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UFCW Canada activists representing over 20 different local unions gathered in Winnipeg from July 8 to 10 to build strength, solidarity and security at the 26th Annual National Defence Fund (NDF) Convention.
Created in 1986, the NDF is dedicated to providing UFCW Canada members with further financial security during strikes and lockouts. Every year, UFCW local unions from across North America send delegates to the NDF Convention where they commit a busy three days to developing international networks, sharing industry insights, and identifying areas for cooperation.
UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley opened this year’s convention by reinforcing the importance of expanding the union’s activist culture through greater solidarity in the community and by fully supporting politicians and political parties who fully support working families. “As activists for Canada’s most progressive union, we have the responsibility to fight for higher workplace standards and security in our core industries,” said Brother Hanley in his welcoming address to the 200-plus conventioneers. “And, at more than a quarter million members strong, we also have the ability to take a leading role in creating a Canada where every government, at every level of the political system, puts the interests of working families first when developing the laws and policies that impact our lives.”
Building on National President Hanley’s call to action, UFCW Vice-President Mark Lauritsen brought greetings from the International and emphasized the dire need of activists to stop right-wing Tea Party politicians by helping US President Barack Obama to win re-election this year. As the UFCW Director for the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division, Brother Lauritsen also provided delegates with a report on the state of the American packinghouse sector.
The plenary session also included a well-received presentation by Ergonomist Curtis VanderGriendt, from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), who focused on musculoskeletal disorders and how workers and employers can prevent this painful and debilitating condition. While most NDF members continue to work in industrial settings like packinghouses or mills, a growing number also make their livings in non-industrial environments like retail or hospitality, which present their own MSD risks and hazards for workers.
For the balance of the convention, delegates joined their respective sector councils for the packinghouse, hospitality, soft drink, flour milling and retail industries. Professor Kendra Coulter from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario took time to join the retail council where she led a conversation about gaining union density in the retail industry, and the challenges that activists encounter when organizing a young, part-time workforce.
To find out more about the National Defence Fund, visit www.ufcw.ca/ndf.