After a five month strike and an international campaign, the agreement represents a victory for the workers and addresses all of their major concerns…

Workers at snack food processor Covered Bridge Potato Chips, in the Canadian city of Hartland, New Brunswick, voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in December 2013, shortly after the union itself had affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The UFCW represents around 1.3 million workers in the US and Canada, but despite its strength, a history of militancy and court decisions reaffirming the union’s rights. Covered Bridge repeatedly violated the provincial Labour Act and intimidated union supporters.

The members of UFCW at the Hartland plant called a strike on 4 January, 2016, in response to the company’s continued refusal to bargain for a fair first contract with a living wage and basic workplace rights, including seniority.

The strike lasted five months and saw a successful international campaign to enlist support and solidarity from around the world, thanks to the IUF global union which represents unions around the world in the food, agricultural, hotel, restaurant, catering, tobacco and allied workers’ industries.

The strike ended successfully when UFCW members at Covered Bridge Potato Chips ratified their first collective agreement on 24 May. The three-year agreement represents a victory for the workers and addresses all of their major concerns, including seniority provisions, job protection language, and wage and benefit gains.

The union warmly thanks all those who supported their struggle.

As an interesting footnote, the UFCW is one of the few unions representing workers in the hemp, medical cannabis and legally compliant marijuana growing and distribution trades, thanks to the establishment of locals in California and Colorado in 2010 and 2011.

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Gary Herman

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