National Day of Mourning

April 28 is always a difficult day for workers in Canada and our labour movement. As our National Day of Mourning, we pause today to reflect on and remember workers who have died due to work-related causes.

In many cities, local labour councils and groups read out a list of workers who have passed away in the past year. In every case, that list is too long.  

Frankly, a list with one name on it is too long. Everyone deserves to come home safely from work each and every day. The fact that this is something we are still fighting to achieve speaks to just how relevant and crucial unions and our labour movement remain. 

While many governments move to conclude their efforts around the global pandemic, our members continue to live with its impacts on a day-to-day basis. There remain almost 500 Albertans hospitalized due to COVID-19 and new cases are reported daily.  

More than 5,500 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta alone. Too many of those were members of our union who were exposed to the virus at work. If anyone thinks that we can just sweep the trauma of the ongoing pandemic under the rug and move on with life, they are sorely mistaken. 

As if the strain of the health pandemic were not enough, now workers are grappling with an economic pandemic in the form of forty-year-high prices in the cost of things like groceries, gas, and utility bills. While executives like Galen Weston Jr. and the Sobeys family rake in record profits, workers are struggling to make ends meet on the essentials.  

The other things that are at record highs are the use of food banks and the rental prices that workers are having to pay. Rental rates in Calgary recently experienced one of the largest increases in the country.   

All of these pressures have fundamentally undermined workers’ sense of well-being and left many feeling isolated and struggling to maintain their mental health. We worry about the ongoing impacts to workplace health and safety as we receive reports of increased abuse that our retail members are facing from customers and related upticks in workplace violence. 

How many more families will face tragedies as these issues go unaddressed by both companies and decision-makers? In short, we have work to do. 

The words we repeat on April 28 are that while we mourn for those we have lost, we must continue fighting for the living.

That fight is particularly pronounced right now. And while at times it might seem overwhelming, we also know that when working people come together, we consistently defy the odds to achieve great things.  

So, let us take a moment today to grieve for those we have lost. Then, let us recommit ourselves to the work of building better workplaces and a better world so that next year things look a little brighter.  

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