From August 14 – 16, UFCW Local 401 attended and staffed a table at the Calgary International Reggae Festival. This award-winning Festival is committed to the promotion of local, regional and national awareness of Reggae Music in Canada and provides the union with an opportunity to engage a broad cross-section of music lovers in Calgary.
Member and union activist Sydonne Wright staffed the union’s table, handing out information and chatting about a variety of issues with Festival attendees. 2014 was Local 401’s first year participating in the Festival, but between the friendly interactions, meaningful conversations, and enjoyable music, it won’t be our last!
GlobalFest is Calgary’s premier fireworks exhibition, showcasing talent and cultural diversity from all over the world. This year, UFCW Local 401 joined UFCW Local 1118 and the Public Service Alliance of Canada in sponsoring the Festival’s Human Rights Forum.
Offered since 2007 as part of GlobalFest’s programming to promote diversity, cross cultural respect, and equality in our community, the annual Human Rights Forum topics are structured around the UNESCO’s Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination. UFCW and PSAC specifically coordinated a forum on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that featured Local 1118 President Alberta Johnson and Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.
Speaking at the Forum, McGowan noted, “This program has been used — especially in the low-wage sector — to drive down wages,” a vital point that UFCW has consistently sought to make about the many flaws with the Program.
Additionally, UFCW and PSAC staffed a booth at the Festival, running a raffle with a grand prize of a coffee maker. Over all, the Festival was a resounding success with volunteers speaking to several thousand people about important labour issues.
On August 31, 2014, UFCW Local 401 participated in yet another successful Calgary Pride Parade. The 2014 Parade further built on the momentum realized last year with more than 50,000 Calgarians turning out to show their Pride!
As well, float entrants included some new and welcomed faces. Four professional sports teams – the Calgary Flames, the Calgary Stampeders, the Calgary Hitmen, and the Calgary Roughnecks all participated in the Parade, marking one of the largest turnouts of professional athletes in Canada.
As a long-standing participant in the Parade, UFCW Local 401 continued its support for queer rights and its commitment to addressing the specific challenges that queer workers face in their workplaces. More than 40 union activists marched with the union’s float and handed out UFCW Local 401 flags to Parade observers.
“As a union, we firmly believe that queer rights are human rights,” said UFCW 401 President Doug O’Halloran. “We must all come together to ensure that our queer brothers and sisters are treated with dignity and respect in their workplaces and in society. Plus, the Pride Parade is such a wonderful celebration; it’s hard not to have a great time!”
Union activists happily engaged and danced with Parade observers. It didn’t take long before the entire Parade route was lined with UFCW 401 flags.
Once again, UFCW Local 401 was proud to act as a sponsor of the Calgary and District Labour Council (CDLC) and Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC) Labour Day BBQs. UFCW activists filled downtown Calgary’s Olympic Plaza and Edmonton’s Giovanni Caboto Park (along with other labour activists) to set up, cook, and serve barbequed hamburgers and hotdogs.
More than 1,000 people attended each of the respective BBQs, which featured booths and tables set up by community organizations to engage attendees on a variety of issues. In Calgary, participants were able to cool off from the hot day in Olympic Plaza’s water park and enjoy some entertainment from local musicians Jackie Drew and the Crew.
BBQ attendees were appreciative of the food that UFCW 401 and other unions provided and the chance to enjoy a bite outside on beautiful days in both Calgary and Edmonton. Each thanks was greeted with a hearty, “You’re welcome. Happy Labour Day!” by Local 401 activists to remind BBQ goers of the important role that the labour movement continues to play in Albertan’s lives.
Also on Labour Day, UFCW Local 401 members attended and supported the Temporary Foreign Workers Appreciation Day BBQ organized by the Temporary Foreign Workers Support Coalition. The Coalition, which is new to Edmonton, is supported by groups like Migrante Alberta. Migrante is an international Filipino migrant workers rights group and an ally of the union’s.
The BBQ was held in support and in appreciation of the workers in Alberta who are here under the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Despite their contributions to our economy and our society, temporary foreign workers are denied the same rights as Canadian immigrants and placed in vulnerable positions due to the connection of their status with their continued employment.
Organizations such as the Alberta Civil Liberties Union, the City of Edmonton, UNIFOR and Migrante Alberta had information tables on workers rights at the BBQ. Additionally, representatives from labour unions, the City of Edmonton, and the NDP spoke about the need to support and act on issues faced by these workers.
Local 401 member and union activist Garry Pucci spoke about the work in which UFCW is engaged around foreign workers, including fighting for terminated TFW staff at an ongoing organizing drive and Local 1118’s negotiation of contract language which requires employers to support any temporary foreign workers they employ to become residents as quickly as possible.
The BBQ was an overwhelming success with greater than expected turn out and many lively discussions on important issues.
If I were to walk down the street and ask the average person, “Do you think one Canadian’s life is worth more than another?” I’m pretty sure the universal response would be, “No, absolutely not.”
Canadians believe in fairness and equity. These are values that run so deep as to be woven into the fabric of our national identity.
There is; however, at least one Canadian who does not believe in this fundamental sense of equity.
Are they some vile white supremacist, spewing hate-filled garbage about, “lesser races”? Perhaps they are a radical religious leader preaching homophobia and other forms of discrimination from the pulpit?
No, unfortunately neither of those guesses is correct. The person I’m talking about is none other than our own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
On August 17, the body of a First Nations girl was dragged out of the Red River in Manitoba. The young woman’s name was Tina Fontaine; she was fifteen years old. Let that sink in for a moment – Tina Fontaine, who’s body was dragged out of a river, was only fifteen years old.
Tragic doesn’t even begin to describe the reality of what happened to Tina Fontaine. While no arrests have been made, police are treating Tina’s death as a homicide.
Sadly, Tina’s story is not an anomaly, though it certainly should be.
In the last 30 years, roughly 1,200 First Nations women have been murdered or have gone missing in Canada. First Nations women are three-times more likely to experience violent victimization than non-aboriginal women in Canada.
Speaking about those numbers, acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission David Langtry has said, “This is not acceptable in a country like Canada,” and is calling for a full public inquiry into the issue, along with First Nations leaders, human rights activists, and various Premiers.
The issue is staring our Prime Minister square in the face and a just and equitable solution is being proposed from all sides. And yet, Stephen Harper has waived off the need for a national inquiry, claiming that his government intends to treat Fontaine’s death as a crime and not a “sociological phenomenon”.
In reality, the Harper government prefers not to address the deaths of Tina Fontaine and 1,200 other First Nations women at all. Their steadfast determination not to “commit sociology” appears to include a refusal give in to a few other things, like empathy, compassion, and justice.
Let us call this what it is: a callous and disturbing disregard for human life. It is disgusting, disappointing, and wholly unacceptable. We must not stand by while our Prime Minister and government engage in a dismissal that is at complete odds with our values as Canadians.
Let us also not mince words about the fact that if we were facing a rash of violent crimes perpetuated against non-aboriginal women; we would not need to call for a public inquiry. We wouldn’t need to push this government to do the right thing; they would have beaten us to the punch long ago.
Without getting into mudslinging, I think we can all agree that this situation is wrong and needs to change. Stephen Harper’s unwillingness to launch a public inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered First Nations women is fundamentally tied to his government systemic mistreatment of our country’s indigenous peoples.
As a Cree proverb reminds us, “Realize that we as human beings have been put on this earth for only a short time and that we must use this time to gain wisdom, knowledge, respect and the understanding for all human beings since we are all relatives.”
I didn’t know Tina Fontaine, but her death weighs upon me. I might not have known any of the 1,200 other First Nations women who have been murdered or gone missing over the past 30 years, but their stories matter – they deserve our attention and they deserve justice.
We must keep this issue in the public eye or else Mr. Harper will continue to sweep it and his government’s responsibility under the rug. One voice in the wilderness goes unheard, but together we can be the calling to bring justice to these murdered and missing women.
Every industry, organization, or event will tend to have it’s own terminology in order to explain what they do or are doing. Unions are the same and have their very own terminology. Many of you may have heard some of these terms from your Rep. Or perhaps you’ve read them in your Union Contract or just from being around for a while as a member. And some of you might not be familiar with these terms at all.
I remember what it was like to walk into a workplace and have to learn all these terms in order to understand what your co-workers are talking about. I won’t be able to cover every term but I would like to share some of the most commonly used terms with you to help orient you to your unionized workplace.
Speaking of which, welcome to UFCW Local 401 if you are new!
Arbitration – the method of settling employment disputes through appeal to an impartial party from the Labour Board, whose decision is final and binding.
Bargaining Unit – all of those employees represented by the bargaining agent, the representative who negotiates on behalf of the workers in a workplace, whether they are members of the Union or not.
Certification – the process by which the Labour Relations Code allows employees to join or form a trade union. A union may become the exclusive bargaining agent for a unit of employees in two ways; an employer may voluntarily recognize it or it may apply to the Labour Relations Board for certification after running an organizing drive.
If a union applies for certification, employees vote by secret ballot on whether or not a union will represent them and is only certified if a majority of employees vote to join.
Collective Agreement, Agreement, Union Contract – a legally binding written contract, created through negotiations, which lays out employee’s wages, hours, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment.
Grievance – a formal complaint, usually lodged by an employee or the union, that seeks to address a workplace issue that violates one or more of the terms in a Union Contract. The process for resolving a grievance is defined in a Union Contract. There are four kinds of grievances that can be filed: individual, group, policy and union grievances. The most common kind of grievance is an individual grievance. An individual grievance relates to the terms and conditions of a specific individual’s employment, such as disciplinary action, demotion, termination, suspension or financial penalty.
Labour Relations Code – the law governing labour relations and collective bargaining in Alberta.
Mediation – the attempt by an impartial third party, called a mediator, to bring parties (usually an employer, the union and its members) in a dispute together and assist them in reaching a settlement. The mediator has no power to force or award a settlement. Instead, they work to persuade the parties to reach an agreement.
Ratification – the voting process by which union members determine whether they will accept or reject a new Union Contract. A new contract can only be signed and become effective following the ratification of both the members and the employer.
Shop Steward/Steward – an appointed representative of the union who works with a Union Representative to carry out the duties of the union (such as speaking with members about initiating a grievance) within a workplace.
Solidarity – the fundamental principle of trade unionism, best exemplified by the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all.” In practice this means that all members of the union movement agree to help one another in their struggles for fair wages, safe workplaces, better benefits and human rights. Solidarity extends beyond the union movement to other groups struggling for human rights and social justice.
These are a just a few of the terms that are used frequently in a union workplace. Feel free to chat with your Steward or Union Rep if you need help understanding a term you have heard. The more you know about your union the more you can protect yourself and your co-workers.
Alberta Labour Relations Board “A Guide to Alberta’s Labour Relations Laws”
UFCW Canada and other UFCW websites