Striking Dominion grocery store workers — on the picket lines for over a month — held a noon-hour rally at the Quidi Vidi Dominion store in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Sept. 24. Members of the Longshoreman’s Protective Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, $15 and Fairness and others joined the striking Unifor Local 597 members on the line to show their support.
The strike is for higher wages, more full-time jobs and better benefits. It is one of the most important labor battles in North America today.
The 1,400 members of Unifor Local 597 at 11 Dominion stores across the Canadian province of Newfoundland went on strike Aug. 22. More than 80% of workers are classified as part time, with limited access to benefits, and they haven’t received a raise since 2018.
They’re fighting to reverse an insulting attack on their wages. In June the bosses at Loblaw Companies Limited — who own the Dominion grocery chain — cancelled a 2 Canadian dollar an hour raise ($1.52) given to workers when coronavirus exploded. The three-year contract bosses offered workers would only restore half that amount. The strikers also demand sick pay. “This is especially important with the pandemic,” Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice said. Less than half of workers in Canada are entitled to paid sick days.
Loblaw’s profits have soared by almost 21% in the first quarter compared to last year.
The largest private employer in Canada, Loblaw is owned by Galen Weston, the third richest person in the country.
The strike is being watched by workers nationwide because Loblaw has contract talks coming up elsewhere. In Alberta, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 is in negotiations for some 8,500 workers at Real Canadian Superstore, also owned by Loblaw.
Local 597 has been getting solidarity from other unions in the area, including the Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association, which encouraged its members to join striking workers on the picket line. Messages of support and donations to the Dominion workers strike should be sent to Unifor Local 597 at 301-55 Bond St., P.O. Box 922 Station C, St. John’s, NL A1C 5L7, Canada, and firstname.lastname@example.org.