In the last issue of our magazine, Your Voice , we placed an ad asking members to submit stories about how being a part of UFCW Local 401 has changed their lives. Below are three stories we wanted to share with you.
Our winner is author of the first story, Thomas Stewart. As promised in our ad, Thomas has won an iPad from the union. However, we liked Kristyn Lines’ and Debbie Gill’s stories so much, we’ll be giving them a gift certificate and a UFCW 401 jacket (Thomas will also get a jacket).
Thanks to Thomas, Kristyn, and Debbie for sending their stories in. Be on the look out for more opportunities like this in the future!
Are Unions Really Needed Today: YOU BET!
I am a young person who started out in the world of work a couple of years ago. At that time I had no idea about unions; how they worked, what they were for, or even if they were really necessary in this day and age.
I mean, sure, you hear about unions on the news and I did know about them from school in learning how vital they were last century in bettering the workplace for working people. But that’s just it. Last century! So how about today?
Well, I need to tell you that unions, and being a member of them, is as important and vital today as it ever was. I know from personal experience. Listen to my story. If it wasn’t for UFCW 401 – I wouldn’t have my job! I would also surprisingly feel like a ‘lesser’ person!
When I left school, I started work at a local restaurant. The pay was minimum wage and I worked four days on and four days off. As many of us, to help my family I needed more. The adverts for a new place of work looked really good and I had seen adverts about it on TV. At my interview I was told I would both work more hours and earn much more. Great.
Quite eager, I started my new job. My eagerness was short lived. I watched in dismay as my Department Manager strode around the area at a rate of knots. Worse, he spoke to every young person on the floor with a tone and attitude of disdain! I was soon part of it. We were all useless. We were all good for nothing. We were all lazy and no good to him!
The attitude and the putdowns continued and he would frequently walk by me shaking his head and sighing as though I was stupid. It was the same for others. Often I would be about to go on my break and he would magically appear and ask me to ‘just do this before you go’. The tasks took so long I frequently missed my breaks altogether!
I tried to work harder and at the end of each shift I was exhausted. I noticed some fellow employees were knocking back energy drinks whenever they could. So was my Manager. Wow! Is this really the world of work?
Then my shift times started changing. Instead of the posted time and day, I was told I was responsible for checking my Managers desk daily to see when I was scheduled and if any changes had been made. Pretty soon I couldn’t schedule any appointments out of work for anything. I never knew when or if I would be working!
“OK,” I thought, “enough of this. Address the issue right! But be careful…because you don’t want to lose your job. You really need it.” I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of us! It’s the underlying catch 22 for all working people unless you are independently wealthy of course, in which case you wouldn’t be working anyway!
My first step was to talk to my supervisor. He simply told me to stay out of the Managers way as much as I could. This included the advice of going a different way on my break so I wouldn’t be seen going! Not really what I wanted to hear.
So I decided to talk to my Manager myself.
Why, you ask, would I do that? I have no idea other than I remembered my mother telling me something about standing up for myself – although this was in grade school! As you might imagine, it did not go well. I barely got a word out before I was commanded out of the way and nearly hit by a moving cart. Undaunted I proceeded to go up the chain of command and tried to speak to my Manager’s supervisor. I was told he was aware of everything and would try to get my Manager to ‘tone it down a little’… [Why do I need this job!]
That night I went home very depressed. As the days passed I began to wonder if I really was ‘useless’ and ‘no good to anyone’. I even tried to talk to my Manager again only to be cut off and told I could have attitude like everyone else my age or just do as I was told.
One particularly exhausting day I was telling my brother how awful work was and he called the Union. They called me back the same evening!
Nervously I unloaded everything.
I cannot tell you how good it felt to suddenly have a person who listened to what I had to say. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt to know that this kind of working situation I was facing was not part of the working world and not something that should be going on. The person who called me back within a couple of hours cheered me up just by being there and understanding!
If ever something happens at work you have to call your union! Do you know someone is always there to listen? And do you know that there is usually more than one Union Rep at your place of work? They are your Shop Stewards, your colleagues, and if you want to, you can ask to talk to them during work and not lose any time in pay!
My situation did not magically disappear. My Union contact advised me to write down all interactions and incidents after a day’s work. It may seem an effort, especially when you are under stress, but it only has to be scribbled in note form so you can understand it and have it if you need to make a case for a change.
It was another two months of awful work before I was able to change to another department – and the Union was able to get my Manager moved. In that time he gave me a retaliatory recorded warning and I found that many of my colleagues were ‘afraid’ to say anything because they too felt trapped by needing a job they could not afford to lose. Although initially disappointed in them, I realize where they are coming from.
What they don’t know, though is that when people group together and support each other, the fear goes away! And that is the essence of ‘a union’ in a nutshell.
We all need to work and I am prepared to work hard for what I receive. But I also need to be respected, not only as the hard worker I am – but also as a human being. Civility in the work place is vital. So too are good working conditions [where we don’t have to slug back energy drinks to complete a day!]. When we don’t receive them we become depressed and exhausted. My Union even had my recorded warning removed!
So are Unions needed today? You bet they are. I have it from personal experience! Support your Union. Contact them. They are there FOR YOU!
Being a member of UFCW Local 401 has significantly changed my life for the better.
I have been part of UFCW 401 for just over 3 years. Through posters in the break room at my part time job, Superstore, and on the union’s website, I learned about scholarships that are offered. I applied for and received awards for the Robert McWilliams Memorial Award as well as the Grant Notley Memorial Scholarship.
From my union I also heard about an award offered by the Calgary District Labour Council and had the honour of receiving it. These scholarships have played a big role in paying for my post-secondary education. This has allowed me to save money to go on a volunteer trip in Nicaragua to build a school.
At university I am taking a double major in psychology and international relations. International aid and development strongly interests me and I would like to work towards ending the cycle of poverty in developing countries.
UFCW Local 401 has aided me so much in helping me work towards achieving my goal of a university degree that will help me to find a job where I can be of assistance to others. My union has improved my life by being instrumental in making it possible for me to afford tuition and books and I am extremely grateful for this.
Walking the picket line last year started this road of adventure I am on, and it is exciting! I had such a fierce sense of pride seeing so many of my co-workers standing strong together that it made me feel empowered, and lit a fire in me that I did not know I had.
We won and it was so successful. It was the most exciting and best feeling ever! I signed up for the Conference in Edmonton, March 14th to 16th, and learned more about the union and was taught how to do a New Hire Orientation. I was too shy and intimidated to become a shop steward but Laura told me to take “baby steps” and do these sessions.
My first one came and I had nine people to inform about our union. I was shaking, breathless, sweating and felt like I would pass out, but I stuttered and stammered through it and did it! I have given our information out to 40 people since April, with another class tomorrow. 40 people who all know they have rights and our union to back them up!
Laura urged me to go to the Members Conference in Kananaskis June 25th -29th. This was life changing for me in so many ways!
I have always been with friends and family and am shy and unsure of myself. I did not know a soul on this trip except Laura, and she was not on my bus, and seen occasionally. She had put me in an advanced Superstore class and that was so smart of her!!! I had to reach out to people and make the most of this course. I learned so much, made friends, had tons of laughs and most importantly found a new family!
My brothers and Sisters were all so friendly, welcoming and helpful, it was amazing! I grew empowered, bolder and more self-assured! There is a video somewhere out there of this shy girl who would never dance in public leading a conga line on the dance floor, a first and so much fun!!!
I am now signed up to take the Shop Steward Class in August and am ready to become a more active helper among many in my union! I know I have lots of resources to help and support me, and that together we are strong and growing one person at a time!
How has my union changed me? For the better!!! Stronger, more self-confident, happier, passionate, determined, outgoing, proud and thankful for Laura and all of you for teaching me to walk in my shoes and discover myself and all of my potential!
It’s no secret that UFCW Canada and Local 401 are strong supporters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC). Every year, UFCW members raise millions of dollars for the Society in support of finding cures for Leukemia and Lymphoma.
UFCW Local 401 in particular holds an annual golf tournament to raise funds for LLSC. This year, despite heavy rain that shut down the golf course, our Tournament still raised $17,000 for research.
It should come as no surprise, then, that UFCW Local 401 has become enthusiastically involved in the LLSC’s Light The Night Walk. In cities across the country, event participants gather together with lanterns and engage in a nighttime walk to show their support and raise funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. Blood cancer patients and survivors carry white lanterns, red lanterns are carried by supporters, and gold lanterns are carried to remember loved ones lost to blood cancer.
This year, UFCW Local 401 members will be entering teams in the Edmonton and Calgary walks. To assist the teams in their fundraising efforts, the Local 401 Executive Board has agreed to sponsor each team with a $1000 donation.
It’s always sad when we lose one of our own. It’s especially sad when you lose someone far too soon who you know had more to accomplish and more to offer working Albertans. Wayne Covey, who was only 64 years old, passed away suddenly on September 1st.
Wayne was a passionate defender and educator of those members he served as a Union Representative of UFCW Local 1118. He loved to talk with people about the history of the labour movement and the battles he had seen on shop floors, in boardrooms, and on picket lines. Wayne talked just as easily to young members as he did the more seasoned and will be remembered best for sharing his wisdom and warmth with all he crossed paths with in the broader labour movement.
His co-workers will say that Wayne also had an amazing memory and throughout many sets of negotiations he could reach back years to remind and even correct employers about what really happened. If an employer disagreed with his recollection, sure enough, they’d go back and check their notes from all those years ago only to discover Wayne’s memory was spot on. His keen eye to detail served Local 1118 members well over the years.
Albert Johnson, Local 1118 President and close friend of Wayne’s, fondly recalls a story that not only showcased Wayne’s dedication to winning grievances but also his self-deprecating sense of humour. Several decades ago during a grievance meeting at Fletchers Meat Packing plant in Red Deer, the employer was being particularly difficult. They had annoyed him so much that he dramatically threw down the book he had in his hand. In this particularly heated exchange he said to the manager, “you’re comparing apples and ‘tom-ah-toes’!” If you knew Wayne, you would understand that he was a man of impressive stature with a full, dark beard and moustache, but he was also a loveable bear of a man. The pronunciation of the word “tom-ah-toe” had caught everyone off guard and suddenly everyone was in fits of laughter, including Wayne. With the tension broken, the employer came back shortly after and gave in to the union’s demands and Wayne won his grievance that day. He had a knack for honesty and candour, and was relatable to everyone he dealt with in getting the job done for the members. And this particular day was no different from any other.
Wayne’s passion for protecting his members in any situation that may come their way was evident in his participation in the early days in the development of the union’s National Defense Fund. The NDF was set up to assist members in their time of greatest need; a picket line. It’s a fund dedicated specifically for members, who elect to pay in, to ensure the best picket pay possible in order to take on a bad employer and see the fight through to the end. He saw the need early on for these types of protections and was proud to participate in its early development.
Our hearts and thoughts are with Wayne’s family, friends and other assorted loved ones within the union he dedicated himself to and the workplaces he represented. He was a unique and strong voice for Alberta workers and will be missed by all who knew him.
The last set of bargaining with your employer Safeway/Sobey’s took place in Edmonton from August 26th up to and including the 29th, 2014.
Your Bargaining Committee’s goal was to work on the rest of the outstanding non-monetary proposals so that we would be in a position to start dealing with the monetary proposals at the next set of bargaining meetings in September.
While that was the Union’s goal, it unfortunately was definitely not the Company’s goal.
Needless to say, this was a frustrating week for your Bargaining Committee with very little accomplished. The Company still has over 40 out of their original 50 proposals on the table, which makes it difficult for the Bargaining Committee to move much further on our proposals and beyond the considerable amount of work already completed.
Having said that, your Bargaining Committee pushed forward, and worked diligently to prepare a full response to all of the outstanding non-monetary proposals. Bargaining can have its highs and lows, so we will remain optimistic that this particular week was one of the lows and the next set will be more productive. We are expecting a full response from the Company on our responses at the next set of bargaining meetings.
Our next set of meetings will be in Calgary from September 30th up to and including October 3rd, 2014.
We have also secured further dates for bargaining and they are:
The Company was not available for the entire month of December. We are also looking at meeting for a week in February and we will advise you of the dates as soon as they are secured.
Should you have any questions in regard to bargaining, please contact your Union Representative.