The fight for fairness spills into September

The weather may be cooling down as we move from the dog days of summer into September. But North America’s labour landscape is heating up!

While more than 3,700 Metro grocery workers concluded a month-long strike by ratifying a historic collective agreement, more than 3,000 UFCW members who work at Safeways in British Columbia have sent the Company a message by taking a 98% strike vote.

In a statement, UFCW 1518 has indicated that turnout in the Safeway vote is the highest it has seen in decades and demonstrates that, “members are united and ready to fight for what they deserve at the Sobeys bargaining table.”

Just as we did with Metro grocery workers in Toronto, UFCW Local 401 expresses support and solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and non-binary friends in British Columbia.

At the same time, Sobeys’ parent company, Empire, continues making increased profits over previous years, which themselves had been years of record profit. In the face of Sobeys’ incredible success, Local 1518 President, Kim Novak, has described the Company’s offers the same way that Local 401 Safeway members described the offers they saw from the Company during Wage Reopener negotiations: insulting.

UFCW members aren’t the only ones taking note of Canadian grocers’ outrageous revenues. In the midst of a crisis of confidence in the Canadian grocery industry, the federal government has asked grocers like Loblaws and Sobeys to come up with a plan to reduce food prices in order to provide Canadians with relief.

Global News reports:

Trudeau said if the grocers fail to come up with a plan that provides “real relief” for middle- and lower-class Canadians, the government will take further action that forces the companies to do so.

That could include tax measures, he warned.

This will be the second time that grocery giants have been asked to account for skyrocketing grocery prices by the federal government this year. Despite repeated questions from parliamentarians and frustration from the Canadian public facing an affordability crisis, the Canadian grocery industry has failed to mitigate prices while earning record profits year-over-year.

The grocery industry isn’t the only sector enjoying excessive profits that is earning the ire of workers.

In the US, approximately 13,000 United Auto Workers have initiated a historic strike against Detroit’s three major automakers, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. Never before has the UAW struck all three automakers at the same time.

Unparalleled in its scope, the auto-sector job action has drawn support from US President Joe Biden who said, “I understand their frustrations.” The President has dispatched two of his top aides in an effort to help resolve the dispute.

Just like grocery workers, auto workers are complaining of record corporate profits that are not being shared with the workers who made them possible. “This is our defining moment,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “Record profits should be shared by record contracts for the UAW.”

While impacts on the Canadian automotive industry have been minimal thus far, that could change quickly. If the US strike is expanded, it could prove challenging for Canadian retailers.

Additionally, fresh off its victory with Metro grocery workers, Unifor is also in negotiations with Ford in Canada and says that the two sides are, “not close at all.” Unifor is preparing for the very real possibility of job action if a deal is not struck before midnight on Monday, September 18, 2023.

With the Writers Guild of America strike stretching into its fifth month, it seems clear that workers the world over are at a pivotal moment in pushing back against unparalleled corporate power and greed.

As we wait for the outcome of our own recent fight to secure a fair outcome for our Safeway members in Wage Reopener negotiations, Local 401 continues to prepare for major bargaining efforts in the coming years.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to fight for our members and support our allies as we work to build better workplaces and a better world.