How the UAW organized in anti-union country

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

 Abstract: Those curious about the development of organized labour watched in awe as the UAW successfully organized the only non-union Volkswagen auto plant in the world. They did this after two failed attempts, and in an environment where business wields significant authority over local economies. Unbeknownst to a lot of workers looking for inspiration, this successful effort came after rank-and-file members reformed their union; chasing out corruption and ineffective leadership. Rather than cast away their union cards, they turned to democratize their union, and have benefited from record wage increases, and a growing appreciation for the power workers hold.

Twice before, the United Auto Workers (UAW) had tried and failed to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A decade later, many of the same workers, who were inspired by the union’s ability to win against ‘the Big 3’ automakers, voted overwhelmingly to support the union, turning the company’s sole non-union plant (on Earth) into a UAW shop. Cited professor Josh Murray shines light on what led to this change, calling what the UAW accomplished against Ford, Chrysler, Stellantis – the Big 3 – and now Volkswagen as the “politics of possible”: once there is evidence that a movement can win, it then leads to future successes. People who were otherwise demotivated now have an example that what they want is possible, and become inspired to act on it.

Rolling on from this victory, the UAW, having collected enough ‘union cards’ to call for an election, is slated to have Mercedes workers in Vance, Alabama vote to become a UAW shop by May 17. The hope is the UAW, and another group of workers, find success by coming together and demanding better.

Understanding the breadth of this success in a deeply hostile, anti-union environment starts with the workers on the shop floor who, twice before, opted to vote against the union and to entrust the company to resolve their problems. What changed was the pandemic economy; the success of the UAW; the efforts inside the union to snuff out corruption; a new influx of investment and younger-workers; and ignored promises by the company created the concoction necessary for workers to find the courage to organize themselves into a bargaining unit.

When workers come together, anything is possible.

Most of us join already certified bargaining units that are – like many of our GSU contracts – decades old. We are then a generation or two away from the first effort, led by workers, to certify our union, and the reasons why they did it. Yet we benefit from their efforts.

To win that sort of legal recognition today, workers climb a long, steep, and treacherous hill to their first contract. The ‘politics of possible’, namely with organizing unions, has been hindered purposefully by legislation which puts worker organizers’ jobs on the line, face hostility and threats in the workplace, and the company in a place to drag out negotiations for years, stiffing workers on getting their first contract. This, combined with employer efforts to scare, intimidate, threaten, or bargain with individual employees to undermine the collective efforts, leads many workers to not bother democratizing their workplace (https://www.epi.org/publication/union-membership-data/.)

This is what makes this UAW victory in Tennessee so remarkable.

What happened the last time around?

First, in 2014, when the UAW first announced that it would attempt to organize the Chattanooga plant, Volkswagen silently supported their efforts, considering the German automaker had, at every single one of their other plants (even in Mexico), some form of worker representation. They invited the UAW in which resulted in a petition to unionize skilled trades responsible for the plant.  The petition was successful, but they lost the broader election. One of the most cited reasons for this was not because of an aggressive employer campaign, but as the result of Senator Bob Corker suggesting that if workers chose to unionize, they would see tax incentives withheld from the company and their new SUV line with them. This implication, according to the organizers at the time, persuaded or scared enough workers away from voting for the union.

In 2019, the UAW tried to unionize the facility again. Almost on queue, it was Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee who came to the company’s rescue, who pleaded with the workers during a coordinated facility visit that to join the union would mean job loss. Volkswagen changed their tune towards the union, too, and hired a union buster which drafted anti-union leaflets to be provided by middle-management, and a general crackdown on pro-union campaigning on company property.

After two failed attempts, all the UAW had accomplished was a minority union made up of skilled trade workers – Local 42 – which continued to advocate for workers organizing throughout the decade. They made little progress with their peers, until the conditions in the company changed.

Broken Promises, and a reformed union

Before the second vote in 2019, worker organizers thought it was an opportune time to try again to unionize their peers. This was until their own union let them down. 

Starting the investigation in 2019, the highest echelon of union officers, members, and executives in the UAW were investigated and later arrested by federal authorities who were caught perpetuating a mass conspiracy of embezzlement, kickbacks, and bribes by the employer. Deciding to vote for a union which had its most powerful officers accused of siphoning union dues for personal gain was the figurative nail in the coffin for the 2019 vote.

In the UAW proper, the same nail in the coffin for the Volkswagen organizing drive, had the opposite effect amongst a group calling themselves Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD). They called for mass-democratization in the UAW, the end of all tiered pay structures, a more aggressive, member-driven form of negotiations, and most importantly, the end of corruption. The most notable change to institute the end of corruption was a referendum for “one member, one vote” to elect their union’s leadership.

Elected along with the reform group was President Shawn Fain, the now famous UAW leader who motivated his membership to take on the Big 3, with an ambition to unionize all automakers in the South. Through his efforts and the UAWD, workers who previously opposed the union changed their mind. Caleb Michalski, a safety lead, was one of those workers.

This meant, that by the time the UAW had finished negotiations or striking against the Big 3, the workers in Chattanooga were again piqued by these obvious reforms, and after safety requests and promised pay improvements were not respected by the company, the workers had enough, and voted overwhelmingly to have UAW represent them. 

Workers and unions need to maintain their Independence

By GSU general secretary Steve Torgerson

In the long history of labour relations, unions and organized workers have long been regarded as places of strength and solidarity, fighting tirelessly to protect people’s rights and interests in the face of corporate power. However, as the landscape of labour evolves, so too do the challenges we face, particularly when it comes to maintaining the independence and integrity of our unions.

Unions have always fought for improvements to working conditions and the betterment of society at large. The ways working people and their unions do this work is through advocacy, lobbying, collaboration with other like-minded organizations and continually pushing the agenda of working people – a fair and safe day of work for a fair day’s pay.

Unions have to be careful and not get entangled the agenda of business or political entities, often at the expense of their members. It often starts with compromise and concession as we push to move our cause forward. However, the lines between advocacy and appeasement can blur, and the essence of trade unionism is tested.

Imagine a scenario where GSU is called upon to endorse company decisions that directly undermine the rights and well-being of workers. Perhaps it’s longer hours without adequate compensation, cuts to essential benefits, or even layoffs disguised as “restructuring,” but in return the company would guarantee that all other members would be left alone. In the face of such challenges, the temptation to compromise can be strong, especially when pressured by management or influenced by political agendas.

But let’s pause to consider the potential impacts of such actions. When unions are co-opted to justify decisions that harm their own members, the very trust and credibility upon which they rely are eroded. Workers who once looked to their union as a place of power and solidarity may now question its commitment to their interests. Disillusionment sets in, leading to disengagement and apathy.

Moreover, internal dissent festers when the voices of workers in their union are silenced or sidelined in favour of backroom deals and secret negotiations. As union members, we entrust our representatives with the duty of advocating fiercely on our behalf, not sacrificing our rights at the altar of expediency or convenience.

Co-opt – to divert to or use in a role different from the usual or original one.

This idea of being co-opted is something that GSU thinks about as an organization, but we also think about it for our individual members. Companies, Associations, and political parties may try to co-opt the union, just as politicians and groups will try to co-opt GSU members.
GSU and its membership must never forget our fundamental role is to make workplaces better, fight for others so they can have what we have and support of communities as the places that house our society. As we engage in politics, lobbying or participating in associations or groups, we must not let this change our bedrock priorities. If we begin trading favours, or ignoring some bad to accomplish some good, we put in jeopardy our purpose. If we go down the road to being co-opted, we leave a lot to be risked.

First and foremost, unions risk the erosion of trust and credibility among union members, and this cannot be overstated. As workers, we risk this same erosion of trust and credibility among our friends, family and members of our communities. How can we continue to support an organization or person that fails to adhere to their beliefs?

Furthermore, internal dissent inevitably brews when workers’ voices are drowned out by the clamor of compromise. As union members, we expect our representatives to be unwavering in their commitment to our cause, and unswayed by the allure of backroom deals, secret negotiations, or trading tomorrow for today.

Let us not forget the fundamental principles upon which the labour movement was founded: solidarity, empowerment, and the unwavering belief in the power of collective action. These are the same values our parents and grandparents had when living in their communities and cities. We must let these values guide us in our quest for justice and equality in the workplace and our homes.

As we navigate the maze of co-optation, let us remain vigilant in our defense of union independence and you, its members. We, the rank-and-file members, must hold ourselves accountable and demand transparency and accountability in all our dealings.

GSU will work to not allow itself to be co-opted by business or government, even if it means making the hard choices and maintaining our focus on our members. And I ask you all to do the same. When someone from some group comes to you offering you something today by selling out something for tomorrow, think twice. Think about what happens if you vote for a person or party that promises something you want now but also has policies that will harm you or your community tomorrow. Making the right choice is not easy and it is not made quickly, we all must ask questions and consider the consequences of our actions and not bow to pressure to change our belief that workers deserve a fair work, prosperous lives and to return home safe each day.

Together, we can continue to maintain the true essence of trade unionism – a force for positive change and a strong voice against the forces of exploitation and oppression in our society.

Labor Notes Conference 2024, April 19 to 21

by GSU staff rep Mason Van Luven

With a delegation from ILWU Canada and their Young Workers’ Committee, I was given an opportunity to attend North America’s largest trade union biannual conference organized by Labor Notes, a labour media and organizing project which has “… put the movement back in the labor movement since 1979”. This conference was held in Chicago, and it brought together thousands of trade unionists from across the globe to attend workshops and lectures explicitly about winning against our employers and government (which can also be an employer), but also about reforming your union from the bottom-up. Starting on April 19 and finishing on April 21, I was able to hear from trade unionists talk about or explore a number of issues facing the working-class, and how their independent struggles with management, corporations, and even fellow workers were woven together with other trade unionists for us to learn from one another.

What struck me the most about this conference was how rank-and-file members across the
country, across industries, and across different unions were organizing themselves to ensure
that their union was all about one thing: a member-led militancy.

Business Unionism – an important part of your history.

So commonplace is business unionism, many workers – those in unions included – have likely never heard of the alternatives to how a union ought to operate. So often, too, are workers not shown their own history, so by the time they join the workforce they are left without knowing how powerful their labour, if organized with other workers, can actually be.

With reform being the general theme of the conference, what many of these trade unionists
were doing in their own unions was paying homage to the great worker-led struggles of history, and attempting to turn their union away from business unionism, an idea of union bureaucracy devised and then popularized in the post-war era.

Before then, unions had minimal means to be legally recognized in the workplace, which motivated unions to organize more broadly, stretching their efforts into the community. Workers, having no seat at the table, had to demand improved wages through other means – such as job action – instead of at the collective bargaining table we are familiar with today. This resulted in unions which were aggressively member-led, built on mass coalitions around progressive issues to curb employer presence in the media, the community, and in public office.

In the post–war era, things changed. With the federal government applying an emergency P.C. 1003 in 1944 which protected workers’ right to organize, employers were then also required to recognize their workers’ chosen union. This legally strengthened their legitimacy in the workplace, and for the first time in Canadian history, workers thought they could truly sit across from their employers as equals.

This changed the ethos of the labour movement. No more did members have to organize
themselves, parade in the street, publish their own work, or ever worry about poverty. Those in the movement who believed workers should not turn away from their roots, were snuffed out. This, over a generation, took the movement out of the labour movement, as teams of professional staff got cozy with the company with the promise of curbing their members from
mass participation in the workplace, in the political arena, and even in their communities.
This is when union membership became more about it being an insurance policy than as a
means to empower a worker to improve their lot in life while also improving the lot of others.

Reform is coming, and it is working.

I cannot stress how impactful listening to other worker struggles were on me. One session in
particular, entitled “How We’re Turning Our Union Around”, had a Business Agent (which is
equivalent to my role as a Staff Representative) decide to quietly root for a reform caucus in his Teamster Union called “Teamsters for a Democratic Union” (TDU). This was after it was
unveiled that for years executive officers had been finding ways to get allies elected, and selling off union assets to give themselves wage increases. Once his support was shared with these officers, his career was purposely ended a year short of qualifying for retirement. Rather than quit, he kept on fighting with the TDU, which led to a TDU slate being elected, these corrupt officers removed, and a return to an aggressively member-led local.

The same was evident in a meeting with the same UAW workers who took on the Big 3
automakers this past year, and won remarkable victories in the media and for their collective
agreement. TDU, and their impressively organized reform caucus, led the charge on similar
gains against UPS. I heard from teachers and public sector workers who had to literally fight
against elected state representatives, governors, and councilors to make modest gains at the table, whose re-election bid was dependent on “sticking it to these workers”. I heard from
graduate students who saw their tuition rates skyrocket while their teacher/research assistant hours were cut by school administrators. Most impactful by far was listening to the nurses and doctors (yes, doctors are in unions) who were forced to triage patients with minimal resources and staff while administrators cut costs to improve shareholder returns.

(Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRJ1LNHd13w)

Again and again, I heard examples of when workers decide that enough is enough and decide to cast away their apathy to join forces with co-workers, their lives literally improve. The first leap for many of them, after being frustrated union members for years (and sometimes decades) was getting involved.

What did I learn from this conference?

Education, education, and education. Absent a solid curriculum for workers to learn about their history, seeing beyond our own workplace or career experience does not come naturally. We are all underpaid and overworked, yet we – the collective – refrain from coming together to admit this fact. This is nothing new; what has changed is the current circumstances we find ourselves in.

Another lesson I learned was that no one is apathetic. We all care deeply about something or someone; we just sometimes need a nudge to put that care into improving our workplace, or for our care to point in the right direction. We will spend the majority of our lives working and a lot of that time with the same people. Yet if those relationships are not tapped into, and then organized, that group of workers are leaving a lot of power untapped which could be utilized to improve their material conditions. If you are unionized, to expand on this point more, an important aspect of your membership is to give you the opportunity to be more bold with management, to stick your neck out to advocate for ways to improve your workplace.

From that lesson, I learned that divisions amongst workers is what keeps us weak. We find these specific if not meaningless things to keep us from engaging with other workers, which has the intended effect of keeping us disorganized. Worse yet, some workers use those divisions to their advantage, therein playing a game with the boss the boss plays better. Again, I heard from trade unionists across the world who fight with peers that would rather sell everyone out for a nickel, when coming together could mean everyone gets a dime.


Conclusion

Hope is not lost. The working-class, which is increasingly inclusive of those who can barely feed themselves, have the collective power they once had. The barriers to accessing them are new or reformed (e.g. a growing anti-union consultancy industry), but are nothing we cannot overcome. What we do have to overcome is the division we place amongst ourselves. Whether it is by age, skin colour, ethnicity, or any other minor difference we can find. Another is discarding whatever apathy we have, tapping into what we care for, and doing so to improve the lot of others.

Your union is merely the representation of our charter right to participate in a free society, and serves as a permanent organization which legitimizes our fight and provides permanent
resourcing for it. As proud as these trade unionists I met were of their union, they were not “union members first”, they were “whole workers” who tapped into the power of their union – an organization which finds its strength from its membership.

What I participated in:

Workshops I participated in:

  1. Building a Member-Organizer Program

    Plenary Sessions:
    • How We’re Turning Our Unions Around
    • Using Popular Education to Rethink Trainings
    • Organizing in ‘Right-to-Work’ states
    • Burnout: What can we do about it together?
    • Coordinated Bargaining with a Common Employer
    • Canadian Workers’ Meeting
    • Organizing Remotely and Organizing from Square One

      Watch live sessions here: https://www.youtube.com/@labornotes/streams

    2024 Annual Day of Mourning, April 28

    The day of mourning is a memorial ceremony across Canada, where members of the labour movement come together to remember and mourn the victims of workplace injuries and who have died because of workplace incidents, accidents or exposure to harmful substances. We come together to remember their sacrifice, and to renew our pledge to urge governments and employers to improve the health and safety standards in the workplace, and workers compensation benefits in the workplace.

    By remembering those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of work, we remember that it could have been us. It could have been our loved ones that we lost because of inadequate health and safety standards in the workplace. We come together to show our support for the ones left behind. We come together to show our solidarity. To stand next to our fellow workers, to stand up for ourselves and mostly we stand up to ensure that the future is safer for all.

    A list of Saskatchewan services is available here.

    An injury to one is an injury to all.

    Do you know your collective agreement rights?

    Aside

    Spring brings temporary, casual, term employees and Co-op students into GSU. Our staff reps are helping them learn more about their rights and benefits as union members.

    For first-time union members, having employment information set out in a collective agreement is a new experience. To better understand your collective agreement benefits and rights available while working for a unionized employer, speak to a GSU staff representative.

    GSU staff rep Brian Lark has been helping new GSU members understand their rights as union members.

    “All GSU members have the right to fair representation no matter what their employment status is. We are here to provide that,” Lark said. “Most of our collective agreements contain language that pertains to temporary, casual or term employees. These employees are dues-paying members and they deserve the coverage and compensation that all GSU members are entitled to.”

    Lark cautions that not all collective agreements or all employers are equal, and available benefits may fluctuate from employer to employer and agreement to agreement.

    If you are a new or seasoned member of GSU with questions about your collective agreement or the benefits and rights you are entitled to, contact a GSU staff representative.

    Our assistance is paid for by your union dues. There is never an additional charge for assisting you and no limit on the number of times you can seek assistance and advice. Reach out to us any time you have questions or a problem that needs to be addressed. We offer the support you need and we will never contact your employer or take action on your behalf without your approval or consent.

    Call us toll-free at 1.866.522.6686 (Regina) or 1.855.384.7314 (Saskatoon)

    Our Joint Executive Council Annual Report has been shared with members

     

    Check your email for a copy of GSU’s Joint Executive Council Annual Report to members. If you didn’t receive a copy by email you are not on our email list, and you can review the copy below:

    The report includes GSU’s audited financial statements for 2023 and an update on our work throughout the past year demonstrating what we can achieve when we work collectively. Member engagement and involvement are paramount to our continued success.

    Please make time to review this report thoroughly. Your understanding and insight into our financial health and operational activities are essential for informed decision-making and strategic planning, so don’t hesitate to contact any member of your Joint Executive Council or general secretary Steve Torgerson if you have any questions or concerns. 

     

     

    Local 1 & 2 (Viterra) new collective agreements are signed and in effect

    Clockwise, left to right: General Secretary and bargaining spokesperson Steve Torgerson; Jim Brown, Local 1; Dave Barrett, Local 1; Mason Van Luven, GSU staff; Kaylee Kruger, Local 2; and Howard Wilson, Local 2 signed the agreements on March 22.

    On March 22, members of the Local 1 Board of Delegates and the Local 2 Executive Committee met at GSU’s Regina office to sign their respective collective agreements. The signed agreements were then delivered to Viterra for signature by company officials and the new agreements and all the entitlements they contain are fully effective.

    You can view the agreements using the COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS tab above and clicking on Viterra.

    We will be printing booklets for members. As soon as they are available we will work with our elected delegates to get copies into members’ hands.

    WE’RE WORKING ON IT: In-vehicle surveillance cameras: Concerns have been raised, and we’re on it

    We're working on it!

    GSU staff reps are examining the use of in-vehicle cameras in company fleets and the potential privacy violations for our affected members.

    “While it’s permissible for companies to install these cameras, we need to know they doing it the right way,” said staff rep Mason Van Luven. “We’re looking into case law to find out the implications for members and to make sure their rights are protected.”

    Consulting with a GSU representative is a service provided to you and paid for by your union dues. There is never an additional charge for assisting you and there is no limit on the number of times you can seek help. We are committed to offering the support you need, and we will never contact your employer to take action on your behalf without your approval or consent.

    GSU’s 2024 new-officer training held online

    On March 6, 2024, 13 newly-elected GSU officers and stewards gathered online for training. This round of training was similar to last year’s new-officer training with one addition: emphasis on where unions receive their greatest strength and power.

    “Sometimes we equate power with wealth and how that wealth exerts influence on people and society, and money does have that effect,” said GSU general secretary Steve Torgerson. “But unions have always received their power and strength not from money, but from the influence and work of their members.”

    Everyone recognizes that a group of people can work together to achieve more than they could separately. It’s a good to keep reminding ourselves to see the union in that light.

    Members are the union, and members are the fuel that drives their union’s collective purposes forward. This concept becomes clear by replacing the word “union” with “us” or “we” when discussing the work GSU is doing.

    This is our third year of focused new-officer training. We’re already excited about next year’s training as we keep improving the content and delivery to better help our elected officers to assist GSU members.

    It’s March 8 ~ Happy International Women’s Day!

    Happy International Women’s Day!

    This is an event observed across the world every year on March 8. It is a day to acknowledge and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls, and to raise awareness on issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence against women.

    The labour movement has always fought for stronger wages, better working conditions and pay equity for its members. Many unions have developed strategies to combat racism, sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. But there’s still work to be done.

    Women are still more likely to be the victims of violence and harassment, especially if they are young, persons with disabilities, a visible minority or a member of the LGBTQ2+ community. One in three women worldwide will be subjected to physical or sexual violence during her lifetime.

    The theme of this year’s IWD is Invest In Women: Accelerate Progress, Show your support for women’s rights. Use the hashtags #IWD2024 and #InvestInWomen in your social media posts and use this day to celebrate the achievement of women in our workplaces, in our communities and in our friendships.

    Graphic and Story Credit to Maverick Studios, the graphic and design business owned by former GSU member and officer Michelle H.

    LOCALS 1 & 2 (Viterra) update: Executive grievances filed on unpaid 4.5% pay increase, retro pay

    Grievance v. Executive Grievance

    The biggest difference between an executive grievance and an individual grievance is who ‘owns’ it.

    • An individual grievance is filed by a member (or a few members) over a specific issue that has impacted them.
    • An executive grievance is filed by the Local or union and covers all members who are impacted by the specific issue.

    Executive grievances filed over unpaid 4.5% retro, pay increases 

    Feb. 29, 2024

    GSU Local 1 (Viterra Operations & Maintenance) and Local 2 (Viterra Head Office) have filed executive grievances with Viterra, as follows:

    Each Local is responsible for their own grievance and the elected officers of each Local will manage the process.

    We expect a response from the company within a few days. At that point, we will arrange meetings with Viterra to work through the various steps in the grievance process.

    Local 1 and 2 members who are on our email list dedicated to these grievances will be kept up-to-date on progress. Elected officers from the Locals will also be updated on the progress of the grievances. Members who want to join the email update list – or those who have questions about these specific grievances or grievances in general – are encouraged to contact GSU’s general secretary Steve Torgerson.


    Archives

    Enforcing the 4.5% increase, 4.5% retroactive payments

    Feb. 2024

    It’s become apparent that Viterra isn’t budging on their stance regarding the final offer wording. They have told the media that they’re sticking to a process consistent with past collective agreements to apply the 4.5% increase. The question Local 1 and 2 members are asking is why they aren’t using the process outlined in the new final offer, which states it’s to be paid to all employees effective January 1, 2023, and to active members as of December 31, 2023.

    GSU is committed to taking every available step to enforce the 4.5% increase. We are currently gathering information from affected members regarding what they received (or didn’t receive) and the specific details of each case. Members who haven’t received the full 4.5% increase or full 4.5% retroactive payments are asked to complete an information form to help determine the scope of the issue as we fight for the increase and retro pay for all members. Background information is available in Update #44/Feb. 7 available here


    GSU Local 1 and 2 officers reviewing all available options to fight for entitlements of the Final Offer

    Source: GSU bargaining committee update #43 – Feb. 2, 2024

    Some members of Local 1 and 2 have been examining their pay stubs and noticing that there are problems with the 4.5% increase they were expecting to receive.

    This is happening in various ways.

    • Some members get no increase or retro pay.
    • Some members getting an increase and retro pay on only some of their pay last year.
    • As well as questions about retro pay on overtime and the STIP from last year.
    • And other questions and concerns.

    In the union’s Feb. 2, 2024 update to Local 1 and 2 members, GSU general secretary Steve Torgerson says, “I can confirm that the company has advised that they are taking the 4.5% increase, which they say is not based on performance, and using their pay for performance eligibility to decide who gets it. Even though the language in the final offer states, everyone is to get the 4.5% increase if they were an active employee as of December 31, 2023.”

    GSU is committed to fighting for its members to receive the entitlements contained in this final offer. In the coming days, GSU and Local 1 and 2 officers will be reviewing all available options.

    GSU will be sending Local 1 and 2 members a to complete if they have issues with the 4.5% increase for 2023. 

    “Even though some will say this only affects 25% of members in Local 1 and 2, I would disagree. When a company thinks, it can try to withhold a negotiated wage increase it makes me wonder what is the next thing they will try to get away with?” Torgerson says. “This is why this attack on your collective agreement has to be challenged and fought, and I know all members of Local 1 and 2 will stand together through this.”


    Members are experiencing problems getting their Retroactive Pay

    Tuesday Members’ Memo – Jan. 30, 2024

    With the recent vote accepting the company’s final offer at Local 1 and 2, all eyes turned towards finalizing the new collective agreement and when retro pay will be processed and paid to members. With negotiations taking 15 months, the increase of 4.5% effective January 1, 2023 means that a lot of members are looking at substantial retro payments.

    All too quickly, Viterra has changed their tune and is now saying that not all employees in the bargaining units will get the 4.5% increase or retro pay for 2023. Members have begun to look at their pay stubs and are not seeing any increase or retroactive payments for the hours of work they put in for 2023.

    “I have reached out to Viterra HR to inquire why some members – potentially as many at 80 – did not receive the negotiated increase or any retro for 2023,” said GSU general secretary Steve Torgerson, “I thought it was a simple mistake, but now it appears that Viterra is backing down from their own final offer that members voted on and accepted.”

    “It’s a shameful and dirty move if they decide not to follow their own Final Offer.”

    GSU and Locals 1 and 2 are waiting for a response from Viterra. If this is not resolved in the manner to which it was negotiated, we will be looking at all options.

     

    Local 19 (Prairie Co-op) bargaining: Second bargaining session underway Feb. 28 & 29

    February 29, 2024

    Second bargaining session with employer held Feb. 28 and 28

    Our Local 19 (Prairie Co-op) bargaining committee is currently convened in GSU’s Regina office boardroom, engaging in virtual collective agreement renewal negotiations with their employer counterparts. The two sides also convened for a session yesterday, marking their second encounter since their initial bargaining session on Feb. 14.

    Local 19 members are asking for improved benefits, better pay and a compensation structure that factors in performance, annual increases, and movement through a range.

    The current collective agreement expired Oct. 31, 2023.


    Local 19 (Prairie Co-op) bargaining gets underway

    Tuesday Members’ Memo – Feb. 20, 2024

    The Local 19 bargaining committee, comprised of Colter Spence, Lindsay Hill, and Mason Van Luven, were scheduled to meet with the Prairie Cooperative bargaining committee on Feb. 14 and Feb 15. The Company cancelled the second day of bargaining to review and cost the union’s bargaining package. Feb 28 and 29 have been tentatively set as dates to resume bargaining.

    “On first impressions, there is a frustrating contrast between what our members need and what the company wants,” explained union bargaining spokesperson Mason Van Luven. “We came in asking to improve the contract, to make it more fair and consistent, so that members could plan a life around their career with their employer.”

    The pandemic economy benefited ag-retail suppliers with high prices, which they used to record improved or record-breaking profit. “Rather than invest those gains into their workers, they used that capital to improve efficiency, which has resulted in position eliminations across this industry and almost all others,” Van Luven continued.

    Local 19 members are asking for improved benefits, better pay, and a compensation structure that factors in performance, annual increases, and movement through a range. The Company has asked for concessions and have yet to reveal their compensation offer.


    Local 19 (Prairie Co-op) – Bargaining set to begin in February

    Tuesday Members’ Memo – Feb. 6, 2024

    GSU staff rep Mason Van Luven has been engaging with Local 19 members who have elected Devin Lipinski, Colter Spence, Lindsay Hill, and Jennifer Schmidt to comprise their bargaining committee. Members reconnected on Dec. 14 during an annual meeting to assess their priorities before meeting with the company February 14 and 15, and again on February 28 and 29.

    The current collective agreement expired Oct. 31, 2023.

    WE’RE WORKING ON IT: Employees teaching/demonstrating safety in the workplace must be properly trained, accredited to do so

    In any workplace, safety should always be a top priority. Yet, one of the most common reasons for workplace injuries and fatalities is the lack of proper safety training. Companies have a significant responsibility to ensure that their workers are adequately trained to carry out their tasks safely. Failure to provide this training can have severe consequences.

    Under The Saskatchewan Employment Act and Canada Labour Code, employers are mandated to provide comprehensive training to their employees. These regulations are in place to protect the well-being of all individuals in the workplace. Proper training involves more than just providing information; it requires practical demonstrations to ensure that workers have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills. Employers must retain copies of training certificates, which serve as crucial documentation in the event of an incident.

    It is important that employees who are teaching or showing safety in the workplace know what they are doing. This not only includes knowing the safety procedures but also how to protect themselves. When accidents occur, occupational health officers investigate, and one of their primary inquiries is whether the involved worker received adequate training. Lack of training, or proper training, not only jeopardizes the safety of workers but may also exposes other to risks.

    As a worker who is also providing safety training to another worker you need to ensure you are properly trained, you are providing the proper material and information to the trainee and that you are supposed to provide this training. Your ability and skills provide safety training has to be effective, so you can ensure the trainee is receiving the proper training. It can mean the difference between their safety and the safety of everyone in the workplace.

    Proper safety training is indispensable in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. Employers bear the primary responsibility for providing comprehensive training to their workers, as mandated by legislation. If you are going to provide any safety training to any new employee you must ensure you are properly trained and accredited, you are up to date on all safety processes and procedures you are responsible for and that the employer is aware that you are providing the training. 

    Workers need to actively engage in all workplace safety by exercising their right to know and seeking the information and training they need to work safely, but it should never be forgotten that the employers responsibility to provide a safe workplace is theirs.

    LINKS:

    https://www.worksafesask.ca/know-your-rights-at-work/#know

    https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/safety-in-the-workplace/rights-and-responsibilities-in-the-workplace/training-of-workers

    Labour’s role in The Big Game 58 (including the football)

    While NFL fans are aware of Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl 58 loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, many may not realize the significant role union labour played in making the event spectacular.

    Two unionized million-dollar quarterbacks played in Super Bowl 58 thanks to 31 separate unions and their members in one of the highest-grossing venues in North America working to make the event possible.

    The two QBs in question, though competitors, are members of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) which joined America’s national house of labour – the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) – in 2019. (The AFL-CIO is equivalent to Canada’s Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) of which GSU is a member.) In fact, players on the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers and most NFL teams are typically members of the NFLPA, allowing them to have representation in negotiations regarding their contracts, working conditions, and other matters concerning their careers in the NFL.

    Super Bowl 58 took place in the midst of an organizing drive on Allegiant Stadium grounds. Last week, the NFLPA teamed up with a few other unions to assist the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in an organizing drive to get the almost 1500 non-union workers of Allegiant Stadium signed up.

    From the referees, security personnel, hospitality workers, logistics and transportation staff to the camera operators responsible for recording Usher and the OT winning play, union workers contributed to ensuring the success of Super Bowl 58. Let’s continue to support fair labour practices and acknowledge the teamwork of the union members who make such events possible.

    FUN FACT

    The leather used for every single NFL football, including those used in Sunday’s Super Bowl, is crafted by skilled members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1546.

    LABOUR NEWS: SGEU faces contract impasse with Saskatchewan government

    Negotiations between the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) and the Public Service/Government Employment (PS/GE) bargaining unit have hit a roadblock. Despite over a year of talks, the parties have failed to reach an agreement since the previous contract expired on September 30, 2022.

    Representing over 11,000 members, including firefighters, correctional officers, and conservation officers, the PS/GE unit seeks fair enhancements in the new contract. Priorities include catch-up wage increases, improved mental health support, and better provisions for essential workers during crises like the pandemic.

    Lori Bossaer, Chair of SGEU’s PS/GE Negotiating Committee, voiced disappointment over the government’s stance, citing challenges faced by frontline workers, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires. These workers, providing crucial services to Saskatchewan residents, deserve recognition and support.

    SGEU emphasizes the need for a contract addressing member retention and recruitment concerns to sustain public services. To move forward, they’ve requested mediation assistance from the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, underscoring their commitment to finding a resolution beneficial to both parties.

    Learn more here.