"We want to say thank you for standing up and fighting for the middle-class. We have your back 100%!" — Debora De Angelis, Ontario Director for the UFCW
Toronto (13 Feb. 2017) — They came with flags and signs, chants and spirit. Hundreds of workers and supporters came to show their support and solidarity with the striking workers at Molson Coors in Etobicoke, Ontario.
Temperatures of -16 temperatures did not deter people as they marched from the national office of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) to the plant gates at Molson Coors on Carlingview Drive for a BBQ to support the 320 workers on strike.
Strike against Molson Coors gaining momentum
Members of the Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers (CUBGW), Component 325, have been on strike since January 12 after Molson Coors refused to negotiate a fair contract with them.
“We would much rather be working,” says CUBGW President Robert Folk. “But we’re proud to have refused to be bullied into taking a bargain-basement agreement. We had to say, enough is enough.”
CUBGW is a component of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
“Molson Coors’s behaviour is a textbook example of why income inequality has increased,” said Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurer of NUPGE. "Everyone concerned about growing income inequality in Canada and the loss of middle-class jobs should be supporting the brewery workers.”
Supported by many groups, from teachers to firefighters
The solidarity BBQ was organized to show the support that is behind this strike.
And show support they did.
Members from various unions, ranging from airport workers, firefighters, food and commercial workers, teachers and boards of education workers, and municipal workers turned out in solidarity. Retired brewery workers joined the event, proud of their colleagues for standing up for things they had fought for years before.
"The men and women on strike today are not just sticking up for themselves, they are honouring the gains that have been made over the years, and sticking up for the future of the industry," said Ballermann.
Molson Coors executives rake in millions while asking workers for massive concessions
Robert Folk, CUBGW President, told the crowd, "We just came off a 7-year collective agreement, they [Molson Coors] made money, they made huge profits, In 2015, Molson Coors made a $400M profit, 60% from this brewery. Now we're too expensive for them."
"Can you remember the time when it only took one income earner in a household? We were paid enough to pay the mortgage, pay the bills and have a decent Christmas. Now because of the greed of the corporation, workers can't do that. We need 2 or 3 incomes to sustain what we have. There is enough money in this country to go around, so that everyone can have a good life," said Folk to a cheering crowd.
Good jobs, income inequality, corporate greed major themes in this dispute
In addition to hearing from NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer Ballermann, the crowd heard from a number of unions that pledged their on-going support during this labour dispute.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) spoke on behalf of the 130,000 members across the province, “These big American bosses, they’re driven by corporate greed, that’s all. They want workers to do more with less. But that’s not how we do it here in Canada."
Debora De Angelis, Ontario Director for the UFCW, said, "we want to say thank you for standing up and fighting for the middle-class. We have your back 100%!"
Tim McGuire President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 shared his union's support saying, "I, for one, love Canadian beer. I love good Canadian beer. But I also love good Canadian jobs. And we have to send a message, whether its on picket lines or other places, that the public sector and the private sector are going to stand together and protect good jobs."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE