BC Federation of Labour

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June 24, 2022

BCFED Stands in Solidarity with US Communities Fighting for Reproductive Rights in the wake of Roe vs. Wade Appeal

The news of this morning’s announcement from the US Supreme Court officially repealing Roe vs. Wade came as no shock to us. Nevertheless, we are still shocked and disheartened that a decision repealing the human rights of over half the population of one of the world’s G7 countries could be made by its own Supreme Court.

The repeal of Roe vs. Wade means that a pregnant person in the US in need of an abortion is at the mercy of the laws of their own state. Some states, like Louisiana have a trigger law, stating that the moment Roe vs. Wade was overturned abortions became not only inaccessible, but illegal. Other states have pre-existing laws banning abortions that were unenforceable due to Roe vs. Wade and now are potentially enforceable again.

We stand in solidarity with front line organizations and community members who are fighting for reproductive rights in states that have abortion bans or are expected to rapidly ban abortions. We stand in solidarity with the unions in the United States that are now fighting to negotiate access to reproductive rights in their collective agreements.

History tells us there is no way to ban abortions, only to ban safe abortions. People in need of reproductive services in many states will now face extreme risk and personal danger. This is simply outrageous.

We also recognize that we cannot ignore the impact of this decision in our own country and must collectively fight to protect continued access to safe, legal, and free abortions here in BC and Canada.

Abortion rights are human rights, and reproductive rights are everyone’s responsibility to uphold.

We stand with you.

Author: marisha.zuckerman
Posted: June 24, 2022, 10:08 pm

(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) As the BC Federation of Labour and our member unions join workers and everyone else celebrating Pride this month, we’re mindful that Pride started as a protest.

Yes, we’ve made tremendous strides — progress that would have seemed unimaginable even a generation or two ago. Yet every day it seems we get another reminder of just how far we have to go… and how easily we could lose the progress we’ve made. This week’s deeply troubling events in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho should concern us all, and they are only the latest in a series of developments that make it clear that homophobia and transphobia are far from a thing of the past.

One step we can all take is to stand up against hate and violence in the workplace. The Canadian Labour Congress is leading a campaign calling on the federal government to ratify ILO C-190, a global treaty affirming everyone’s right to a workplace free from violence and harassment, and setting out a framework for ending it. You can add your voice to their call here.

It’s clear this is no time to sit idly by on the victories we’ve won; they must be defended, and we have to continue our work to advance understanding and an embrace of the sexual and gender diversity of working people and our families.

That requires us to deepen our own understanding of the roots of the struggle against homophobia and transphobia, which vastly predates Stonewall. We are learning more about how it mirrors colonialism, and how colonizers imposed the gender binary and villainized gender identities that are recognized by Indigenous peoples. And just as we now start with Two-Spirit people when we refer to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, we are coming to understand how their erasure in the colonial narrative anticipated much of the worst homophobic and transphobic messages we hear today.

It is no coincidence that the most virulent homophobic and transphobic messages come from the same quarters spreading racist and misogynist hate as well. That makes understanding intersectionality — and the many ways race, gender, sexual orientation, Indigeneity and other identities shape people’s experiences and perspectives — more important than ever.

For all of that, our progress in recent years has been remarkable. We can and should acknowledge the work we have yet to accomplish, both within the labour movement and beyond, and also celebrate the gains we’ve made. Pride is both protest and celebration. And in that spirit, we offer solidarity and celebration to 2SLGBTQIA+ workers and communities everywhere.

Happy Pride, everyone.

Author: angela.boscariol
Posted: June 15, 2022, 9:58 pm

Young workers will hold an overnight sit-in at a 24-hour convenience store in East Vancouver, pressing the provincial government to restore a law protecting convenience store and gas station employees who work alone at night.

Event details:

  • What: Protest for stronger safety protections for overnight workers 
  • When: Saturday, June 4, 9:00 pm to Sunday, June 5, 5:00 am
  • Where: Circle K, 2601 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC

Background:

The event honours Grant De Patie, a 24-year-old gas station attendant who was working alone in March 2005 when he was run down and dragged by a car in a $12 gas-and-dash incident. De Patie’s family worked with the BCFED to press the provincial government for new rules to protect overnight workers.

In early 2008, the province introduced new safety rules, called Grant’s Law in his memory. But acceding to pressure from large corporate employers like Mac’s, the BC Liberal government stripped out two key protections in 2012, eliminating the need for safety barriers and loosening the requirement to have two staff working at night.

Since then, the BCFED Young Workers' Committee has held annual overnight sit-ins outside convenience stores to campaign to restore Grant’s Law. The BCFED is calling on the province to restore the stripped-out provisions and extend the period covered by the law by one hour, so it runs from 10pm to 6 am.

Quotes:

“Every employee should be able to go home safe at the end of their shift. But many of the workers at this event know first-hand what it’s like to be working alone at night and facing the risk of violence. Restoring Grant’s Law is a simple, effective way to make work a lot safer for some of BC’s lowest-paid, most vulnerable workers.”

— BCFED Young Workers' Committee co-chair shauna supeene

“It’s gas station attendants and convenience store workers, but it’s also security guards like Harmandeep Kaur. She was just 24 — the same age as Grant De Patie — when she was killed on an overnight shift this year. We need to restore the protections in Grant’s Law, and do more to protect all overnight workers from violence.”

— BCFED Young Workers' Committee co-chair Rick Kumar

“Stripping out some of the most important protections in Grant’s Law to satisfy corporate lobbyists was a terrible mistake. Many overnight workers are among the lowest-paid in our province. And they shouldn’t have to face the threat of violence, alone and unprotected. They deserve urgent action now.”

— BCFED Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore

Additional background:

Equity Group: 
Author: rob.cottingham
Posted: June 4, 2022, 8:09 pm
Watch now
/news/releases/new-bcfed-video-spotlights-injured-workers-stories-urge-wcb-reform

New video underlines urgency of WCB reform

Author: rob.cottingham
Posted: June 2, 2022, 4:36 pm

A new video launched on Injured Workers Day portrays the need for changes to BC’s Workers’ Compensation Board in stark terms.

The one-minute video, produced by the BC Federation of Labour for their Workers Deserve Better campaign, draws from the real stories told by injured workers.

“Injured workers ought to be able to count on WCB to support them. But too often it acts like a for-profit insurance company instead of an ally in their recovery,” BCFED President Laird Cronk said.

“On Injured Workers Day, it’s important to underline how urgently we need changes at WCB,” said Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore. “We’re asking British Columbians to watch the video, and then sign our petition urging the provincial government to take action.”

The BCFED’s agenda for WCB reform includes:

  • creating a Fair Practices Commission independent of the WCB to deal with complaints and recommend solutions
  • end the clawback of Canada Pension Plan benefits for seriously-injured workers
  • ensuring an equal balance of worker and employer representatives on the WCB Board of Directors
  • mandating vocational rehabilitation to get workers back to real and sustainable jobs
  • ending discriminatory barriers to compensation for psychological injury and chronic pain
  • paying interest to workers when the WCB wrongly denies them benefits, resulting in a lengthy delay
  • ensuring the WCB makes the changes recommended in the Patterson report to create a worker-centered approach.

-30-

Background:

 
Author: angela.boscariol
Posted: June 1, 2022, 11:46 pm

A new BC poll conducted by opinion research and communications firm Stratcom for the BCFED shows an overwhelming majority of respondents support single-step union certification.

Seven in ten respondents (70%) agreed with the statement “If 55% or more employees in a workplace sign cards saying they want to join a union, they should be able to do so without facing further barriers.”

Those agreeing divided roughly evenly between “strongly agree” and “somewhat agree.” Support spans partisan lines, with 80% of NDP supporters, 65% of Liberal supporters and 79% of Green supporters agreeing.

One of the chief problems with multi-step certification is that it gives employers an opportunity to interfere — an issue that respondents confirmed is widespread. Over half of the respondents (53%) who had experienced a union drive specifically remembered their employer interfering in one or more ways, such as threatening to withhold wage increases, calling workers at home to ask if they support the union or retaliating against union organizers. Only 29% said none of these things happened.

There has been a recent surge in worker interest in unionizing, and the poll may offer a clue as to one reason why: a lack of faith in employers’ fairness. Only one in four respondents (23%) was confident problems they raise with their employer will be dealt with fairly.

“The right to form a union and bargain collectively is fundamental,” BCFED President Laird Cronk said. “It’s gratifying to see such strong public support for exercising that right free of interference and unnecessary barriers.”

-30-

These survey questions were part of Stratcom’s omnibus ‘Syndicated Polling” on a range of topics conducted for a variety of clients and fielded online through river sampling and proprietary panels from April 25 to May 3, 2022. The poll has a balanced sample of 804 BC adults, statistically weighted to match the gender, age, region and proportion of Chinese mother tongue in BC as per the 2016 Census. The data has also been weighted to match the 2020 BC provincial election results. While online polls don’t report margin of error, a similar sized probability sample would have a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.


Backgrounder: Stratcom opinion survey for BCFED

The following questions were fielded from April 25 to May 3, 2022.

Q1. Do you feel that you could raise a problem with your employer, for example an issue about improper pay, lack of health and safety protections or unfair treatment, and it will be addressed fairly? If you are not currently employed, think back to your most recent place of employment.

Yes, problems I raise will be dealt with fairly: 23%
Maybe, problems I raise might be dealt with fairly: 31%
No, problems I raise will not be dealt with fairly: 19%
Not applicable: 19% 
Don’t know: 8%

Q2. Below are reasons why some workers might want to join a union based on their experiences over the course of the pandemic. Please rank all in order of importance.

 

Rank 1

Rank 2

Rank 3

Rank 4

Rank 5

Rank 6

To increase their wages

41%

21%

13%

11%

8%

6%

To improve their job security

18%

22%

19%

18%

16%

8%

To improve health and safety measures in their workplace

17%

15%

15%

16%

21%

16%

To get access to benefits like extended health and dental plans

16%

28%

24%

19%

9%

5%

To get access to better training and skill/professional development

5%

5%

10%

12%

21%

48%

To get access to improved paid sick leave

4%

9%

19%

25%

25%

17%

Don’t know

8%

[Average rank using inverse weighting]

Rank #1: To increase their wages
Rank #2: To get access to benefits like extended health and dental plans
Rank #3: To improve their job security
Rank #4: To improve health and safety measures in their workplace
Rank #5: To get access to improved paid sick leave
Rank #6: To get access to better training and skill/professional development

Q3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? If 55% or more employees in a workplace sign cards saying they want to join a union, they should be able to do so without facing further barriers.

Strongly agree: 33%
Somewhat agree: 37%
Somewhat disagree: 12%
Strongly disagree: 6%
Don’t know: 11%

Q4. Have you ever experienced a union drive at a place where you have worked? A union drive is when workers try to become unionized.

Yes, and it was successful: 11%
Yes, but it was not successful: 10%
No, I have not experienced a union drive: 76%
Don’t know: 4%

Q5a. Did you witness any of the following actions by the employer/ management during the union drive? [IF YES IN Q4]

Asking if employees have signed union cards or not: 22%
Telling employees they won’t get planned wage increases because of the union drive: 19%
Calling workers at home to ask if they support joining the union: 17%
Requiring workers to attend a meeting to tell them unions have had a negative impact at other businesses: 17%
Holding one-on-one meetings to tell workers to ignore the union and its organizers: 16%
Telling workers the business will be closed and moved to another country if a union is formed: 15%
Firing the lead union organizer(s) or cutting their hours because of their organizing activity: 15%
None of the above: 29%
Don’t know/Don’t remember: 18%

Q5b. How common do you think it is for employers to engage in the activities listed below when they know there is a union drive at their workplace? [IF NO IN Q4]

 

 

Very common

Somewhat common

Not too common

Never

Don’t know

Firing the lead union organizer(s) or cutting their hours because of their organizing activity

14%

24%

23%

8%

30%

Telling workers the business will be closed and moved to another country if a union is formed

14%

27%

23%

10%

26%

Asking if employees have signed union cards or not

13%

25%

23%

9%

30%

Telling employees they won’t get planned wage increases because of the union drive

13%

28%

20%

8%

32%

Requiring workers to attend a meeting to tell them unions have had a negative impact at other businesses

12%

29%

23%

8%

29%

Holding one-on-one meetings to tell workers to ignore the union and its organizers

10%

27%

26%

8%

29%

 

Q6. To what degree are you aware that the following actions by employers/ management are prohibited by BC Labour laws?

 

 

Very aware

Somewhat aware

Not aware

Don’t know

Firing the lead union organizer(s) or cutting their hours because of their organizing activity

23%

25%

35%

18%

Calling workers at home to ask if they support joining the union

17%

26%

39%

18%

Telling workers the business will be closed and moved to another country if a union is formed

15%

26%

40%

18%

Telling employees they won’t get planned wage increases because of the union drive

15%

27%

39%

19%

Asking if employees have signed union cards or not

14%

27%

40%

19%

Holding one-on-one meetings to tell workers to ignore the union and its organizers

14%

25%

43%

18%

These survey questions were part of Stratcom’s omnibus ‘Syndicated Polling” on a range of topics conducted for a variety of clients and fielded online through river sampling and proprietary panels from April 25 to May 3, 2022. The poll has a balanced sample of 804 BC adults, statistically weighted to match the gender, age, region and proportion of Chinese mother tongue in BC as per the 2016 Census. The data has also been weighted to match the 2020 BC provincial election results. While online polls don’t report margin of error, a similar sized probability sample would have a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Strategic Communications Inc. (Stratcom) is an award-winning consulting firm that has been designing and implementing strategic research, communications and message development since 1991 for not-for-profit organizations, charities, unions, professional associations, regulatory agencies, governments and government agencies.

Author: mperalta
Posted: May 11, 2022, 9:57 pm

Thirty years ago today, 26 miners died in an instant when methane gas and coal dust exploded in the Westray Coal Mine in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County.

To call this catastrophe unnecessary would be an understatement. Workers repeatedly warned about extremely dangerous conditions and practices; the company neglected safety training and equipment and fired one of the workers who made safety complaints. Yet only two Westray managers ever faced trial; the process ended without convictions — and without justice for the Westray miners and their families.

It took 11 years and relentless pressure from Canadian unions, especially the United Steelworkers, for the federal government to finally introduce the Westray Law, s. 217.1 of the Criminal Code. It holds managers and corporate directors criminally responsible when their safety violations cause a worker’s injury or death.

Yet we’re still far from the point where negligent employers face those consequences. All too often, the justice system fails workers: Investigations are under-resourced; many police service members are still unfamiliar with workplace safety and the Westray Law; and criminal charges frequently aren’t even considered until far too late in the process, if at all.

Without timely investigation and charges, the Westray Law is meaningless — as we saw last September when the BC Prosecution Service decided to stay proceedings against Peter Kiewit Sons Co. in the death of Sam Fitzpatrick more than a decade earlier. While criminal investigations of workplace deaths have improved, much more needs to be done.

Today, on the 30th anniversary of the Westray disaster, we renew our call on the BC government to take these measures immediately:

  1. dedicate a Crown prosecutor to deal with workplace fatalities and serious injuries,
  2. train police services throughout BC on the Westray Law’s provisions, and
  3. make police investigations mandatory in all workplace fatalities and serious injuries.

Let’s ensure that every employer understands their responsibility for their workers’ safety. And let’s ensure that those who would endanger their workers for the sake of cutting corners face the deterrent of the full weight of our justice system.

Author: kmcgrath
Posted: May 9, 2022, 11:37 pm

The BC Federation of Labour released the following statement today on the occasion of the Day of Mourning:

Every year on this day, we pause to remember workers who have been killed, injured or made sick because of their work.

This year, we mourn 206 British Columbia workers who died in 2021 from work-related causes. We mourn as well the many workers we’ve lost to drug poisoning, the tragic end of a journey that began with pain medication for a workplace injury.

Every one of the workers we lost last year was someone’s parent, a best friend, a beloved sibling, someone’s child or a treasured grandparent. The pain and loss caused by workplace deaths and injuries ripple across our communities and echo through the years.

There is a simple, fundamental right of every worker: to go home at the end of their day as safe and healthy as when they arrived for work. But all too often, that right takes second place to cutting costs or speeding production. And it’s workers and their families who pay the heavy price.

Recent years have seen important improvements in worker safety as well as support for sick and injured workers. Most recently, the BC government and Labour Minister Harry Bains brought in historic legislation to require protection and training for asbestos abatement workers — making BC the first jurisdiction in Canada to require certification of their employers.

We have seen progress on other fronts as well: stronger health and safety regulations; presumptive coverage for COVID-19 and — for workers in some fields — PTSD; improvements to Workers’ Compensation; and paid sick leave.

But there is much more to do to make the Workers’ Compensation Board a genuinely worker-centered organization, with a compensation system that treats injured workers fairly and as individuals. Working people must be able to rely on strong safety standards, inspection and enforcement. And employers must know that anyone who puts a worker’s safety at risk will be held rigorously accountable.

Workers have put themselves on the line to bring British Columbia through this pandemic and through the climate disasters of the past year. They are driving our province’s recovery and keeping BC growing. This province owes it to workers to take the action needed to safeguard their lives and their safety.

Today, we remember the dead. And every day, we fight for the living.

Author: angela.boscariol
Posted: April 28, 2022, 11:32 pm

The BCFED Regional Conference is returning online as the All Regions Conference!

Join us the evening of May 26 and all day May 27 for panels, keynotes and workshops focused on putting workers front & centre as our province rebuilds from the pandemic and the ongoing crises confronting us. See the full agenda here.

Registration is just $50 — spaces are limited, so register now!

Thursday, May 26, 2022 - 19:00 to Friday, May 27, 2022 - 16:30
Ticket URL: 
https://conference.bcfed.ca/2022regional/registration
Action Text: 
Register Now
Host: 
BC Federation of Labour
Author: angela.boscariol
Posted: April 22, 2022, 5:10 pm

We'll have more details closer to the date — but be sure to circle the week of November 21st on your calendar for the BCFED's biennial convention!

Monday, November 21, 2022 - 09:00 to Friday, November 25, 2022 - 15:00
Action Text: 
Buy Tickets
Host: 
BC Federation of Labour
Author: angela.boscariol
Posted: April 8, 2022, 5:31 pm