- UFCW Canada packinghouse workers move forward
- CALM recognizes UFCW Canada communications efforts
- UFCW Canada worker support centres opening for 2003 season
- UFCW Canada communicators forum takes action
- B.C. local gives members real 24-7 access
The UFCW Canada family comprises not just a membership of 230,000, but many caring and dedicated people as well. Bernadine Whitford (pictured, right) has worked in a clerical capacity for UFCW Canada Local 401 in Edmonton for the past 17 years, and when her husband, Dennis, developed cancer, she was “awed” by the sympathy and generosity she experienced. “I’ve seen many charitable acts involving UFCW Canada, but I never grasped the far-reaching effects of that generosity until it touched my own life,” she says.
Bernadine says the combined efforts of her UFCW Canada brothers and sisters, as well as the Teamsters with whom Dennis has been a member for 25 years, made a “dream-come-true” trip possible for them to a NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama in April. To top it off, she says, Local 401 president Doug O’Halloran and retired UFCW Canada national director Cliff Evans pulled out all the stops and made arrangements with NASCAR’s #6 Mark Martin team to obtain much soughtafter garage passes for the couple.
“When you’re in the throes of a crisis, it sometimes escapes your notice that there are many things to be thankful for,” Bernadine says. “The personal part began immediately by phone and fax with Benny Ertel of Roush Racing. Words cannot describe his passion and commitment to making Dennis’s dream come true.
“Benny arranged passes to the garage to see the Viagra car and meet members of the Roush Racing team and Mark Martin Enterprises. Benny, we certainly appreciate your hospitality, and you’ll always be in our hearts and minds.”
Bernadine reports seeing a sign at the race that read, Dreams Come True At Aaron’s 499 Talladega. “How true those words are!” she says. “Dennis and I are both surprised and deeply touched by the thoughtfulness that went into planning this experience. There are no words suffi cient to express our gratitude – all I can say is that the union is an amazing organization to work for.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Michael J. Fraser
Despite years of restructuring in Canada’s troubled pork industry, about 1,300 UFCW Canada Local 248P members in Saskatoon have avoided a strike and signed a new agreement that moves forward on wages and benefi ts at Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods.
“This is one of the best collective agreements in the meatpacking industry, and it was won only after one of the most diffi cult rounds of negotiations this local has ever seen,” says UFCW Canada’s Bryan Neath. “The employer wanted concessions, and UFCW Canada members held out for improvements.”
During industry-wide restructuring several years ago, Mitchell’s workers had accepted a two-tier wage system that allowed lower start rates. The new agreement raises wages on both levels, but also closes the gap between the two tiers. Members also won a 37-hour workweek guarantee for all workers, which the employer had tried to remove.
The agreement marks the fi rst contract at Mitchell’s since it was taken over by Schneiders/Smithfi eld, a “very large and rich multinational”, says Local 248P president Albert Belfour.
“The members of our local made gains by standing up for themselves, and have set a new standard in the industry,” Belfour says. “The bar has been raised, and we hope that will benefi t UFCW Canada members everywhere.”
Since the Mitchell’s agreement was reached, another new agreement was reached at the Olymel (formerly Fletcher’s) plant in Red Deer, Alta., also boosting the base rate for about 1,250 members of UFCW Canada Local 1118 there.
Details : Bryan Neath, UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada communications projects won two prizes this year in the Canadian Association of Labour Media’s annual awards competition, presented May 3 during CALM’s annual conference and communications workshops in Port Elgin, Ont.
UFCW Canada Local 401 in Alberta was presented with a certifi cate for producing the best radio advertisement, titled Respect. Local 401 conducted an intensive multi-media campaign in its struggle with Superstore during 2002, which included a Web site, billboards, newspaper ads, and the prizewinning radio spots.
The UFCW Canada national offi ce was recognized by CALM judges for producing the best print advertisement. As part of its ongoing campaign to win rights for agriculture workers – especially in Ontario where UFCW Canada is fi ghting the provincial government over its failure to obey a Supreme Court of Canada ruling won by the union in 2001 – newspaper and magazine ads have featured a simple but graphic ad championing the rights of agriculture workers everywhere.
The award-winning AgWorkers ad reads, in part, “From the orchards of the Okanagan Valley, to the berry fi elds of Nova Scotia, to the hazardous mushroom factories of southern Ontario, UFCW Canada is fi ghting for workers in the agribusiness industry. From a church cellar in Leamington, Ont., to the Supreme Court of Canada, UFCW Canada is on their side. From all walks of life, working people know an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”
Details : Diane Kalen, UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada staff and members, along with supporters from the local community, gathered at the Migrant Agricultural Workers Support Centre in Leamington, Ont. on April 6 to kick off a second season of assistance.
Located in Ontario’s southwestern corner near Windsor, the centre is the fi rst of its kind in Canada, and helps workers from nearby farming operations who are brought to Canada under the federal government’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, in place since 1966.
“We were overwhelmed by the response to this program last year and our success in being able to help these workers,” says Stan Raper of the UFCW Canada national offi ce. “There are some 4,000 migrant workers in the Leamington area, mainly from Mexico, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them came through the centre’s doors last year.”
After making a representation to Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) minister Jane Stewart over the winter, UFCW Canada recently announced plans to go ahead with two more centres based on the Leamington model. A second centre in Bradford, Ont., north of Toronto, has already opened its doors, and will hold an opening ceremony on May 25. A third centre is planned for Simcoe, Ont., and agriculture workers on the Niagara peninsula will have access to assistance from a mobile education and training unit travelling the region.
“We have made it clear to the federal government that it is not doing what needs to be done in terms of helping these workers,” says national director Michael Fraser. “We have also made it clear that UFCW Canada is going to assist these workers in every way we can, instead of simply ignoring Canada’s shameful secret.”
Details : Stan Raper, UFCW Canada
The third annual UFCW Canada communicators forum drew almost 30 participants to Thunder Bay, Ont. on April 9-10 for a two-day conference on union communications and related issues.
“The importance of communications with members and the public has never been greater,” UFCW Canada national director Michael Fraser said in opening remarks, setting the tone for the conference. “We have come together to learn from one another, to share our ideas and our expertise, and to talk about communications successes as well as our efforts that were not as effective as we had hoped.”
Special assistant to the national director Diane Kalen chaired the session and outlined the forum’s theme and agenda. “We decided that this would be a forum about possibilities as opposed to lamenting the very real obstacles that do exist for union communicators,” said Kalen. “It is far more useful for us to share the ways in which we have been successful in reaching the public, the unorganized, communicating with our membership, with youth, and with the government.” The first afternoon of the conference was devoted to presentations and questions from locals from across Canada on their progress in communications.
The forum agenda included presentations by guest speakers Ira Basen, a CBC Radio One executive producer, JoAnne Labreque, a communications specialist at l’École des hautes études commerciales (HEC) de Montréal, and Bill Reno, a communications consultant from Toronto with a long history of work with UFCW Canada.
Basen, whose production credits include the highly-successful This Morning program, provided insight on how union communicators can better approach the media in order to tell the story important to members. “You need to make the editors and producers interested themselves,” he says. “If you can pique their interest, they will want to do a story from the perspective that conveys your message.”
Labreque, who sits on the boards of directors of several corporations, including Provigo, spoke about developments in the retail industry as globalization changes the corporate environment in which decisions affecting workers are made.
On the second day, Kalen led the participants through an instructional workshop on media relations. In the afternoon, Kalen presented the national communications strategy to confront Wal- Mart and then participants worked in groups on various aspects of the upcoming phase of UFCW Canada’s organizing campaign for Wal-Mart workers, including printed materials, a Web site, and various approaches to promoting the union’s message.
During the conference, communicators also had an opportunity to meet several dozen of the Thunder Bay Canada Safeway workers, members of UFCW Canada Local 175, who had recently settled a 16-month strike against the international supermarket giant that closed down the chain’s three Thunder Bay stores. National director Fraser along with Local 175 president Wayne Hanley made special presentations to the strike activists who attended a dinner during the conference (below).
For more information please contact Diane Kalen, special assistant to the national director and communications coordinator.
|Above, clockwise from top right: national director Michael Fraser, JoAnne Labrecque from l’École HEC de Montréal, special assistant to the national director Diane Kalen, and Ira Basen, an executive producer from CBC Radio One. Below, communicators forum participants in workshops on planning for the next phase of UFCW Canada’s Wal-Mart workers organizing drive.|
UFCW Canada Local 247 in British Columbia is the latest local union to launch its own Web site, with a welldesigned effort at www.ufcw247.com. More than many union sites, Local 247’s provides, in simple, easy-to-navigate pages, some of the hard facts that members crave. Right up front are the stories and bulletins about current negotiations and the possibility of a major strike that affect the majority of the local’s members. But dig deeper and you will fi nd details on union benefi t programs, encouragement for members to get more involved in everything from LRFC fundraising to education and training programs, and even on-line versions of the local’s collective agreements.
In addition, the site even features a regularly updated Stanley Cup hockey pool, another fundraiser for the Leukemia Research Fund of Canada.
Have a favourite site you would like to share? Please e-mail [email protected] .