Red Deer, AB – With powerful messages of solidarity, UFCW Local 401 members and leaders converged on Red Deer last week for a series of events centred on building awareness, unity, and solidarity among members in the Central Alberta city.
On Wednesday, October 21, UFCW Local 401 Secretary-Treasurer, Richelle Stewart, hosted a live Zoom webinar with members from across the healthcare workplaces represented by our union. With insights from President Thomas Hesse, participants were given an overview of some of the key challenges facing healthcare workers in Alberta right now.
“Given my strong connection to healthcare, I was really pleased to connect with our members across Alberta who work in this critical sector,” said Stewart. “From our members at the Revera facilities in Medicine Hat to Bethany in Red Deer, Excel Resources Society in Edmonton, and our newest healthcare members at Bayshore in Strathmore, it was amazing to be able to use this webinar platform to safely connect and join in one conversation about the issues that matter most to us. We’ll definitely be doing this again”
If you missed it, don’t worry! We’ve posted the entire webinar to our Facebook page here:
On Thursday, October 22, food processing members from across Alberta met in Red Deer to discuss key issues facing processing plant workers. This was the first time we have been able to safely get together since the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our workplaces and industry.
Led by President Hesse, union stewards and leaders held a round table discussion on matters that will impact upcoming bargaining in this important sector. Issues like line speed, pandemic health and safety concerns, and bargaining strategies were discussed.
“It was a great opportunity for us to get together and share our experiences,” said Devin Yeager, Coordinator of the UFCW Local 401 Food Processing, Packing, and Manufacturing Division. “Our union brings together workers from some of the country’s largest and most vital food processing facilities. It’s only natural that we should share our experiences, strength, and solidarity across this important sector of the economy.”
Geoff Warren, a UFCW Local 401 member from JBS in Brooks, was so inspired by the events that he wrote a poem about it! Here’s a stanza:
The camaraderie shared was second to none,
A little business and a whole lot of fun.
It was great to be a part of this tour
And unite with like-minded members for sure.
Later in the afternoon, UFCW Local 401 activists held a parking lot solidarity action during shift change at Olymel, Alberta’s largest pork processing facility. As hundreds of members filtered in and out of the plant, they were greeted by UFCW Local 401 members from across Alberta, who were there to distribute lunchboxes, toques, water bottles, and reusable grocery bags.
“Especially as our Olymel members head into negotiations with their employer, we felt it was important to show them that they are not alone, that now is a time for food processing workers to stand up and be counted,” explained Hesse after a tour of the Olymel facility on Friday morning.
“Our members at Olymel have a long and cherished history of getting things done their own way,” Hesse added. “Now they are part of the largest private sector union in Western Canada and one that brings together so much experience from workers across Alberta’s food processing plants. Now that’s worker power!”
“With the busy shopping season upon us, we’ve been hearing that anxiety is high among our members working in grocery stores,” said Hesse. “We are launching a special campaign to draw attention to these concerns and encourage customers to shop safely and be kind to those of us working through this pandemic bringing food to the tables of Albertans.”
On the evening of Thursday October 22, Unity Tour activists from across the province visited three stores in Red Deer – Superstore, Safeway, and Co-op – in an effort to liven the spirits of members working in the stores and bring customer attention to some things they can do to make our workplaces safer.
“The reality is that these stores are not just public spaces,” said Stewart. “They are also workplaces, so it’s really important for everyone to keep that in mind and – above all else – be kind to our members.”
The actions coincided with the revamp of our Good Groceries campaign and the launch of a new member-driven Facebook group exclusively for UFCW Local 401 members working in retail stores.
“We are working hard to bring together Alberta’s food workers to tackle the issues that matter most to them,” said Hesse. “That’s our job: to be visible, bring voice to the common issues we face, and explore new ways of building unity and solidarity to win at bargaining and build a better life for working people. Whether we work in healthcare, food processing, or retail, we are Local 401!”
For more details on our Unity Tour events, reach out to your Union Labour Relations Officer at 1.800.252.7975 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our social media channels @ufcw401.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 is the largest private sector union in Western Canada and represents 32,000 Alberta workers in the food processing, retail, healthcare, and education sectors.
Posted on: October 29,2020