After more than six weeks on strike at Dominion stores in Newfoundland, Canada, more than 100 pickets from Unifor Local 597 and their supporters rallied in the rain Oct. 8 in the parking lot at a nonunion No Frills supermarket in Paradise, near the provincial capital St. John’s. No Frills, like Dominion, is a subsidiary of Loblaw Companies Limited, owned by Galen Weston, one of the richest capitalists in Canada.
“The weather is not going to stop us. We’re in this for the long haul,” Kim Neil, a striker who has worked at Dominion for 30 years, told the press. Neil has been on the picket line twice before, during a 1997 strike and a lockout in 2003. “This is different this time. I think people are sick of being pushed around, not being treated fairly. Fair wages, sick days for part-timers, more full-time jobs. We want to work for Dominion, but they are not willing to be fair.”
Strikers loudly chanted, “Listen Galen hear our cry, when we’re screwed, we multiply,” and “One day longer, one day stronger.” The strike by 1,400 members of the Unifor local at the 11 Dominion stores is one of the most important labor battles in North America today. It occurs against a backdrop of an increasing number of other strikes and organizing battles. Loblaw is the largest private employer in Canada. More than 80% of Dominion workers are classified as part time, with limited access to benefits. And they haven’t received a raise since 2018.
The Dominion workers are fighting to reverse an insulting attack on their wages. In June Loblaw bosses unceremoniously cancelled a 2 Canadian-dollar-an-hour raise ($1.50) given to “essential” workers when coronavirus exploded. The three-year contract the bosses are offering workers would only restore half that amount.
The day before the rally, Unifor 597 pickets had organized collections for the Newfoundland Food Bank in front of all 11 Dominion stores. “We’re getting support from the public, and we wanted to give back,” one worker said in a video posted on the union website.
After almost two months on strike, the Dominion workers need solidarity in their fight. Messages of support and donations 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, or firstname.lastname@example.org.