Latest Labour News

Firing of Hong Kong professor condemned

CAUT -

(Ottawa — July 29, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) condemns the dismissal of pro-democracy activist professor Benny Tai from his tenured position as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong.

“The firing of Professor Tai is another signal that academic freedom and civil liberties are under threat from the Chinese government,” said CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “It sends a clear and chilling message not only to academics in Hong Kong, but to all of those pressing for democratic reforms and respect for human rights.”

Professor Benny Tai was a leading figure of the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution” protests in Hong Kong that paralysed the city for 79 days. Authorities arrested him last month, and sentenced him to 16 months in prison for two public nuisance offences.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon Must Be Held Accountable by Congress for Failure to Disclose COVID-19 Employee Infections and Deaths, Attack on Worker Rights

UFCW Press Releases -

Ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Testifying to Congress, America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Lawmakers to Hold Amazon & Bezos Accountable for Company Failures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifying to Congress, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers, condemned Amazon for blatant efforts to stop employees from exercising their right to join a union and endangering both workers and consumers by failing to disclose internal numbers on how many Amazon employees have been infected by COVID-19. Additionally, UFCW recently challenged Amazon’s antitrust practices in a new complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“The time is long past to hold Jeff Bezos and Amazon accountable for their failures and irresponsibility that has consistently placed Amazon profits ahead of the safety and rights of American workers.

“It is outrageous that in the middle of a pandemic, Amazon refused to tell the American people how many of its workers have been exposed, become sick, or died from COVID-19. Even worse, Amazon has fired and attacked its own workers who bravely spoke out against the company’s unethical and irresponsible behavior. Enough is enough.

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos must be forced to answer the tough questions and be held accountable by Congress for the company’s blatant attacks on workers, and their failures to keep workers safe as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our country.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for greater accountability for tech companies for their worker mistreatment, including Amazon and Facebook whose CEOs are testifying to Congress today.

In April 2020, UFCW condemned Amazon for firing the worker who led the recent strike at its Staten Island facility. In December 2018, the retail branch of UFCW launched a campaign to unionize Amazon warehouse workers. UFCW has also called on Amazon for action to protect its Whole Foods workers as more continue to be infected by COVID-19.

In June 2020, UFCW called out Facebook for creating a tool that allows companies to censor communications among their workers about unionizing. On the Facebook Workplace platform, an intranet-style chat and office collaboration product, the initial design would enable employers to blacklist words like unionize in communications on the platform.

In March 2020, UFCW condemned Instacart for failing to immediately provide the COVID-19 hazard pay and personal protective equipment needed to support and keep their workers safe at the beginning of the pandemic. In February 2020, Instacart workers in the Chicago area joined UFCW, making history as the first Instacart workers to join a union.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org. 

Unifor vows to continue fighting Kenney's anti-worker law

Unifor -

EDMONTON—Unifor members have resolved to continue to defend their rights at work after the all-night session of the legislature eased the passage of Bill 32.

“Bill 32 is a blatant attack on workers’ constitutional rights. There is absolutely no way we will comply with it,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Jason Kenny is turning back the clock on workers’ rights to benefit his wealthiest corporate donors.”

While working Albertans slept last night, the UCP government used rare parliamentary procedure to force an end to the legislature’s debate on Bill 32 and expedite its passage this morning. The bill has been panned by unions as an attempt to place even greater limits on workers’ collective voices while letting corporate influence continue unfettered.

“I’ve heard from Unifor members across the province, from the Oilsands to education workers in Calgary, and we are united to defend workers’ rights,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Trump’s labour laws have no place in Alberta.”

Unifor is encouraging all workers, union or not, to stand up for better workplace conditions and freedom of speech at afl.org/defend-worker-rights and monitor Unifor’s Bill 32 resource page for updates about the campaign.

As part of the broader fight-back strategy, Unifor is working with the Alberta Federation of Labour on a legal challenge to Bill 32.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

“It’s time for immediate action in long-term care”: a coalition of unions representing frontline healthcare workers respond to Ontario’s long-term care commission

Unifor -

July 29, 2020

TORONTO — SEIU Healthcare, CUPE Ontario, and Unifor, unions that represent healthcare workers across the long-term care sector, released the following joint statement in response to Ontario’s newly-announced commission into long-term care:

“Elderly residents and frontline workers were let down by their government during the initial response to COVID-19. We saw the impacts of falling short of a legislated staffing standard, decent pay and full-time jobs that prevent having to work at multiple facilities, and the continuation of for-profit care. A commission or public inquiry into long-term care has always been about one thing: justice for the families who lost their loved ones due to a failed response to the pandemic. What was done, why was it done, and when was it done? Transparency into those answers can only come with without limits and interference from the provincial government and the long-term care industry.”

“We look forward to ensuring that the voices of our members on the frontline of this crisis are heard by the commissioners. The reasons and source of confusion and chaos must be understood so that this never happens again. No government official and no corporate decision-maker should be shielded from the commissioners’ investigation.”

UNION LEADER QUOTES:

“Healthcare workers in long-term care tell us the system is nowhere near prepared for a second wave of COVID-19. Staffing levels are critically low; abhorrent working conditions are a deterrent to employee retention; and the added impacts of Bill 195 mean burnt-out frontline workers in need of respite can be denied vacation by the companies that operate nursing homes. Today’s announcement is about getting to the bottom of the failures in long-term care during the pandemic, but it can be no substitute for a real action plan to improve the conditions of work and care in Ontario’s nursing homes.” – Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare

“We know what needs to be done – and it can be done today. We need a commitment and a comprehensive strategy to address the staffing crisis. This commission cannot be used as a tactic to stall the changes we urgently need. We also need assurance that the families of residents and front-line workers will be able to speak freely without fear of reprisal.” – Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario

“Premier Ford has publicly committed to fix long-term care, a promise we intend to hold him to. A thorough, public inquiry into the response to COVID-19 along with immediate changes to address staffing shortages and improve care standards will begin to repair the damaged trust the public has in our long-term care system.” – Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director, Unifor

“CARE NOT PROFITS” CAMPAIGN:

SEIU Healthcare, CUPE Ontario, and Unifor recently launched their “Care Not Profits” advocacy campaign to demand an end for-profit delivery of long-term care in Ontario. During the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario’s worst hit nursing homes were all for-profit facilities. Data tells us that for-profit long-term care corporations have 17 per cent fewer staff than non-profit nursing homes. Yet, while families and care staff were dying throughout the pandemic, three of the largest long-term care businesses combined paid shareholders more than $58 million in dividends in the past three months alone. These are facts.

The new, 60-second ad called “Care not Profits” launched on July 23rd.

To view the ad and learn more, visit carenotprofits.ca

The full, high-definition broadcast from the campaign launch, including the 60-second ad, is available for media to download here: https://bit.ly/39lxVfU

For media inquiries, contact:

 

Corey Johnson

SEIU Healthcare

c.johnson@seiuhealthcare.ca

416-529-8909



Daniel Tseghay

CUPE Communications

dtseghay@cupe.ca

647-220-9739



Shelley Amyotte

Unifor Communications

shelley.amyotte@unifor.org

902-717-7491

 

Poultry Workers, Already at Risk From COVID-19, Sue USDA Over Dangerous Line Speeds

UFCW Press Releases -

 America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, Public Citizen Demand End to USDA Waivers Allowing Dangerous Poultry Line Speeds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and five of its local unions represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a federal lawsuit to end the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers allowing poultry plants to increase production line speeds and further endanger workers already facing elevated risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers across the meatpacking and food processing industries.

The plaintiffs argue that the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) waiver program should be set aside and 10 currently active waivers should be voided. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the USDA failed to follow required procedures and ignored the agency’s own rules and policies when it adopted the waiver program. Click here to read the text of today’s lawsuit.

“America’s poultry workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need during this crisis,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As COVID-19 continues to infect thousands of meatpacking workers, it is stunning that USDA is further endangering these workers by allowing poultry companies to increase line speeds to dangerous new levels that increase the risk of injury and make social distancing next to impossible. This lawsuit will help to finally stop this dangerous corporate giveaway from the USDA. Now more than ever, we must put the safety of frontline workers and our country’s food supply first.”

“The law is clear that an agency must follow proper procedures when adopting a new program and must consider and address all relevant factors, including its own prior positions on the same issue,”said Nandan Joshi, the Public Citizen attorney serving as lead counsel on the case. “FSIS did not follow these basic rules when it decided to allow more poultry plants to exceed the agency’s own regulatory line speed limits.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been at least 65 meatpacking worker deaths and 14,214 meatpacking workers infected or exposed. April saw the biggest spike in new COVID-19 meatpacking cases with 8,632 workers infected or exposed. May was the deadliest month for the industry with 38 worker deaths last month alone.

The five local unions who are plaintiffs in this case – UFCW Local 227, UFCW Local 1529, UFCW Local 1995, UFCW Local 2008 and Retail, Wholesale And Department Store Union – Mid South Council – represent more than 35,000 poultry workers at processing plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

UFCW and Public Citizen have been leading national voices calling on the USDA to strengthen corporate oversight in meatpacking and increase safeguards to protect workers and ensure our country’s food supply is secure. In July 2020, UFCW announced its support for new legislation in Congress to roll back dangerous line speed increases across the meatpacking industry. And in October 2019, UFCW and Public Citizen filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the USDA’s rule allowing pork plants to increase line speeds.

Poultry Worker Safety

Poultry processing poses a wide range of risks to workers, including musculoskeletal problems – such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and “trigger finger” – and acute physical injuries, such as sprains, lacerations, contusions and amputations. Federal and private research, as well as the experiences of poultry workers, show that an increase in work pace caused by faster line speeds increases the risk of injury to workers.

USDA Regulation of Poultry Industry

In April 2020 alone, FSIS approved 15 waivers allowing poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. These waivers do not protect our food supply, but they create greater risk of worker injury, including increased risk of catching and spreading the virus as workers are forced to crowd together to keep pace with faster processing speeds.

In 2014, FSIS adopted a rule that set the maximum line speed in poultry plants at 140 birds per minute. At that time, FSIS acknowledged the extensive rulemaking record demonstrating that faster line speeds can increase the harm to poultry plant workers. In 2017, the National Chicken Council, a trade association that lobbies for the chicken industry, asked FSIS to lift line speed limits entirely. Although FSIS declined that request, it stated that it would grant more waivers that allow plants to operate at up to 175 birds per minute.

FSIS announced the waiver program in early 2018 but did not follow proper procedures when adopting that program. The Administrative Procedure Act requires an agency to give the public prior notice and an opportunity to comment before adopting a new rule. Instead, FSIS created the program behind closed doors. FSIS justified the program as a way to allow plants to experiment with new technology – even though increasing line speed is not a new technology. FSIS failed to adequately explain why the new waiver program was needed or why the program ignores the worker safety concerns that FSIS had previously acknowledged.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

Deadline for $2,500 OFL Scholarship fast approaching – Apply now!

UFCW Canada -

Toronto – July 28, 2020 – The deadline for the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) / American Income Life (AIL) Jack Layton Scholarship, which includes two awards at $2,500 each, is rapidly approaching on August 24. UFCW Canada members and full-time post-secondary students in Ontario are welcome and encouraged to apply in advance of the deadline.

Canadian singer-songwriter, Sarah Harmer, performing Facebook concert session in support of “CARE NOT PROFITS” advocacy campaign to reinvest profits back into the long-term care system

Unifor -

July 27, 2020

TORONTO — On Thursday, July 30 at 8:00pm EDT, Canadian singer-songwriter, Sarah Harmer, will perform a Facebook Live concert session in support of the “Care Not Profits” advocacy campaign to end for-profit long-term care delivery in Ontario. The platinum selling artist is adding her voice to the growing chorus of families demanding an end to the for-profit long-term care system that witnessed millions of dollars of profits flow to private shareholders while workers and seniors suffered and died during the pandemic. The virtual performance will invite fans to add their name to a petition to Premier Ford at www.carenotprofits.ca.

QUOTES:

“I’m angry that the profit motive was brought into our provincial long-term care system, and now private companies are profiting from neglect. I support these healthcare workers, their unions and the elderly people in our communities. We need a better long-term care system now.” - Sarah Harmer, artist, activist.

“Sarah Harmer is lifting up this campaign with her voice, its inspiring. Premier Ford can no longer ignore the growing number of families calling for an end to for-profit long-term care. Healthcare workers and families need better work and care conditions more than corporations need bigger profits. It’s that simple.” – Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare

“It’s a testament to the power of this campaign that we’re able to partner with artists who value seniors and their care givers and who are willing to lend their voice and talents to this important cause. Because of partnerships like this and the overwhelming support from our communities, we can win an end to for-profit care.” – Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario

“We are honoured our joint union call to action has inspired a great Canadian artist like Sarah Harmer to use her voice in support of long-term care residents and workers. The call to end for-profit long-term care is about where our society places value - the dignity of people must always come before profits. The more voices joining the call to end for-profit care, the harder it will be for Doug Ford to ignore.” – Jerry Dias, National President, Unifor

BACKGROUND ON THE “CARE NOT PROFITS” CAMPAIGN:

During the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario’s worst hit nursing homes were all for-profit facilities. Data tells us that for-profit long-term care corporations have 17 per cent fewer staff than non-profit nursing homes. Yet, while families and care staff were dying throughout the pandemic, three of the largest long-term care businesses combined paid shareholders more than $58 million in dividends in the past three months alone. These are facts.

The new, 60-second ad called “Care not Profits” launched during the Toronto Blue Jays season opener on July 24th against the Tampa Bay Rays.

To view the ad and learn more, visit carenotprofits.ca

The full, high-definition broadcast from this morning’s campaign launch, including the 60-second ad, is available for media to download here: https://bit.ly/39lxVfU

For media inquiries, contact:

Corey Johnson

SEIU Healthcare

c.johnson@seiuhealthcare.ca

416-529-8909



Daniel Tseghay

CUPE Communications

dtseghay@cupe.ca

647-220-9739



Shelley Amyotte

Unifor Communications

shelley.amyotte@unifor.org

902-717-7491

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