A bittersweet victory over the weekend has Cargill workers looking a bit differently at the future.
Recently, worker representatives with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have had Cargill management on what they call “the edge of the negotiations cliff.”
A contract was presented to the workers outlining significant changes, but it was not an easy decision to make.
Ultimately, they chose to accept the contract through a democratic voting process, with 71 per cent in favour.
According to the union, the Cargill High River Plant alone had hundreds of their workers experience extreme hardships.
These huge gains are considered a major victory and has given workers new hope for the future.
Cargill worker representatives worked with their local union, UFCW Local 401, to fight for these changes.
In the meantime, the union prepared for a potential strike setting up tents, bringing in heaters and floodlights, levelling nearby fields for parking space, and finalizing a picketing payroll system.
Canada-wide union representatives even booked flights to get to High River.
Union president Thomas Hesse commented on the negotiation circumstances.
“At times over the last number of months, workers have felt helpless. Chaos has swirled about and it often felt like workers have been treated like lightbulbs – you burn out and the forces of greed and power simply screw in another bulb. But our members, have shown that the vulnerability of the individual is overcome by the strength of the many.”
He spoke on the power of the employees joining together.
“From Superstore to Safeway, Sofina to Co-op, and all the way to casino workers, our members have found the cure for helplessness. When they have joined together, multi-billion-dollar corporations have been forced to blink — even to shiver — in the shadow of the power of their employees.
“The union is ultimately the power of the people. It is through the union that worker power shines brightly. And so, by this victory, we can see that there is hope. You are never helpless.”
Work on enforcing and implementing the conditions outlined in the new contract, began on Sunday, Dec. 5.
These include a wage increase far above industry standards, bonuses, improved health benefits, and more.