Striking Dominion workers call for cross-country action on live-streamed rally

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Members of Unifor Local 597 on a picket line at a Dominion store in Newfoundland.

As support grows for striking grocery store workers, Unifor Local 597 members in Newfoundland stood up to their billionaire boss, Galen Weston Jr., and asked Canada’s workers to turn their support into action.

“Loblaws should be ashamed of themselves. This is an employer, Galen Weston, who has $8.7 million in equity. This is a company that pays its CEO Sarah Davis $6.7 million a year in total compensation,” began Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This is an employer that’s eliminating full-time jobs and creating part-time jobs. Why? So that they can pay you less and not provide you benefits.”

More than 1,400 Dominion grocery workers went on strike August 22, 2020. In 2019, Dominion eliminated 60 full-time positions in Newfoundland stores. Today, 75 per cent of workers are paid less than $15 an hour. In July, the company clawed back the $2 an hour pandemic wage premium.

“Galen do you have any idea what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet? We were there for you when you needed us most – we stocked your shelves, we showed up every day and kept your customers happy. Now it’s your turn to be there for us,” asked Kim Youden of the Loblaw Co. CEO. Youden is a mother of three  who makes fruit trays for Dominion and has been limited to part time hours for 7 years.

The strike in Newfoundland has closed 11 stores across the island, as workers unite under the growing demand for fairness, and a return to full-time work with benefits and decent wages.

“A generation ago, you could raise a family on a salary from Loblaws,” said Chris MacDonald, Unifor Assistant to the National President. “But today, fairness isn’t so simple. Loblaw’s failed strategy of part-time work and low wages must be stopped.”

Linda MacNeil and Scott MacDonald with members of Local 597 during a virtual press conference.

“At the height of the pandemic, Weston called thee workers heroes. Then, he cancelled the $2 premium pay in the middle of the pandemic,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director.

MacNeil stood at a St. John’s picket line on Monday morning alongside striking workers, and asked viewers of the virtual event to sign a petition at demanding decent wages for not just striking Dominion workers, but all grocery store workers in Canada.

“I think it’s shameful what they’ve done to people who have given their working lives to make them profit,” said Robert Peddle, Unifor Local, 597 member, and 40-year Dominion worker.

Peddle began working for Dominion in 1980, and spent the last 20 years as a receiver. Peddle’s full-time position was declared redundant in 2019, he is now asked to do the same work for $5 less per hour, on part-time hours, with no health benefits, vacation, or paid sick days.

“What we’re seeing in Newfoundland is not unique,” continued MacDonald. “We see this across the country as businesses shift toward a model that’s reliant on part-time work, tied to minimum wages.”

Canada’s workers are now demanding better, with pressure increasing on retailers to pay all workers a decent wage.

Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice took time on Monday to thank the countless local small businesses, unions, organizations like $15 and Fairness NL, and workers who have stopped by the picket lines or added their name to the growing call to action for Fair Pay Forever.

The stories of Dominion workers like Cherie, a minimum-wage cake decorator and single mother to two young boys, are all too familiar to Canada’s workers.

In a video testimonial that’s gone viral, Cherie describes not only financial, but the emotional toll of disrespect and low wages.

Watch Cherie’s story below, and share this if you relate with her story, or if you believe that retail workers deserve fair pay forever.