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B.C. workers condemn union as UFCW 1518 staff shore up support with a petition demanding an end to lockout

It’s been three weeks since UFCW 1518 made a shockingly anti-labour decision to lock out its staff. Now the union’s own rank-and-file members are speaking out against the decision and asking their elected representatives to return to the bargaining table.

“We want to get back to the table, so that UFCW 1518 can get back to representing its members – these workers need their union support staff,” says Al Bieksa, United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 2009 President, who represents the locked-out UFCW 1518 staff.

On April 8, USW Local 2009 members started picketing outside the UFCW 1518 office. On April 20, they launched a petition that has gathered tremendous support, boasting over 500 signatures from UFCW 1518 members and concerned members of the public alike, demanding that UFCW 1518 end the lockout.

Over half of the responses came from UFCW 1518’s own members – the rank-and-file voices that work in grocery, cannabis, food processing, retail and more.

“This is incredibly disappointing as a member and activist of our union to see this happening. It does not bode well for our upcoming rounds of bargaining,” said a UFCW 1518 member who signed the petition.

“This is very disheartening to feel unsupported as a member of UFCW 1518 by having employees locked out of their workplace. Who is going to do the valuable work the reps do tirelessly every day to support members in their workplaces?” said another petition-signer.

“UFCW 1518 is their union, and it’s clear they’re not ok with it using anti-worker tactics,” said Bieksa, adding, “the employer started this fiasco, and they have the power to end it. Bargain a fair collective agreement, so your staff can get back to helping your members improve their working conditions and wage increases: it’s that simple. We just want all workers to have the best collective agreements possible, and we’re going to keep fighting for that. We hope UFCW 1518 is ready to get on board.”

Since the lockout started, UFCW 1518 members have been contacting their locked-out representatives directly because they cannot get through to the union to help them with their questions and concerns.

“The employer is not keeping up with demand, and it’s hurting their members. Grievances, harassment complaints, WorkSafeBC issues – who knows what’s getting missed. Bottom line, these members are not getting the representation they’re entitled to, and that’s not fair to them,” said Bieksa.

“What UFCW 1518 is doing to its staff is divisive, and you can bet the mega-corporations that employ their members will try to capitalize on the chaos,” added Bieksa. “We want to work with UFCW 1518 to stop a storm before it starts.”

The locked-out USW Local 2009 members delivered their petition to UFCW 1518 as well as to the National and International division of the union. Bieksa is hopeful this compelling cry from the labour community will bring an end to the shocking battle.

“It’s been an ugly struggle to say the least, but the strong show of solidarity transpiring between our members and the UFCW 1518 members is amazing,” Bieksa says. “Workers supporting workers – that’s the bread and butter of the labour movement, and that’s how we’ll win fairness for all workers.”

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For further information:

Al Bieksa, USW Local 2009 President, 604-842-2900, abieksa@usw2009.ca
Brett Barden, USW Communications, 604-445-6956, bbarden@usw.ca

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