Your Voice e-newsletter v15.101

UFCW Local 401 Donates to Calgary Students' Mental Health Campaign

Your Voice ENews #CHHSLetsTalk

UFCW Local 401 is donating $500 to the #CHHSLetsTalk mental health campaign run by students at Crescent Heights High School after sponsoring the campaign for one day on Thursday, January 8, 2015.

Union leadership felt compelled to pitch in and lend a hand after the campaign surpassed its initial $500 budget on the first day due to overwhelming response.

UFCW Local 401 posted messages about the sponsorship on its Facebook page and Twitter account, mirroring the campaign’s promise to donate $0.05 for each retweet and share the posts received.

UFCW Canada’s Digital Action Response Team provided assistance on the sponsorship, helping to ensure that Local 401’s posts were shared nearly two hundred times.

“It’s always amazing to see how far you can help spread the word on something like this,” said UFCW Local 401 Secretary Treasurer Theresa McLaren. “And we did quite well with UFCW members from across Canada helping out.”

UFCW Local 401 took the extra step of topping up its donation to the campaign to show its support for the students’ outstanding efforts.

“The real focus here is on supporting these students,” McLaren added. “We hope our donation will help to bolster their campaign’s success.”

- Theresa McLaren

Noralta Lodge Evicting Temporary Foreign Workers

Your Voice ENews TFW

Labour groups condemn lodge for using and discarding vulnerable workers

Dozens of Temporary Foreign Workers are being kicked out onto the street by an abusive employer.

The workers, who had been living at company housing facilities while working for Noralta Lodge, have been terminated and are being evicted for no apparent reason.

“This is a classic example of how temporary foreign workers get caught in the middle of the flaws with this program,” UFCW Local 401 President Doug O’Halloran said. “These workers come here to work hard and contribute, but get hung out to dry by abusive employers like Noralta Lodge.”

In November, the federal government imposed a two-year ban against Noralta Lodge for misuse and abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Continuing its abusive behavior, Noralta Lodge has used the ban to justify terminating approximately 100 temporary foreign workers.

“Noralta Lodge has been prohibited from bringing in more Temporary Foreign Workers – but that shouldn’t affect the workers who are already here,” O’Halloran said. “The company is lashing out at vulnerable workers, kicking them out of their housing facilities and punishing them for the company’s misdeeds.”

“How we’ve been treated is very disappointing,“ said Roberto Puga, a temporary foreign worker from Chile. “We were told we were going to be part of the Noralta Lodge family and we gave 110 percent to our work for the company. But suddenly things have changed and we’re paying for those changes through no fault of our own.”

In December, Employment Minister Jason Kenney introduced changes to the Program in response to public outcry. Critics say that the changes are nothing more than a public relations strategy and do nothing to address the core problems with the Program.

“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been consistently used to mistreat temporary foreign workers and drive down wages in Alberta and Canada,” AFL President Gil McGowan said. “The program needs to be abolished. But when the Temporary Foreign Worker program is being shut down, it needs to be done in a way that respects the rights of the people who have come to Canada to work.”

UFCW Local 401 and the Alberta Federation of Labour believe the Temporary Foreign Worker Program should be scrapped and the government should invest in real employment opportunities for Canadian and temporary foreign workers alike that include paths to permanent residency for foreign workers.

- Doug O'Halloran

Safeway Gas Bar Employees Raise Concerns! 

Your Voice ENews Safeway Gasbar

A number of Safeway Gas Bar employees in several locations across the province have brought serious concerns to their union in regards to their safety at work. UFCW Local 401 takes the safety concerns of our members very seriously and as a result of these concerns, the union has conducted numerous investigations into the safety of our members at Gas Bar.

As part of the investigations, Local 401 conducted a province-wide survey of all Gas Bar employees to guarantee that every voice is heard. The union has also taken action to protect the safety of our membership by having filed several grievances and tabled proposals to address these issues at the bargaining table. All of these efforts are to ensure that all Gas Bar employees feel safe in their workplace.

The survey conducted in late 2014 polled 401 members on matters involving their personal safety in the Gas Bars. Although employees are often reluctant to criticize their employer, with whom they have a working relationship, it is clear from the survey results and the high response rate received that there are serious concerns regarding the safety of Gas Bar employees that need to be addressed. Importantly, results of the survey show that safety issues are not specific to only a few locations but rather that these concerns are widespread throughout the province.

There were a very high percentage of employees who reported having felt nervous, apprehensive, vulnerable or unsafe when dealing with rude or abusive customers. The issue of working alone, especially after dark, increased these concerns for our members. Furthermore, the location of services provided and the physical setup of Gas Bars raised a number of specific concerns about working alone and increased the risk of theft, robbery or criminal acts.

Based on the survey results, there were a number of employees who requested that the employer take steps for additional security measures to be put into place to protect employees in all Gas Bars. An overwhelming 96% of employees support their union’s efforts in demanding these concerns be addressed and that improved measures be implemented to ensure better health, safety and security for all Gas Bars in Alberta.
To show appreciation for member participation in the survey, UFCW Local 401 held a random draw of completed surveys for an exciting prize. Congratulations to Brandon Hurd of the Manning Safeway Gas Bar who was selected as the winner of a 16GB ipad!
Your union will continue to keep pressing these issues with the employer through the grievance procedure and at the bargaining table to make certain all members are safe when they are at work.

- Dee Mae Beler

UFCW's 11th Biennial Women's Convention and Education Conference 

Your Voice ENews Equity

On December 4th-7th 2014, approximately 250 women and men from across North America met in San Diego to further the ongoing goal of bringing true gender equity and equality to fruition.

We as a labour movement still have a long way to go in terms of pay equity as well as job and political opportunities for women but the UFCW International Union has done a remarkable job in bringing about change for all women in both Canada and the United States by negotiating contracts that not only ensure pay equity but also equality in terms of rights and access to advancements in the workplace.

While activities of the San Diego convention spanned four days, the education component was achieved over three days. Workshops available included: Making Politics Work for Us, Building Power for Better Contracts, Women Organizing Workers, and Recognizing Your Own Power as a Leader.

Each workshop focused on many of the unique issues facing women in the workplace and in the community in terms of activism and availability of resources to ensure their participation.  And of course, there was a healthy dose of Canadian content to ensure that all delegates were learning from each other’s trials and triumphs.

There were a number of interesting speakers on hand including California State Senator and former California Federation of Labour President, Connie Leyva.  Leyva described the support that she enjoyed from UFCW and her community during her campaign for the State Senate as well as the challenges she faced as a woman seeking office.

There were many inspiring women who spoke about the challenges women face when seeking office or engaging in union activism. While each had a unique story, there were many similarities as well.  One of the most striking similarities involved the support the speakers received from the labour movement, including all of the encouragement they received from union leadership and members, men and women alike.

Canada’s own Deb Higgins, currently the Mayor of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan and former Minister of Labour in the Saskatchewan NDP government, also addressed the convention.  Higgins shared her stories of coming up through the ranks, starting out as a grocery store worker and UFCW member in Moosejaw and talked about the unwavering support of the women and men of UFCW in her election to the Saskatchewan NDP.  She gave particular credit to UFCW Local 401 President, Doug O’Halloran, for lending the services of our very own veteran campaign manager and Union Representative, Larry Zima, who assisted Higgins throughout the election campaign.

The convention was an overwhelming success with great feedback from all convention attendees, including the small delegation from Local 401.  Those who attended the convention said they were reinvigorated and better equipped to return to their workplaces and communities to become more involved in their local union, local politics – or both!

Together, with our brothers and sisters, women will achieve true equality by being afforded opportunities based on the qualities they bring to the table. I am very proud to say that UFCW has always been clear and unequivocal in their support for achieving this goal.

- Christine McMeckan

The Importance of Shop Stewards in the Workplace

The most effective weapon for any busy Union Representative in the advancement of worker’s rights in the workplace is a strong and engaged group of Shop Stewards.

Quite often, Shop Stewards are the unions most trusted and relied upon group of members in the workplace, which makes consistent communication between Stewards and their Union Representatives critical to ensure that Representatives stay up-to-date with the ongoing issues in the workplace and hear about these matters based on the first-hand experience of Stewards.

There are many ways for the active Steward to communicate with their Representative that are quick, efficient and confidential. One of the most obvious of these is for a Steward to simply call the union office and request to speak with their Representative or to leave a voicemail and provide an appropriate window of time for the call to be returned. While a telephone call may be one of the simplest forms of communication, it is not necessarily the most efficient in today’s world where most people (including all UFCW Local 401 Union Representatives) have access to a smart phone or tablet.

As such, one of the best timesaving forms of communication between Stewards and Representatives is via e-mail. With e-mail, the Steward can provide more detail and a much calmer account of the facts surrounding the situation they wish to communicate to their Representative. As an added bonus, e-mails can be attached to a grievance file or can be used in a meeting with the employer. Accordingly, Shop Stewards are encouraged to use e-mail in their future communications with Union Representatives.

Another great way for all members to connect with their union, particularly their Union Representative, is through the UFCW Local 401 General Membership Meetings that are held monthly throughout the province. What makes these monthly meetings such an effective form of connecting to the union is that not only can one keep abreast of all of the ongoing campaigns and news of the union, but one may also have a chance to interact with Union Representatives face-to-face, which is an opportunity not always available to our members in the workplace.

Based on my experience as a full-time Union Representative, I can tell you that the most effective grievances I have worked on have been concluded because of the positive communication between the grieving member, the Shop Steward and myself. No lawyer, Union Representative or executive can ever replace the detailed notes and observations of a Steward in their account of an issue or grievance with an employer as this immediate reporting of an incident is often most useful in resolving a matter for one of our members.

Finally, while it is imperative for Stewards to have strong communication with their Union Representatives, ideally the best-case scenario is one where all members effectively speak with their Representatives in order to cut-down on some of the legwork that can often hold up grievances or meetings with employers.

As a reminder, this is YOUR union and you have to be as involved as time will allow you to be in order for UFCW Local 401 to best provide you with the service you deserve.

- Stephen Reed