Our lives have been changed.
The shock of the events of September 11 is still with us, and will remain with us for a very long time. The deep, gut-wrenching horror, the awful awareness of our vulnerability, and the realization that we, as a western society, have enemies who would resort to such brutality, have left indelible marks.
Terrorist attacks have a way of hurting so many more people than the immediate victims. Especially so in this case, we are all made to feel the loss.
It is not just because thousands lost their lives, and thousands more will carry the scars. It is not because of the billions of dollars lost and the years of rebuilding that will be needed. It isn’t that so many of us have personal ties to the devastation that was wrought, nor even that all of us will be affected by the day-to-day impact we are certain to feel. The fact is that we have entered a new era, and that after generations of peace in North America, during which wars and conflicts were things that happened in far-off lands, the terrible violence has now been brought to our doorstep.
Our lives have indeed been changed.
The attacks of September 11 may have taken place in the United States, but their consequences are global in their impact. For us, as Canadians, developments in the U.S. – and elsewhere in the world as the “war on terrorism” is waged – will be keenly felt.
We share a continent and largely open border with the United States. We share much of our history and culture. We share the pain of what has happened, and we will share in the recovery and rebuilding of a shattered North American psyche.
We share, too, in the freedom of our societies, and the powerful will to continue in the face of adversity. We share the indomitable pioneering spirit that has made us what we are today, and the tradition of solidarity that compels us to help our neighbours in their time of need.
Our roles as trade unionists pale by comparison to the horror of recent days, and the events that are sure to follow. We know that strong action is as inevitable as it is necessary, yet we also hope that response will be appropriately measured – so the goals of prevention and justice are met.
As trade unionists, we also have a role to play. Indeed, many union members in the United States are already on the front lines of the relief and rebuilding efforts, skilled trades working in solidarity with members of the police, firefighter, and medical emergency unions. Union members across the U.S. and Canada are working night and day to assist in whatever way they can – raising money and collecting needed goods to assist, donating blood, and in many other ways. Much more information on labour’s response can be found at the web sites of the Canadian Labour Congress (www.clc-ctc.ca) and the AFL-CIO (www.aflcio.org).
Finally, it is incumbent on us as union members to remember in this time of crisis the solidarity that binds us. We work side-by-side with people whose origins encompass the world. At work, in schools, in our communities, we share our lives with Canadians of every ethnicity and national background. There is always a danger that some individuals will, spurred by recent events, react with senseless intolerance. It is up to us all to ensure that the tolerance that makes us Canadian – and, indeed, is the basis of the freedom we enjoy – remains unviolated.
UFCW Canada Local 452P members at the ADM flour mill in Port Colborne ON are back on the job after a four-week strike. The 80 members ratified a three-year agreement in mid-August. The agreement wins them wage increases of 4% retroactive to last November, 2% in the second year, and a $200 lump sum in the third. There are improvements in health benefits, safety shoe allowance, bereavement leave, pensions, stock purchase plan, and language in several areas.
More: Bob Linton, Kevin Shimmin, UFCW Canada Locals 175 & 633, www.ufcw175.com
UFCW Canada Local 503 members at the Métro Supermarché A. Gagnon in Charny QC went back to work earlier this month after a four-week lockout. The 62 members won a big improvement in their wage scale progression, returning to a 600-hour benchmark instead of 832 hours, a major gain for independent stores in Québec. They also won wage increases of 2-4% plus pension and other improvements.
More: Murielle Desjardins, UFCW Canada Local 503
UFCW Canada Local 832 members at Granny’s Poultry in Blumenort MB near Steinbach have ratified a first agreement. The 320 workers, who process and package chickens and turkeys, gain major improvements in wages and benefits, including wage increases from $0.94-1.38 plus lump sum payments of $125 in each of the next two years. Reclassifications will see some members moved into new, higher-paying jobs.
Increased employer contributions to the health-and-welfare benefit will save members more than 20-cents per hour. There are major improvements in vision, dental, and pension plans and numerous workplace changes.
More: Don Keith, UFCW Canada Local 832, www.ufcw832.com
UFCW Canada national staff members are pictured (PDF version) at their annual meeting, held last week at Mont Sainte-Anne, Beaupré QC. Directions starts a new feature this issue with a “Staff Snapshot”, profiling one staff member each issue.
UFCW Canada Staff Snapshot
The former president of UFCW Canada Local 301W (now part of 501) in Québec, Brother Bolduc joined the union as a worker at Carling-O’Keefe Breweries. He was appointed to the full-time staff of UFCW Canada in 1996 as the Québec Assistant to the Director.