New Superstore employees in Alberta are now receiving a 30-minute paid union orientation when they are hired! That’s right; their employer, Loblaw, pays their new employees to hear from their union representatives about the benefits of working in a UFCW Local 401 workplace thanks to brand new contract language won in the 3-day province wide strike last October.
A Union Representative or Shop Steward conducts the 30-minute orientation within the first two weeks an employee is hired. This fabulous new Superstore Collective Agreement (Union contract) language was achieved only because union members stood together bravely to fight for these improvements to their contract.
New 401 members are given a comprehensive kit that includes:
These new-hires also learn about the many ways they can get involved in their union through several different committees such as: Youth, Health and Safety, Women, Community Action Network, and Political Action. New members also learn about their probationary period, how to raise concerns and deal with workplace complaints through the “grievance procedure”, scheduling rights and distribution of hours, guaranteed wage increases and a fantastic range of other benefits.
There are many advantages of belonging to Alberta’s largest private sector union, which is nearly 30,000 members strong across the province. Union Representatives and Shop Stewards are proud and excited to share important information about the many benefits of union membership through these new member union orientation meetings. An informed membership at Superstore will be better poised to bargain an even better Collective Agreement in the next round of negotiations. This is a contract benefit that we will be striving to bring to all our members in order to ensure we have the best-informed union membership in the country.
By now, many of you will have heard about our campaign to offer workers at Save-On Foods stores in Alberta the option of joining a real union to improve their workplace.
Save-On Foods employees in Alberta are represented by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). CLAC is an organization that the vast majority of Canadians unions do not actually consider a union. They parade that title around, but consistently negotiate substandard contracts that benefit employers and not their members, often times agreeing to contract terms without seeking their members input or consent.
Additionally, CLAC consistently lobbies government for legislation that is damaging to workers’ rights. Indeed, it is this sort of behavior that resulted in the suspension of CLAC’s membership in the International Trade Union Confederation.
As a voice for all working Albertans – particularly those in the retail industry – UFCW Local 401 feels strongly that Save-On Foods workers deserve to know that they have a better option! So we launched the Get A Real Union campaign.
Currently, Save-On Foods workers are in an open period with CLAC. During that period, UFCW members from locals 401, 1118, 1400, 175, 864 and even some folks who work at Save-On Foods in BC who are members of Local 1518 and representatives from UFCW Canada have been talking to Alberta Save-On workers about the benefits of joining a real union.
A number of those conversations have resulted in promising leads and we remain hopeful that Save-On Foods employees will leave CLAC and seek membership in a real union.
To learn more about the campaign and help us spread the word, please visit:
If you know any Save-On Foods employees, please also direct them to those sites and let them know about the benefits you enjoy as a UFCW Local 401 member.
Together, we can improve things at Save-On Foods and make life better for all workers in Alberta!
Questions surrounding employment equity and precarious work have long been topics of discussion for the labour movement. With the evolving nature of economic factors and working conditions, this topic has become increasing important to unions as we re-examine, redefine, reinvent and re-establish our role in workplaces and in representing vulnerable workers.
The Canadian workforce has seen an increase in part-time, casual or temporary work that features fewer benefits, less job security and minimal control over work conditions. The result of this trend is to leave many equity groups struggling to make a decent living.
UFCW Local 401 has a proud history of reaching out to and engaging equity groups, as well as organizing and negotiating for precarious workers. Recent campaigns such as Get a Real Union continue to ensure vulnerable workers have access to education about workplace representation and opportunities to improve their workplaces.
Studies continue to link precarious employment with negative physical and mental health outcomes, increased health and safety risks due to lack of training and education, increased stress over job insecurity, lack of benefits, the need for multiple jobs, irregular hours and lower income. Clearly the impacts of this type of work are worrisome.
As a progressive union, UFCW Local 401 needs to continue discussing, analyzing and addressing these issues, specifically in the context of our engagement with equity groups serving members who grapple with the impacts of precarious work. We must ensure that our union aligns with those groups’ objectives and provides accessible opportunities for action and change on these issues within our organizational structure if we want to realize a successful future.
Recently, several studies, round table discussions and summits discussing this topic across the country highlighted the role that the labour movement and unions can play in addressing these issues. In particular, the link between young workers and precarious work was discussed in the Parkland Institute “On the Job; Why Unions Matter in Alberta”, Queen’s University IRC’s roundtable on “Young Workers and the Union Movement in Canada” and the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit “Precarious, low-benefit work: the new normal?”
The popular idea that young workers do not identify with unions is not entirely accurate. The truth is that research on Millennials (or Gen Y) identifies their core values as: optimism, morality, civic duty and a strong sense of community. Young workers have an ingrained sense of equality and are group oriented.
In other words, the existing values held by most young workers is exceedingly in line with the underlying principles of unionism and the labour movement.
So why with more and more young people in the workforce have we not seen a higher level of engagement from these members? There is no one barrier impeding participation, but rather multiple factors that may contribute to younger workers feeling like they don’t “fit in” to unions or that unions are not relevant to their lives.
Although young workers benefit far more in unionized workplaces, too often they are faced with the inability to find meaningful, full-time jobs. Additionally, young workers often have increasing student debts that leave them scrambling for any sort of employment and with the impression that the job market is leaving them behind.
Unions need to get better about communicating that they are relevant in any workplace and to all demographics of workers. We also need to ensure our union structure is accessible and hospitable to younger workers.
A good start start would be to talk to young workers about current labour issues and the importance of unions in our contemporary workforce. Such a conversation can lead to things like mobilizing young workers for political action, providing connections to labour and community groups, and mentoring and training our young members to become effective activists and labour leaders of the future.
By engaging, educating, empowering and mobilizing our younger members, we can help to ensure our unions are truly inclusive, while investing in the skills of an ambitious and energetic future workforce.
James Lang is proof that when engaged, our young members will respond, becoming labour activists and identifying as part of our labour movement.
James became a UFCW 401 member in 2006 when he began working at Safeway as a courtesy clerk at the age of 15. Currently 24 years old, James works as Grocery Clerk at Safeway 873 Abbotsfield on a part-time basis, as well as working full-time at a recently unionized cold storage warehouse.
James’ engagement with UFCW 401 truly began via his shop steward, Stacey Riopel. Having already learned about the advantages of union membership at Safeway, James welcomed the opportunity when he was approached at his full-time job during an organizing campaign at the cold storage warehouse in 2011. James got involved signing cards, helped out with the certification vote, and sat on the bargaining committee that negotiated his co-workers’ first Union Contract.
Afterwards, James decided to become more active in his union by attending general membership meetings, running as an alternate delegate to UFCW International Convention, and participating in the union’s Edmonton Area Youth Committee. At the same time, James started attending the Edmonton District Labour Council meetings as a member at large and then as a UFCW Local 401 delegate.
James sees a growing space for young workers in the labour movement, but identifies that too few young workers participate in that movement.
“My experiences with UFCW Local 401 have shown me that there is a lot of power to affect change when we act collectively,” says James. “There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with your union and those opportunities are a powerful chance to use your voice. But you have to step up to the plate and get involved. And part of that means truly being part of the change you’re working for and honouring the overall voice of the community you are electing to join.”
James believes UFCW Local 401 pushes to actively engage all members, especially in equity groups. James is proud of his union for its high visibility and its improved accessibility in social networking and communications. He sees UFCW Local 401 as a strong union that takes stands to affect change in Alberta like addressing the tough issue of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Realistically, James feels that, at times, the structure of an organization can be intimidating and overwhelming – even a democratic organization like a union. We need to negotiate our right to provide new employees with a full union orientation and follow up with them to explain process of utilizing their new rights and address concerns. We also need to continue engaging members via mentoring and the buddy system, strengthen our shop steward program, and build the capacity of our membership. Perhaps more young workers would become involved in the union if we had mentors of the same age with whom to pair them.
As a young, unionized worker, James has chosen to use his voice and step up to become a labour activist and a leader. UFCW Local 401 is very proud of James and congratulates him on his recent nomination and appointment to the Executive Board for the Edmonton District Labour Council. As the youngest member on that Board, we know James will provide a strong voice and act as a role model for UFCW and unionized youth.
To be successful, the labour movement needs more James’. We need to provide our younger members with opportunities for engagement in their union and we need our younger members to take advantage of those opportunities.
If you are a young worker who would like to become more involved in your union, contact your Union Representative or call 1-888-Go Union. Together, we can build a brighter future for everyone!
While heavy rain left our golf course half under water, the annual UFCW Local 401 fundraising golf tournament went ahead with great turn out from registered participants. Everyone enjoyed a prime rib dinner and prizes. Participants were also given a gift certificate from Paradise Valley Golf Course in lieu of actually being able to play the course and an additional 40% off all purchases in the Pro Shop.
The event was successful in raising approximately $17,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Our 2015 Tournament will take place on June 20 at 1pm. We hope to see you there!