Thirty-five Toys R Us workers in LaSalle, Québec have made history by becoming the first North American employees of the toy retailer to organize into a labor union. They are now the newest members of IAM Local 1148.
“The combination of poor working conditions, salaries just above minimum wage and annual performance reviews that created a lot of discontent among the majority of the workers, led to this organizing victory,” explained IAM District 11 Organizer Philippe Lapointe.
“We were able to implement an organizing strategy with two employees working in this store,” said Lapointe. “This succeeded because they carefully followed our organizing steps while receiving good training ahead of time. The majority of the workers had signed membership cards before the employer even knew there was a drive taking place.”
The unionization of precarious workers is part of the Québec Federation of Labour’s $15 an hour minimum wage campaign.
“The IAM believes that any workers in entitled to a decent wage and have union defend their rights,” said Lapointe.
The next step is to elect a bargaining committee, guided by District 11 Business Representative Luc Frigon, in preparation for negotiating their first collective agreement.
Like you, I woke on Sunday morning to learn of the horrific violence that took the lives of 50 innocent people at a nightclub in Orlando. Like you, I learned that a single gunman triggered a bloodbath that only ended when members of the law enforcement community risked their own lives to end the carnage. It is gratitude and respect I feel for their bravery, but it is profound grief and sadness I feel for the victims, their families and friends. No words can describe the heartbreak, anger and despair they will confront in the days, weeks and months to come. I can only ask that we add our prayers, our voices and our efforts to those around the world who believe that hate must be answered not with more hate, but with compassion, tolerance and love for one another. This was an attack not just on the LGBT community, but on all of us. I would ask that we make a special effort in the days to come to ease the fears of our children, whose thoughts and dreams will no doubt be haunted by this brutal and senseless tragedy.
The labor movement recognizes April 28 as Workers’ Memorial Day to honor the thousands of workers killed, injured or sickened on the job each year. It’s a day to mourn deeply personal loses, and also a day to strengthen our resolve to ensure workers everywhere are given the safest workplace possible.
The IAM observed Workers’ Memorial Day at its Workers’ Memorial on the grounds of the Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Southern Maryland. IAM Safety and Health Director Jim Reid presided over the ceremony.
International President Bob Martinez spoke about the importance of honoring the fallen and fighting to protect the living.
“Today we come together as a family, to draw strength from each other,” said Martinez. “And while we are here to remember the lives of these good men and women, we are also here to recommit to our obligation to create safer workplaces.”
The first Workers’ Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada.
Gord Falconer will be the new IAM Canadian Chief of Staff, effective May 1, 2016.“Gord has the ability to get things done and his accomplishments as head of our political action efforts is just one example,” said newly-appointed IAM Canadian General Vice President Stan Pickthall. “He was the right man for the job.”Falconer was appointed Grand Lodge Representative in charge of political action in June 2013. He was also responsible for overseeing apprenticeship programs, job planning and skills training. In 2002, Falconer was appointed Canadian Education Representative. He began working with the Machinists in Fall 2009 as Director of Special Projects. He has sat on various Canadian Labour Congress and Ontario Federation of Labour training and technology committees. Falconer has been a union activist since the 1970s, holding positions of president, vice president, treasurer and member of the grievance committee. He also served as an instructor for steward training, leadership development, job evaluation, pay equity, worker empowerment and train-the-trainer.
February 17, 2016 will go down as one of the most bittersweet days for IAM members involved in the Canadian aerospace industry. The day began with announcements that were both good and bad. Air Canada announced it would purchase 45 Bombardier C Series 300 airliners with options for 30 more. The national air carrier will take delivery of its first 135-seat narrow body C Series 300 in 2019. “This is great news for our members in Quebec and our members in Canadian aerospace,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie. “This was the deal Bombardier was looking for, recognition for a state of the art aircraft by the country’s largest airline. Air Canada is to be complimented for its commitment with this announcement and it’s a testament to our 4,500 members at Bombardier.” But the $3.8 billion deal and a $1 billion investment from the Government of Québec wasn’t enough to avoid layoffs. The C Series program has been bleeding Bombardier resources and efforts to gain investment from the federal government have so far been unsuccessful. Bombardier announced it would trim its global workforce by 10 percent or 7,000 workers over the next two years. That cut includes 2,400 workers in Montréal. “Some of those layoffs will be mitigated when Bombardier transfers workers to the production side as the aircraft begin to come off the assembly line,” said IAM Québec Coordinator David Chartrand. Later that morning Air Canada announced it would have its C Series airframe heavy maintenance work performed in Québec by a recognized maintenance provider for a minimum of 20 years following first delivery in 2019. It also said it would commit to help establish a Centre of Excellence for C series aircraft maintenance in the province. In return the Québec Government said it would drop its litigation against Air Canada for violating the Air Canada Public Participation Act. The Act stipulates Air Canada must maintain heavy maintenance work at three Canadian locations, Montréal, Mississauga and Winnipeg. Air Canada sold its heavy maintenance arm to Aveos Fleet Maintenance in 2007. Aveos subsequently folded in 2012 taking 2,600 IAM members’ jobs with it. Air Canada has conducted its heavy maintenance offshore since then. The Québec and Manitoba governments took the airline to court stating it violated the Act and the heavy maintenance work should be returned to Canada. In December 2015, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that the airline had contravened the Act. “We are astounded by the Québec government’s decision regarding the former-Aveos workers in their plight to get their jobs back,” said Ritchie. “We have yet to hear a response from the Manitoba government on what action it will take.”
IAM International President Bob Martinez announced that, effective May 1, 2016, Canadian Chief of Staff Stan Pickthall will succeed Dave Ritchie as Canadian General Vice President. Martinez made the announcement at a meeting of IAM District 250 in Vancouver, BC.
A 42-year member of the IAM, Ritchie has served in leadership roles with the union for over 38 years, the last 20 as Canadian General Vice President. He was instrumental in saving the jobs of thousands of IAM members when Canadian Airlines was restructured in the late 1990’s. He drew a line in the sand with Air Canada in 2004 when the company emerged from bankruptcy, saving the pensions of not only IAM members but those of other unions at the national air carrier.
“Dave Ritchie is what trade unionism is all about. You always knew where you stood with Dave,” said Martinez. “Dave leaves a legacy of determined, honest and compassionate representation for the membership. He’s come a long way from those early days as an electric meter repairman at Sangamo Electric and he should be proud of what he has accomplished. He has served this union with distinction.”
Pickthall, a journeyman steel fabricator, became a member of IAM Local 692 in 1984. He served in a variety of local lodge positions before being elected as Business Representative of IAM District 250 in 1994. He was elected as Directing Business Representative of the district in 2005 and was appointed Ritchie’s chief of staff in 2013.
“I am confident that Stan will serve the Canadian membership and indeed the entire IAM with honesty, compassion and dignity,” said Ritchie.
Bob Martinez, Jr., officially became the 14th International President in the IAM’s 127-year history after taking his oath of office at IAM Headquarters in Upper Marlboro, MD. Martinez takes over for former International President Tom Buffenbarger, who retires after more than 18 years as the IAM’s top officer.
Today in the United States and Canada, we honor heroes among us – the men and women who have served or continue to serve in our armed forces. They’re family, friends, IAM brothers and sisters, or complete strangers. They’re veterans, and today we salute them.
We’re proud of our enduring bond with the military. Thousands of IAM members work on military bases or build the state-of-the-art aircraft, ships and other equipment that keep our service men and women safe. It’s a responsibility we take seriously, and we’re privileged to be able to lend our support.
We stand in awe of their courage, give thanks for their sacrifice and pledge support for when they return home. That means access to good jobs, quality healthcare and an end to the inexplicable tragedy of veteran homelessness. They deserve no less.
Brothers and sisters, we simply wouldn’t have the rights we enjoy today – to fight for a better life, to organize, to speak out against injustice – without these brave men and women.
Our veterans are worthy of our honor, admiration and celebration. We are grateful to each and every one of you. Happy Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada.
Late last week stewards from throughout the greater Toronto area took part in basic stewards training at District 78 offices. No doubt they are eager to get back to their respective workplaces and put their new skills to work assisting the membership. Great work everyone!
Canada kicked its anti-worker Conservative Party out of power this week in the country’s federal elections, giving the more moderate Liberal Party a majority in the Canadian Parliament. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will succeed Conservative Stephen Harper as Prime Minister.
The labor-friendly New Democratic Party (NDP) couldn’t hold onto momentum gained from a recent “orange wave” of NDP support. The NDP will hold 44 of 338 seats in the new Canadian Parliament.
“I am extremely disappointed with the loss of so many veteran members of the NDP in last night’s election,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie. “Despite this Canada-wide setback, the NDP will continue to fight for the interests of Canadian workers. I want to take this opportunity to thank our membership for all of the hard work they provided during the longest election cycle in Canadian history.”