Statement on National Day of Mourning

April 28 is always a difficult day for the labour movement.

It is incredibly important that we remember our brothers, sisters, and non-binary members who have tragically died on the job. Yet, doing so is a painful reminder of tremendous loss for so many of us.

That loss feels even harder to bear this year as so many people want to place the pandemic behind us. We are reminded of too many workers whose lives were lost due to careless attitudes over the past two years.

We think about Benito Quesada and Bui Thi Hiep who left behind grieving family members because Cargill refused to put people over profits and temporarily close their plant to keep their employees safe. We think about Darwin Doloque, Henry de Leon, and Delfin Santos Jr. at Olymel who should still be alive, given everything we learned from the Cargill outbreak.

We think about all the stress and anxiety that has been felt by our retail grocery members who continued to come into work, ensuring Albertans had access to the groceries they needed. The failure to take real responsibility for masking, customer counts, and social distancing in stores resulted in the loss of members, like Michael Lee, from exposure to COVID-19.

Every loss has been sharply felt by our union family. There have been too many tragedies that could have been prevented if employers had placed safety ahead of sales.

But even as we mourn for those we have lost; we remind ourselves that the pain we feel must fuel our fight for the future.

Our members are still taking risks going in to work every day. There is still a disturbingly high number of unvaccinated Albertans. We must continue working to avert the preventable loss of life in workplaces across the province.

As governments relax measures to keep workers and the public safe, we commit to fighting even harder to ensure that the safety of our members and all workers is not taken for granted. They are still essential and deserve to come home safe every single day.

In solidarity,
Thomas Hesse, President
Richelle Stewart, Secretary Treasurer
UFCW Local 401