2022 UFCW National Council Convention
The 13th UFCW Canada National Council Convention took place August 23 – 25, 2022 in downtown Toronto.
UFCW Locals 175 & 633 sent a total of 61 delegates combined, who joined 200+ delegates from the across the country attended the three-day convention. The convention took place at the Westin Harbour Castle where the hotel staff is represented by UFCW Local 102.
Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, began the day with a warm and humourous welcome before UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema gave a brief address to the delegates and thanked the members of UFCW Canada for their dedication and work throughout the pandemic.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone reaffirmed the UFCW’s commitment to helping workers achieve better lives and bridging the divide that has grown amongst people on both sides of the border. He spoke about empowering members with the knowledge that their lives and work have meaning and worth, and “that the greater meaning of life comes from our unity and the immeasurable value we offer to each other and every one of our members.”
Perrone also extended his gratitude to the members for their sacrifices and hard work over the last few years in particular.
“If there was ever a doubt about the power of what we do, look no further than what you all have done for your members and the millions of families across this great country,” said Perrone.
UFCW Canada National Council Elections and Nominations for the Executive Committee included the renomination of President Haggerty as International Vice-President #4. President Haggerty accepted his nomination, which, along with all six of Canada’s International Vice-President positions, will be put to vote at the UFCW International Convention in April 2023.
Over the course of the convention, delegates heard reports on the Union’s achievements and work in a number of areas:
- Women and Gender Equity
- Human Rights Equity & Diversity
- Political Action
- Growth Report
- Young Workers
- Workplace Rights
Delegates also spoke on and voted in favour of 16 resolutions and policy updates that ensure UFCW Canada continues on a path of progress, equality, and inclusion for all working people.
A panel discussion on paid sick days included Director of Local 175’s HOPE Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes sector, Sandra Ashcroft, alongside two other UFCW panelists and facilitator Jen Hassum from the Broadbent Institute. Ashcroft spoke about the experiences of frontline healthcare workers through the pandemic and how paid sick days would help alleviate not only the number of people going to work sick, but it would avoid unnecessary strain on the healthcare system.
When asked what she would say to Doug Ford, Sandra replied: “When are you going to learn your lesson? We did not listen in 2007 to the SARS report, we did not listen to the long-term care commission report, and we are still not listening to the experts saying that Ontarians need paid sick days. They do not need to go to work sick, they do not need to make their co-workers sick, and they certainly don’t need to make the vulnerable population that they face every day sick.”
Other panel discussions at the UFCW Canada National Council Convention included one about the digital economy, what it means for working people, and the importance of protections for all workers as new sectors and types of work emerge. Delegates also heard a panel talk about climate action and planning for related job transitions, new technologies, and more.
Each day of the convention included special musical and dance performances including the SpringCreek Dancers who performed both traditional and modern First Nations ceremonial dances accompanied by drums and singers. Shadow Entertainment, a South Asian dance company in Canada, brought their fusion of dance styles to the stage on day two. And the third morning of the convention began with the inspiring music of the Solidarity Squad.
In addition to convention business, delegates heard from a number of guest speakers over the three days.
- Tom Biebrich, a Local 832 member and part of the UFCW Canada Indigenous Sub-Committee, and Eric Flett, UFCW Canada Resident Elder and retired Local 832 member, spoke about their experiences and why it’s important for our Union to be a voice for advancing reconciliation across this country.
- Bea Bruske, a UFCW Local 832 member who is now the Canadian Labour Congress President, sat down to talk about the challenges facing working people across the country including inflation. Citing that wages went up by about 2% nation-wide last year as grocery prices skyrocketed by almost 10%, Bruske noted that raising wages won’t worsen inflation; corporate greed is the problem.Bruske expressed hope that the federal Liberal-NDP coalition government results in more improvements sooner for working people. Improvements like proactive job transition assistance, pharma care, federal anti-scab legislation, and more. She further encouraged all governments and policy makers to invite labour to the table so that actual workers get their say on labour legislation.
Lastly, Bruske encouraged labour leaders to continue to inform and empower workers and prioritize workers’ rights. “You matter,” Bruske said to the delegates. “The work you do matters.”
- André Picard, a health and public policy observer and Globe and Mail journalist, addressed the convention about the state of public health in Canada. Picard reiterated the message that it was workers who kept shelves stocked, kept food on our tables, and cared for our elders during the pandemic. Workers kept society functioning in a time of fear and neither politicians nor policy makers have appreciated that enough.
- Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Senior Director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, discussed the state of the Canadian food sector. His presentation included trends in the food industry, and the encroachment of automation and technology into the sector and the importance of ensuring workers are not simply displaced by that technology.
- Another guest speaker at the convention was Tanya Talaga, an Anishinaabe journalist and author, who also spoke at our Locals 175 & 633 Bylaw & Policy Conference in 2019.
“Before reconciliation comes truth. The truth of this country,” said Talaga.
She discussed the Seven teachings and how to use them as the foundation of how to look at Canada and make it a more inclusive society. She encouraged delegates to educate themselves on the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions 94 Calls to Action and to see the Calls to Action as a road map for how Canada can move forward. Talaga also reminded the audience that only 13 of those calls have been implemented. She added, for those wondering how they can make a difference that they “can’t wait for politicians and governments and institutions and places of work to change policy – we have to be the ones to make changes. The will of the people is what changes things.”
- Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh joined the convention and confirmed the NDP’s support of working people including working to address the rising cost of living as corporate greed drives inflation while exploiting the labour of working people.
- The final guest speaker at the convention was Irshad Manji, author and founder the Moral Courage College. Manji’s inspirational discussion delved into what diversity and inclusion really means and how she learned, through trial and error, to be less combative and more empathetic to others’ experiences; that disagreement doesn’t mean there’s no common ground between us. “It’s when we build relationships across divides, we can actually develop unity and not mistake it for uniformity,” said Manji.