Fighting for our new Maple Leaf Members in Edmonton!

In August 2023, workers at the Maple Leaf poultry plant in Edmonton decided to unionize with UFCW Local 401.

President Thomas Hesse, Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart, and union representatives with the Maple Leaf Edmonton Bargaining Committee.

Maple Leaf Edmonton workers were impressed with the broad range of resources available to them through Local 401. Workers at the Edmonton Plant also liked the strength they gained by joining the union that represents workers at Maple Leaf’s other unionized plants in Canada.

UFCW Canada represents nearly 7,000 Maple Leaf union members at the 16 unionized Maple Leaf plants across the country. That strength and solidarity create real leverage at the bargaining table when negotiating with Maple Leaf Foods. 

This past week, President Thomas Hesse and Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart joined members of our Maple Leaf Edmonton Bargaining Committee for a strategy session. Hesse and Stewart spent a few hours with our local union’s newest members, discussing the work they do and issues that they wish to raise in negotiations.

Maple Leaf’s plant in Edmonton produces poultry products, processing approximately 75,000 chickens each day, and servicing Canada’s domestic market. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian poultry sales saw a 14% increase in 2022 due to elevated demand.

That’s good news for Maple Leaf Edmonton members as they kick off negotiations with their Employer for a new union contract.

Hesse noted that, as is so often the case in food processing plants, the work that these members do is both physically and psychologically difficult. The work includes long hours and physically demanding tasks in confined and challenging conditions.

“Our Bargaining Committee is made up of Maple Leaf workers is the very embodiment of workplace leadership,” said President Hesse. “Every single member of the Committee made their way to Canada from the other side of the world, learning a new language and adapting to Canadian culture and society. If that’s not leadership, I don’t know what is.”

Highlighting the key things that Maple Leaf Edmonton workers are seeking in negotiations, the Bargaining Committee spoke about these issues in the context of ensuring basic human rights in the Plant. Maple Leaf workers want:

  • Fair wages that account for the affordability crisis we all face (which their employer can afford)
  • Reliable benefits that will fairly support them and their families
  • Job and income security through a fair guarantee of hours

“Our newest members work hard day-in-and-day-out, slaughtering 75,000 chickens a day and making Executive Chairman Michael McCain rich,” noted Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart. “All they ask in return is to build a better life for their families. I don’t think that’s too much to ask given that their employer can afford it with increased demand for chicken in Canada.”

UFCW Local 401 is also bargaining hard during hard times for our Maple Leaf members in Lethbridge.

In July, Maple Leaf Lethbridge Bargaining Committee members resumed negotiations with the Company via the assistance of a government-appointed mediator. A number of issues remain outstanding as Lethbridge Maple Leaf workers continue to push the Company to do the right thing.

Dates are scheduled later in October when Lethbridge members will renew their fight for fairness with the added strength of a united front of Maple Leaf workers in Alberta and across Canada standing together through their union — UFCW!