This powerful image shows why Canadian workers need unions
Gil McGowan, the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, posted this picture to Twitter on Wednesday.
I spent the morning handing out masks and bulletins to Cargill workers as they entered the plant. We were joined by activists from the United Nurses of Alberta. That’s what solidarity looks like! #ableg #canlab #cdnpoli #abpoli pic.twitter.com/sV7pZk8gGJ— Gil McGowan (@gilmcgowan) May 6, 2020
The photo shows him and fellow union members handing out masks to workers returning to the Cargill meatpacking plant. Weeks prior, the facility was the site of Canada’s largest COVID-19 outbreak. More than 900 workers contracted the virus and one worker passed away.
This week, despite safety concerns and pleas for a stop-work order, Cargill Inc. and the Alberta government pushed the plant’s employees back to work.
During the outbreak, the company refused to provide workers with masks until April 16. By then, the outbreak was already widespread. The province refused to send in an inspector, used a video call instead, and concluded that the plant was safe to remain open.
As a result, Hiep Bui is dead. So is her father. Her husband has not even received any condolences from Cargill.
If all that wasn’t enough, there are now reports that hundreds of Cargill workers haven’t been paid in weeks.
Both their employer and the Alberta government have failed Cargill’s workers. There are still concerns that the plant is not providing adequate protection to its workers as they return. Meanwhile, not only is their union providing them with masks – something which should be the responsibility of their employer – they are also taking legal action to protect them.
While workers are exploited by a multi-billion dollar company and their concerns are ignored by Alberta’s provincial government, unions appear to be the only ones fighting for them.