Dominion grocery strikers expand picketing, seek support

By Beverly Bernardo
November 2, 2020

After more than eight weeks on strike, 100 Dominion grocery chain workers took their picket line to the Loblaw distribution center at the Donovans Industrial Park in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Oct. 15. This warehouse supplies Loblaw-owned outfits across the Canadian province of Newfoundland, including to Dominion, No Frills, Bidgood Fresh Mart, Cash and Carry St. John’s, Your Independent Grocer, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Loblaw is owned by Galen Weston, one of the richest capitalists in Canada.

The strike by 1,400 Unifor Local 597 members at Dominion is one of the most important labor battles taking place in North America today.

Workers from seven of the 11 Dominion stores in the province returned to picket the facility the next day, stopping trucks from going in and out for a period of time. In a video posted on the Unifor website, national union official Chris MacDonald tells Loblaw to “expect the unexpected” as long as the company refuses to return to the bargaining table.

“We’re really serious about this strike,” one worker says in the video. “The wages that we’re currently receiving are not enough. It’s like living paycheck to paycheck hoping I have enough to live. There’s no reciprocation that they at all value us as human beings rather than literal numbers and cogs in their machine.”

The strike began Aug. 22 after workers overwhelmingly rejected Loblaw’s offer of a 1 Canadian dollar an hour wage increase over three years. Workers haven’t received a raise since 2018. Eighty percent of the workers are part time, and more than half earn the provincial minimum wage of CA$12.15 an hour ($9.24).

“The workers are asking for a living wage, but ironically it seems that Loblaw is looking to starve out its own employees,” Unifor 597 President Carolyn Wrice told the press. “The only way this ends is through fair bargaining.” Loblaw bosses say they will not improve the rejected offer and no talks are planned.

Other Loblaw workers who face similar conditions are threatening to strike as well. Workers at a Loblaw warehouse in Moncton, New Brunswick, have already taken a strike vote. MacDonald told VOCM News that the Dominion workers strike has struck a nerve across the whole company, because in July Loblaw bosses, like at the Newfoundland groceries, eliminated an “essential worker” CA$2-an-hour raise extended when the coronavirus outbreak hit.

Dominion workers need solidarity in their fight. Messages of support and donations should be sent to Unifor Local 597, 301-55 Bond St., P.O. Box 922 Station C, St. John’s, NL A1C 5L7, Canada, or