We will talk to Superstore customers…

Bargaining continues next week.

We are very excited about the show of strength that Superstore members have put forward. 97% of voting members have said they will go on strike if a decent union contract cannot be achieved.

It is clear that Superstore union members do not want to stand on the street if they don’t have to. They want a deal. But they have also sent Superstore a strong message about what they are prepared to do.

A strike vote is not aimed at having a strike; it is designed to get a deal. It is hard to be patient. Superstore union members are angry, and rightly so.

That said, we are still evaluating what many of you are thinking right now. Approximately 10,000 employees work at Superstore, and roughly 3,000 participated in the strike vote.

There is another big unknown: will the Alberta public and Superstore customers support a strike at Superstore?

We are on the right side of this fight, and we know that. We know about the injustice of the employment conditions at Superstore, but many Superstore customers do not, and will not think in those terms.

The Superstore business model is not about customer service. It is about offering customers low prices.

Customers are tense and afraid. COVID-19 has changed everything. Some customers will ignore any picket line they see. They will just want to get in and out.

In a grocery store strike, it doesn’t matter how many people picket if the customers still go in and buy groceries. Unlike an industrial strike, a retail strike demands a strategy to win customers over.

In the background, your union has been developing that strategy, which is our job and our responsibility. Any union leader that just shouts “strike” from the rooftops without a plan should be questioned.

We cannot lead our members into a strike that may fail. We must talk to customers. If members choose to go on strike, we want to be in a strong and winning position.

As you read this, a national polling firm is speaking to Alberta Superstore customers. We have commissioned a survey of customer attitudes on your issues. In addition, we continue to develop a multi-faceted public relations campaign to bring your message to customers.

We simply can’t share all of this as the Company will find out. It is important to be transparent, but it is also important to retain an element of surprise. Obviously, we want the Company to have a limited ability to prepare for what we might do.

However, you can click here to listen to a sample radio ad as a potential sneak peek of the campaign.

It should be noted that this radio ad is not on the air yet. We hope Loblaws listens to this and understands our resolve to use every resource to fight for Superstore employees.

We are also reviewing the current law as it relates to striking, and how it might apply to our efforts. Is it better to attempt to have a massive, province-wide picket line? Or is it better to have a more strategic approach?

We are utilizing our in-house counsel to explore all the legal components of potential strike action. We have also retained Alberta’s premier labour law firm to work with us. We are prepared to launch a constitutional challenge if necessary to combat unfair UCP laws, limiting our ability to strike.

There is a law called Bill 1 that could enable the Government of Alberta to prohibit us from picketing in front of stores. There is also some speculation that the government will not let you strike at all, as providing groceries to the Alberta public could be called an essential service.

There is another law called Bill 32. It suggests that your ability to engage customers, if you stand on a picket line, may now be very limited.

Another issue at play is our legal right to engage in something called “secondary picketing”. Your union wants to hit Loblaws hard if there is a strike. Our goal will be to set up pickets in front of their warehouses, YIG stores, No Frills stores, T&T Supermarkets, and even at Shoppers Drug Mart locations.

We have Loblaws’ attention

Yesterday, we had a meeting with senior Loblaws officials from Toronto. Given that they flew into Calgary for the meeting, there is no doubt that our 97% strike vote got the attention of those who have decision-making power within the Company.

We told them in the clearest of terms that there could be no takeaways or concessions for Superstore union members and that terms and conditions of employment have to improve.
We didn’t say anything different from what we have been saying for months. But it seems as though the opportunity to provide these forceful representations to higher-level decision-makers rattled Loblaws’ cage.

They agreed to resume bargaining next week and have a fresh look at the priority issues of Superstore union members. Not surprisingly, they did not commit to meeting our demands.

We have reinforced that any deal must be negotiated with our Bargaining Committee and must be approved by Superstore union members. There is some cause for optimism, but it should be very cautious optimism as Loblaws is obsessed with numbers and keeping their costs down.

Whatever offer is on the table at the conclusion of next week’s bargaining meetings will be brought to you for a vote. We promised you would have the opportunity to vote on the Company’s final offer before going on strike and we will keep that promise.

You and your families will have to make a hard decision about whether or not the offer meets your needs.

The alternative is straightforward. Your union will commence the process of providing strike notice to Superstore.