August 2012: Two-tier minimum wage; AFL 100 years Labour Day; AB govt no longer reports farm fatalities; Harper's low-wage agenda; Bogus labour-shortage figures; Billions lost in royaliti...
Two-Tier Minimum Wage
- lberta's poorly written two-tier minimum wage system is open to abuse by employers who are taking advantage of these laws to rip off the lowest-paid workers in Alberta. West End Swiss Chalet is one example. For more information see Aug 31 AFL release and backgrounder
AFL's 100 Years
- sure to have a look at our insert in the Edmonton Journal on Friday, August 31, 2012 – a special Labour Day message from Gil McGowan and a 10 page special on the past and present struggles of workers in Alberta.
Government trying to erase agricultural workers by no longer reporting farm fatalities
- The Alberta government's decision to stop reporting farm fatalities is an attempt to move the issue to the back burner and off the public radar. Farm workers are already left unprotected under health and safety regulations. For more information see Aug 20 AFL release.
Government documents reveal source of Harper's low-wage agenda
- nternal federal government documents show the source of Harper's low-wage agenda. Last year, a select group of CEOs and other business leaders were invited by the federal Conservatives to an annual closed-doors conference where they urged the Tories to adopt measures to reduce the pay of Canadian workers, limit union power by enacting U.S.-style right-to-work legislation, and allow two-tier health care. For more information...
AFL shows government using bogus labour-shortage figures
- The government is using bizarre calculations to show a catastrophic "labour shortage" even though their own figures show a labour surplus for every year until 2021. The AFL revealed that the government's own figures show the supply of labour exceeding the demand for labour – a labour surplus – well into the future. For more information see July 25 AFL release and backgrounder
New Study shows billions in lost royalty revenue after Northern Gateway
- he Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and Parkland Institute released a study showing Albertans will let billions slip through their fingers if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is approved and constructed. If Alberta met royalty targets in place when Lougheed was Premier, the province would have $1 trillion in the Heritage Fund by 2039. For more information... see Aug 9 AFL release and backgrounder
Statement from Gil McGowan on the proposed takeover of Nexen by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)
- Does it matter who owns the oil sands? You bet it does!" explains AFL president Gil McGowan. "If foreign governments are allowed to expand in Alberta through companies like China National, they'll develop the oil sands in their own best interest, not in the best interest of Canadians." For more information...July 24 AFL release
UFCW 1118 workers on strike for fair wages and working conditions
- FCW 1118 sisters and brothers at Lilydale Foods' North Edmonton shop are on strike for wages comparable to those in other Lilydale plants. The employer refuses to pay wages on par with other Lilydale plants despite the fact that these workers work harder by handling larger and heavier poultry. The employer has cut the number of workers on the floor, meaning those left on the floor have to work harder while their wages have remained the same. Workers are also asking for a guaranteed minimum number of hours per week. There are about 200 workers on strike in shifts of about 75. Support these workers on the picket line at 127 Avenue and 76 Street in Edmonton. Pickets will be going in shifts between Monday and Friday, 6:00 AM and 6:30 PM.
September2:Calgary Pride Parade
September 3: EDLC Labour Day BBQ
September 3: Labour Day
September 5: Official Opening Historical Display, Alberta Provincial Museum
September 7: AFL Education Committee
September 8: World Literacy Day
September 10: AFL Women's Committee
September 11: AFL WOCAW Committee
October 1: AFL Pride and Solidarity Committee
October 2-3: AFL Executive Council
October 8: Thanksgiving
October 14-17: CEP National Convention
October 17: National Day for the Eradication of Poverty
October 18: Persons Day
November 23-25: Parkland Fall Conference
January 14-19, 2013: AFL Weeklong School
The People Who Built Alberta: A Centennial for Alberta Workers examines labour's role in the growth and prosperity of the province. Beginning with First Nations social economies, it traces working life through the periods of agricultural settlement, railway building and the coal economy, to the present.
The People Who Built Alberta was designed for the archives by the Alberta Labour History Institute, as part of Project 2012, the centennial celebration of the Alberta Federation of Labour. Artifacts accompanying display panels have been provided by the Royal Alberta Museum.
Project 2012 also includes a series of history booklets for schools and the general public, a series of short workers' history videos, a new Alberta labour history published by Athabasca University Press and a provincial tour by Alberta folk-singer Maria Dunn.
The public is welcome to celebrate the opening of the exhibit on Wednesday, September 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Seating is limited; please RSVP by calling 780-427-1750 (dial 310-000 for toll-free access within Alberta) or emailing [email protected]
The Provincial Archives of Alberta is owned and operated by Alberta Culture and is located at 8555 Roper Road (corner of 86 street and 51 avenue) in Edmonton. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with extended hours on Wednesday to 9 p.m. Admission is free.
Ourhome.ca, Saturdau, September 1, 2012
The Alberta Federation of Labour
Published: Friday, August 31
100 YEARS OF STRUGGLE
100 YEARS OF SOLIDARITY
Edmonton Journal 2012
The first 100 years
The Alberta Federation of Labour is dedicated to improving the lives of Alberta's working people, union members and non-members alike. We seek to represent all those who must work to earn a livelihood. Together workers share a need for security, safety, a living wage, a life beyond work, and a society that puts the needs of the many ahead of the needs of a few. Only by banding together into unions and organizations such as the AFL can they hope to keep the rights and protections they require and to win new ones.
The next 100 years
Those who came before left a tremendous legacy: laws that provide for a minimum wage and maximum hours of work, weekends and statutory holidays, Worker's Compensation, health and safety, pensions and health care, and so much more. The challenge facing the AFL and the entire labour movement during the next 100 years is to protect and build on this inheritance and to meet new challenges - unprotected farm workers, temporary foreign workers, invasion of privacy, new workplace hazards and occupational disease, to name a few.
If we approach our task with energy and commitment, we will succeed!
The Edmonton Journal, Friday August 31 2012
When we talk about the history of Alberta we usually think of wide-open prairies, cattle ranching and oil -- seldom do historians talk about the men and women of the labour movement who helped Alberta grow and become prosperous. As part of this year's birthday celebrations, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is helping Albertans learn about the province's rich labour history. The Alberta Federation of Labour was born on June 14, 1912.
Preparations for the centennial began five years ago when the AFL joined forces with the Alberta Labour History Institute (ALHI) to plan the celebration. They named their venture Project 2012.
As a retiree, I had time to help out. Workers were the focus in the history we did. We interviewed hundreds of workers all over the province and recorded amazing stories of struggles, victories and losses. I had fun setting up the cameras and lights, filming and even conducting the actual interviews, and I learned a lot.
I learned that in the early 1900s, very active, progressive and sometimes radical groups of workers stood their ground against vicious attacks by employers supported by governments and police. They fought for the eight-hour workday, union recognition, health and safety concerns and more, and they won many of those battles for us.
Coal miners, laundry workers, garment factory workers, public- and private-sector workers, meat packers and many more painted a much different picture than how the history of our province is usually portrayed.
An ambulance driver in Calgary talked about how cutthroat the business was in the old days when private operators ruled. He told stories about the race to get to the "victims" and how fisticuffs were often used to decide which ambulance would take the patient to the hospital. Getting that pickup was the only way they would get paid. As I listened I couldn't help but think how lucky we are that he and others fought to change things.
We also recorded the memories of workers who were involved in more recent events in Alberta's labour history, like the Nurses and Postal workers strikes in the '80s, the Gainers and Fletchers' strikes of 1986 and the Calgary laundry workers strike of 1995.
The stories were transcribed and used in pamphlets, DVDs, posters, a website and included in a book on Alberta's labour history entitled Working People in Alberta: A History. It is published by Athabasca University and is a compilation of both academic and trade union authors. The book starts with stories of Native work and moves through the century.
The celebrations started in Medicine Hat on May 3 and continued up to the main event of June 16 with the "Celebration in the Park" at Fort Edmonton.
Some of the events were held at the Calgary Labour Temple on 11 Avenue SE, the site of many of Alberta's prominent labour moments. The temple was the birthplace of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) -- predecessor to the New Democratic Party (NDP) -- in 1932. Inside its walls representatives of many groups, including unions, decided to hold the CCF founding convention in Regina, Saskatchewan -- commonly known as the Regina Manifesto.
In Lethbridge, where the founding convention of the AFL was held in June 1912, the Labour Council joined with the Galt Museum to sponsor a concert by Canadian singer-songwriter Maria Dunn and a picnic in the park, which had a great turnout in a snowstorm.
The Edmonton Labour Council dedicated a monument as a tribute to families of workers injured or killed on the job.
Twenty-five museums and libraries across the province mounted labour history displays in honour of the AFL centennial. Many of the displays are still up. Red Deer is mounting a large stainless steel disc engraved with images of labour on a downtown building.
One of the highlights of the celebration was a labour history conference sponsored by the Alberta Labour History Institute June 13-15 in Edmonton, which was followed by a well-attended mini-non-delegated AFL convention in the Park at Fort Edmonton on June 16. Over 900 attended the celebration dinner.
These and the many other AFL centennial events held in communities around the province helped Albertans remember and learn about our rich and successful labour history. It also reminded me, as a union retiree, that I still have a lot to offer, and my efforts can still help make a difference for others.
Retiree Matters is a monthly column written by members of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) that explores issues relevant to retirees, senior citizens, their families and their communities. CURC acts as an advocacy organization to ensure that the concerns of union retirees and senior citizens are heard throughout Canada.
Rabble.ca, Mon Aug 13 2012
Byline: Susan Keeley for Retiree Matters
Strength is found in community as the AFL reflects on 100 years of organizingThis month the Alberta Federation of Labour is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Celebratory activities to date have included the publication of a book, unveiling of monuments and plaques, displays in galleries, museums and libraries around the province, a concert tour by Maria Dunn, a labour history conference, a homecoming dinner for current and former staff and elected members, and many more.
But the event that most stands out for me is the full day celebration that took place at Fort Edmonton Park last Saturday. The celebration included music, videos, speeches, retrospectives, games for the kids, a tea for seniors, a beer garden and a terrific meal.
None of those is what made the event stand out, however. What did were the people and the energy they shared. Front-line union members, executives, and staff were expected, but the presence of activists from around the province, community leaders, city councillors, MLAs, artists and musicians, reps from various non-profit organizations, and people from across generations made it more than just another labour event. It was a community coming together and a celebration in the truest sense of the word, and it was fun. Perhaps none of that should have come as a surprise, but it did.
Across Alberta and Canada unions are under attack by governments determined to undo progress made over the last 100 years, and reverse the benefits that workers have fought for and won not just for themselves, but for our entire society.
At the same time, non-profits, community organizations, seniors, environmental organizations and advocacy groups are also under attack. Programming is being de-funded, activists of all types are being demonized and dissent is being squashed.
To hear conservative politicians and the mainstream media tell it, unions are obsolete and irrelevant, but the atmosphere and attitudes of people attending Saturday's events revealed a different perception.
Bringing together all of these groups as a community for a genuine day of celebration in the midst of these challenging times is no small feat. It was impressive, and the AFL is to be commended for the accomplishment. Beyond being impressive, however, Saturday's event was important.
It was important because it highlighted the power of community and celebration to folks engaged in the difficult task of bringing progressive change to our province and country. It's too easy to focus on the challenges and the losses, and get caught up in the immediate imperative of our particular issues and our particular organizations.
Coming together to celebrate reminds that we are not alone in our struggles and that we have achieved great things. Coming together as a broad community, with our children, elders and friends, reminds us of why we are engaged in the struggle in the first place and gives us the strength and motivation to keep going.
It was also important because it showed the way forward. The challenges we face today are significant, and in many ways too large and daunting for any one individual or organization to take on alone. Events like Saturday's remind us that we are not alone—that there are many others around us who share a big picture vision of the society we want. The challenge is for all of us to move beyond our egos and our singular focus on our particular issues and organizations, and to strategize together on how we make progress on the goals that unite us.
The Alberta Federation of Labour was born when Alberta's farmers, urban workers and rural workers came to the realization that in many ways their struggles were one and the same. One hundred years later we need to come to the realization that the struggles of environmentalists, seniors, first nations, the poor and community activists also have much in common with the struggles of unions and workers. Let's honour the example of those AFL pioneers, and the lessons of last Saturday, and begin moving forward together in ways that will ensure that in a 100 years those who come next will also have something to celebrate. V
Ricardo Acuña is the executive director of the Parkland Institute, a non-partisan, public policy research institute housed at the University of Alberta.
Vue Weekly, June 20, 2012
The Alberta Federation of Labour is celebrating the work of unions in the province in its centennial anniversary.
President of the AFL Gil McGowan says labour laws and work conditions have improved dramatically in the past 100 years however he has some reservations.
"We are concerned that there're are forces out there, both political and ideological forces that want to tip the playing field more dramatically in favour of employers at the expense of working people.
McGowan says over the last 100 years unions worked to established minimum wage, the 8-hour work day, vacations and pensions.
The AFL is celebrating its centennial down at Fort Edmonton Park Saturday. Festivities go until 11:30pm.
iNews880AM, Sat Jun 16 2012
The Alberta Federation of Labour celebrated a milestone Saturday.
The AFL is marking its 100th birthday by throwing a party at Fort Edmonton Park.
A small group of railway workers and trades people formed what was to become the modern-day AFL back in June of 1912.
President Gil McGowan says the group, which is made up of unions from both public and private sectors across the province, has been a pivotal support for Alberta's middle class.
"When we first got together those long years ago there was no minimum wage, there was no occupational health and safety rules. It was a hard time, wages were low, jobs were insecure and that was the big goal of the federation at that time, to bring some respect and dignity to the working people," McGowan said.
"Looking back over the hundred years we can say that our movement has been tremendously successful in bringing dignity and respect to working people."
The AFL said today's celebration was also a time to recommit to the labour movement.
McGowan said rights that have been won must be maintained and expanded.
"Many gains we've won can easily be lost," he said.
"We feel that there is a threat because we have governments that want to bring American-style anti-union labour laws north of the border. We have to commit ourselves to stop that from happening."
Many Edmontonians came out to celebrate 100 years of union victories in the province.
There was a parade, family-friendly activities and live musical performances.
The AFL represents more than 150,000 workers.
Centennial festivities run until 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
ctv.ca, Sat Jun 16 2012
June 2012: Party of the Century; Harper attacks workers' wages; AB government low-wage agenda; oil-sands debate
Thousands of union supporters to gather for Centennial celebration
- More than 3,000 supporters of the labour movement will converge on Fort Edmonton Park tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) to celebrate 100 years of union victories in Alberta. "Much of what makes this province a great place to work, to live and to raise our families has been brought to us by union members," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which celebrates its centennial this year. For more about the day, click here. Click here to see the lineup of events.
Harper government launches attacks on workers' wages
- A number of federal government initiatives revealed the Harper government has embarked on a campaign to drive down wages in Canada. These include new rules that would make it easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers and to pay them 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage rate in the area. For more information ... The federal Tories will also change Employment Insurance rules to force Canadians to accept low-wage jobs - for more information ...
Alberta government's low-wage agenda continues
- The federal Tory government is not alone in its low-wage policies. Despite announcing a raise in the province's minimum wage, the Alberta government kept its rate as the second lowest in Canada, despite the wealth in the province and the high cost of living here. To make matters worse, in a blatant case of spin-doctoring, the Alberta Tories tried to make the small raise look better than it really was. For more information ...
AFL president praises Mulcair for igniting oil-sands debate
- While right-wing media went into attack mode against federal NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair after he talked about the dangers posed to the Canadian economy by an overheated oil-sands industry, the AFL came to his defence. AFL president Gil McGowan said Mulcair should be thanked for igniting a long-overdue debate about the appropriate pace of development in the oil sands. "The oil sands are crucially important to the economy. That's why we can't afford to get it wrong. And we are getting it wrong," says McGowan. The wild-west pace of development in the oil sands is driving up the Canadian dollar, creating a labour shortage, driving up costs for business, and creating an unbalanced economy. Government failure to capture appropriate royalties makes the situation worse. For more information ...
$5 tickets for Party of the Century still available!- After 100 years of fighting for workers' rights, tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) we party, party, party! Thanks to generosity of our affiliated unions and the City of Edmonton, there are still some tickets available at the greatly reduced price of only $5. That's right – only $5 per person for a while day of fun at Fort Edmonton Park, from the parade in the morning, musical performances by award-winning singers and musicians throughout the day, kids' games, crafts and the AFL's undelegated convention. Tickets are available at the park. Free shuttle buses are also available.
June 21: National Aboriginal Day
July 1: Canada Day
July 2: International Day of Co-operatives
July 10: World Population Day
July 18: Nelson Mandela International Day
August 6-10: AFL Kids' Camp
August 6: Civic Day
August 8: International Day of the World's Indigenous People
August 11: International Youth Day
Did you know ...
Top 10 Ways a Wild West pace of oil-sands development hurts Alberta workers, families and the economy.
- The Three Stooges problem: When everybody rushes to get through a door at the same time, they all get stuck. That's what's happening with the oil sands.
- Cost escalation: A recent report showed oil-sands construction projects went over budget by an average of 100 per cent, but most of that increase was not due to rising wages, but to the rising cost of steel and productivity losses.
- Temporary foreign workers: New rules allowing employers to pay TFWs 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage in the area will drive down wages for all workers. Relying too heavily on TFWs will mean we are squandering the opportunity to train a whole generation of skilled Canadian tradespeople.
- Remaking labour relations: Non-union employers are exploiting the oil-sands situation to push for changes to rules governing labour that include repealing the Fair Wages Act, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, changes to Employment Insurance and using back-to-work legislation to undermine collective bargaining.
- Shipping good jobs down the pipeline: We upgrade only 60 per cent of our raw bitumen in Alberta, but that level is set to fall to less than 50 per cent in the next few years. This means that the good, value-added upgrading jobs are being shipped down the pipeline to other jurisdictions, instead of being kept here.
- Manufacturing jobs take yet another beating: Cost escalation means more manufacturing for the oil sands will be "off-shored," meaning more good jobs lost in Alberta. Imperial Oil has already tried it at its Kearl Lake project and several big construction firms have already been approached by manufacturing outfits in Mexico.
- Albertans are being fleeced on royalties: Royalties are paid after energy companies pay their costs. So if costs are going up, it means that royalties will go down.
- The Wild Wes stampede to the oil sands hurts other sectors of the economy: The high Canadian dollar hurts Alberta manufacturers, as well as those in Ontario and Quebec. According to Alberta Finance's Monthly Economic Review, we lost 18,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the last year.
- We are an international embarrassment: If we allow the Wild West pace of development to continue, we will continue to be an international laughingstock on our environmental commitments. The only way to get serious about climate change, environmental monitoring, and enforcement is to appropriately pace development.
- We are failing the rest of the country: There are only three ways ordinary Canadians get their share of our collectively owned resource wealth jobs, wages and royalties. But as a result of the current model for development, increasing numbers of the short-term jobs are going to guest workers and more and more of the long-term jobs are going down the pipeline. Wages are being suppressed and royalties are being given away – all because the government doesn't want to take a leadership role in managing the pace of development.
Crowds to celebrate union achievements and prepare for coming battles
More than 3,000 supporters of the labour movement will converge on Fort Edmonton Park tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) to celebrate 100 years of union victories in Alberta.
"Much of what makes this province a great place to work, to live and to raise our families has been brought to us by union members," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers and is celebrating its centennial this year.
"Working conditions were appalling in Alberta 100 years ago. They only improved when workers formed unions and fought to make things better. Unions have led the fight for fair wages, safe workplaces and an end to discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender and orientation," he says.
However, the work of unions is not finished, with workers' rights under attack across the country. "The struggle continues as we see moves to drive down wages under the federal government's Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, to restrict Employment Insurance (EI) payments to laid-off workers and to keep people in the workplace until the age of 67 under proposed changes to Old Age Security (OAS) rules," he said.
Events at the park tomorrow, being dubbed the Party of the Century, include:
• 11:30 a.m.: Parade led by bagpiper;
• 12:30 p.m.: Celebration opens. AFL president Gil McGowan will speak to the crowd about 100 years of union struggles and victories, the challenges that lie ahead for the labour movement – and why unions are still a vital force in defending working families from attack;
• 1:30 p.m.: Concert Juno-nominated folksinger Maria Dunn; and
• 2:30-4:30 p.m.: AFL Centennial Convention.
• 4:30-11:30 p.m.: Continuous live entertainment
Festivities continue throughout the day, with lots of activities for families to enjoy, including kids' games, face-painting, pony races, sack races and crafts. A stellar lineup of musical performances is scheduled during the day, with concerts from artists including Souljah Fyah, Audio/Rocketry, the Rault Brothers Band, Terry Morrison and Notres Dames des Bananes.
For more information:
• Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour (780) 218-9888