Growth Summit shows way forward for strengthening Canada's best union


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Toronto – April 17, 2015 – UFCW Canada leaders, activists, and organizers from across Canada gathered in Toronto from April 12 to 15 for the second-ever UFCW Canada Growth Summit.

The Summit was dedicated to building on UFCW Canada's strong organizing culture and providing members, activists, and allies with more knowledge and tools to strengthen and grow our union and bring the UFCW advantage to more workers in Canada.

"Workers in Canada need our help because the Canadian dream is being attacked by employers across the country, and by anti-worker governments at all levels," said UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema, as he welcomed the activists to the Growth Summit. "That’s why our work as a union is so important – by winning representation for workers who need it most; by negotiating good contracts that provide decent wages, benefits, and a pension; and by offering education, training, and scholarship opportunities that help members and their families build their job and life skills, we improve the lives of workers every day," said Brother Meinema.

The UFCW Canada leader then welcomed UFCW International President Marc Perrone, who in a rousing address thanked UFCW Canada members, staff, and officers for their steadfast commitment to organizing and growth, and praised UFCW Canada for serving as a model of activism, solidarity, and organizing excellence within our great International Union.

Summit participants heard from UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Pat O'Neill, who outlined the global attack on workers' rights, and the challenges and opportunities that austerity, Work For Less laws, and precarious employment present for union organizing today.   

Over the course of the three-day Summit, activists engaged in several panels and presentation on recent density and growth trends within UFCW Canada and the Canadian labour movement, using digital spaces to build support for grassroots organizing campaigns, and utilizing effective strategies for helping workers of all backgrounds join the union, among other issues.

Participants also heard from a number of special guest speakers, including CFL legend and Toronto Argonauts Vice Chairman Michael "Pinball" Clemons, University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor of Labour Studies Tom Juravich, and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Jocelyn Formsma.

Dr. Leeno Karumanchery discussed the five essential skills of organizing in our increasingly diverse world, while on Day Three, UFCW International Vice President and Director of Organizing, Shaun Barclay, outlined the key growth initiatives that our union is pursuing in the United States to help improve the lives of working people there.

In addition to the stellar lineup of guest speakers, the Summit featured exhilarating musical and theatrical performances by the Jane & Finch Youth Theatre Group, The Real Sun, and the ACT2 Studio stage production of Life on the Line – a compelling original stage play about the struggle of striking women workers at Eaton's in the 1980s.

At the end of three-day summit, activists left more committed and prepared than ever to support the efforts of Canadian workers to grow their strength by joining the UFCW Canada family.

"There are thousands of non-unionized workers who need a strong voice in their workplace, and it is our job – as UFCW activists – to be that voice,” said National President Meinema. “This Summit has helped us build the capacity to reach those men and women, and win the next wave of organizing campaigns, as we strive to bring fairness to all working people in Canada."