Warehouse workers in California – who do not currently have a recognized union but who are joining together through Warehouse Workers United – walked off the job this week and began a six day march to protest unsafe working conditions and call for change. You can read more about their brave struggle here, and follow their journey here.
Retail workers, their family members, friends, neighbours, and allies in the labour movement held a colourful rally at the Target Canada headquarters. A diversity of workers’ organizations attended in solidarity including UFCW Canada, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the United Steelworkers, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, and the Workers’ Action Centre. This support is another promising sign of the growing retail workers’ movement in Canada. See stories in the Huffington Post, Toronto Star, and on Mississauga.com.
Despite the fact that HBC sent a letter to Zellers workers asking them not to speak to the media, some workers are exercising their right to freedom of speech and sharing their personal experiences of the Target takeover and Zellers closures. See this story in the Toronto Star. It notes that Walmart acted differently when it took over Woolco stores in 1994. There are likely a number of reasons for the difference in corporate behaviour, including a perception that the Canadian government and people will tolerate such behaviour and the great number of resulting job losses now, but wouldn’t in the mid-1990s. The current Canadian government is clearly comfortable with Zellers’/HBC’s and Target’s decisions, but I believe the Canadian people still think we deserve better.
Retail associates are joining with their co-workers in food production, processing, and warehousing, and together seeking improvements across Walmart workplaces. Many voices and workplaces, but a united call for change. The workers have submitted a formal ethics complaint, and you can read more about their efforts here.
The workers in the warehouse at T&T Grocery in Scarborough voted on whether to join the UFCW Canada on Monday, July 23. However, due to disagreements between the union and the company about which workers were eligible to vote, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has sealed the ballot box until the issues are resolved. This story from the Globe and Mail outlines the key issues which led to the unionization vote, and this story discusses the vote itself.
One quarter of retail workers are employed in food retail. Conditions in grocery stores and distribution centres vary greatly. A group of workers, many of whom are women and immigrants from China, are voting on whether to join UFCW Local 175. Read more about their issues in this Huffington Post story.
The folks at Sum of Us have compiled data on the realities of Walmart.
Walmart at 50 is a creative and interactive site highlighting people’s stories and thoughts about the largest private sector employer in the world. You can add your story too.
Workers at the Yorkdale location of luxury retailer, Holt Renfrew, sought to strengthen their collective voice and improve their working lives through unionization. More than 50% of workers signed cards indicating their desire to join a union, thus an application was filed with the Ontario Labour Board by Local 1000A of UFCW Canada. Ontario labour law requires two steps for union certification – first the signing of cards, and then, one week later, a vote in the store. During that week, the company held many meetings and focus groups in order to dissuade workers from voting for the union. When the vote was held, a majority of workers voted against the union.
I spoke with a number of workers at Holt Yorkdale and was very impressed with their intelligence, drive, and strength. Read news coverage of the vote here.