Union Wins Fair Agreement in Struggle Against Pandemic Profiteer

Bottle-packaging workers in Toronto are back on the job after nine weeks on the picket line. Through their solidarity and determination, USW Local 8300 members won a fair agreement and a retroactive wage increase.

After steadfastly working through the pandemic, the workers at Rexplas, a Richards Packaging company, rejected the company’s original contract offer that opened with a wage freeze. Many of the workers make just above minimum wage and commute long hours on public transit to get to work.

The 35 members of USW Local 8300 – a group that is predominantly racialized women – do quality control, packaging and shipping. Some have worked for the company for as long as 35 years. They took a stand against the unfair contract offer and began their strike on April 26.

On June 27, the workers won a new and better agreement from the employer – through their strength and unity.

“The strikers at Rexplas went back to work with their heads held high knowing that their strength and resolve through the two-month work stoppage won a strong no-concessions contract with wage increases significantly higher than originally offered,” said Carolyn Egan, Steelworkers Toronto Area Council President.

The new deal includes wage increases of 5% over four years, including a retroactive wage increase dating back to 2019 – before the pandemic. The workers also won a signing bonus.

“The workers who were primarily racialized women linked their struggle to other global fightbacks such as the farmers’ strike in India where many of them had relatives actively involved. Their confidence grew as the days went by and the solidarity from their community and other unions helped them take on a profitable corporation and win,” said Egan.

The struggle was a difficult one – with just a small group of workers up against a pandemic profiteer – a company that generated massive additional profits by exploiting the pandemic.

Richards Packaging reported $69 million in additional revenue due to the pandemic, and rewarded executives with big bonuses that increased compensation by 180%.

“With courage and solidarity, the members of Local 8300 fought back against corporate greed and won a better contract,” said Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director.

Thanks to all those who supported the workers in this tough fight by sharing their story on social media and by visiting the picket line and solidarity events.

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