shaw, remains instransigent, pressure on the city’s mayor and city council appears to have produced some reaction in recent weeks. The union has indicated it is prepared to return to bargaining at any time.
More: Doug O’Halloran, Larry Zima, UFCW Canada Local 401
I don’t have a web site suggestion for you, but thought I’d let you know that I was recently backstage with Billy Bragg! (see “Labour troubadour goes online”, Directions 2.07-8)
He played one of the best concerts ever at the Kool Haus in Toronto in April. After the show, Elaine, my partner, and I were able to get ourselves backstage. There were only 20 to 30 people with Billy and the Blokes, sipping beer and listening to jazz on an old record player.
Billy was very polite and took the time to talk quietly with everyone. I spoke with him twice, talked about union organizing, farm workers, UFCW Canada, and guitar tabs for his tunes. He signed my NDP card and the union T-shirt I was wearing.
We were there until 2:00 a.m., when Billy and the band packed up and headed to Detroit. All in all, one of the most fabulous evenings of my life!
Brother Hann joined the national staff of UFCW Canada in 2001. Based in Isle aux Morts, Nfld. & Lab., David has been active organizing and assisting UFCW Canada local unions across the country. A member of UFCW Canada since starting work at Connor Bros. fishery in 1976, David was a unit chair and then a union staff representative in UFCW Canada Local 1252.
Finding the “straight goods” on the internet isn’t always an easy task. For a refreshing change, try straightgoods.com, an all-Canadian news and views web site started a few years ago by NDP activist Ish Theilheimer. Updated frequently, this useful site contains hundreds of articles, many by leading Canadian writers, on subjects ranging from labour and international social democracy, to items about products and corporations that affect you, to the latest on environmental and education issues. In addition, there are public forums on various subjects, with input from a number of influential leaders, and visitors are encouraged to voice their opinions both in the forums and in letters to the site.
Straightgoods.com describes itself as “a watchdog working for Canadian consumers and citizens – our purpose is to help you save money, protect your rights, and untangle spin with investigative reports, features, forums, archives, and links to many others who share our values. “ Sponsored in part by UFCW Canada and many other labour and social activist groups, straightgoods.com is free to use, and offers a free emailed newsletter as well. Memberships are also available at a cost, which allow for more extensive use of the site’s archives, as well as access to events sponsored by the organization.
Got a favourite labour-oriented web site you would like to share? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was four conventions in one – for the first time, the regular meetings of the UFCW Canada red meat industry local unions, poultry and flour-milling locals, and the National Defence Fund (NDF) took place together in July, as many of the participants are involved in more than one sector.
Meeting in Roseneath, P.E.I., reports included input from each local, as well as guest speeches by UFCW international packinghouse director Bill Schmitz and researcher Howie Forman.
“This new format benefits everyone,” says UFCW Canada’s Bryan Neath, who chaired the meetings. “There is so much we learn from one another, and so much valuable information we are able to take back to each local union.”
The NDF’s administrative committee (bottom right) also took the opportunity to honour new Local 1400 president Paul Meinema (bottom left) for his efforts on their behalf while he was on national staff.