National Day of Mourning

Vaccines and victories though still, we mourn

A year of fighting for essential workers

The last year of fighting for worker safety has been like no other. It’s felt as though every second of every day, your union has been fighting to protect our more than 32,000 members from one threat or another.

It’s probably felt that way because it has, in fact, been a year of constant work advocating for and enhancing our members’ safety.

Whether you work in the camps up North, a health care facility in Medicine Hat, a plant in Red Deer, or a grocery store in Grande Prairie, all of our members have been touched by the impacts of the global pandemic. Many of our members have faced risks every day coming to work to provide services and products on which the public has relied.

We have worked tirelessly to address those risks. And that work has resulted in significant victories.

This week, we learned that the Government of Alberta is finally making good on its promise to prioritize vaccine availability for meatpacking workers. This is a step that your union has been demanding for months.

Of course, our work is not done. It never really is.

We need vaccine priority rolled out for all of our members. And we continue to push for that development using every tool at our disposal. 

Working together with our courageous members, we have been successful in stopping the trajectory of this deadly virus in its tracks by getting workplaces where outbreaks have occurred temporarily closed. Our efforts to underscore COVID-19 as a workplace disease have saved lives and prevented tragedy.

But despite our best efforts, tragedy has still visited our local union far more often than we would like over the past year.

Too often, our advocacy is waged through the sting of tears as we mourn the preventable loss of brothers and sisters who have touched our lives.

Each loss leaves us a little more heartbroken.

Each loss is a mother or father who will never see their children again. Each loss is a brother or sister who will never again attend a family reunion. Each loss is a friend and a loved one who won’t join us in a sigh of relief when this pandemic is over.

It’s not fair. The preventable death of a worker is never fair.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a square inch of our union that hasn’t been touched by a COVID-related death this year. So while we fight, we do so through gritted teeth and puffy eyes, our hearts still sore from the last goodbye.

And it isn’t just the loss of our brothers and sisters we grieve.

We grapple with losing something vital to life itself. We grapple with the loss of optimism and care-free joy that this pandemic has inflicted on our members. We grapple with the fear and anxiety that haunt our days and follow us home to plague our nights.

We grapple with the fact that too many of us feel as though we’ve stopped living and are just existing through these difficult times.

Nonetheless, all things come to an end — even the most difficult of times.

And already, as more and more workers and Albertans get vaccinated, we can begin to feel the daylight that seemed to slip away returning to light our faces and warm our hearts.

Like the indomitable force that is life itself, our union refuses to be stopped. We refuse to lay down. We refuse to be overrun by even the most crushing of circumstances.

We are a fighting union.

We do not give up. We do not give in.  And with the strength of solidarity in our hearts and our minds, we will press on to fight another day.

Please join us in acknowledging this year’s National Day of Mourning.