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B.C., Canada: Extra Foods Workers Rally For Living Wage
Maple Ridge News

December 16, 2010
View the Original Article

More than 100 people, including union members, labour leaders, politicians, and community members, converged in front of the Extra Foods in downtown Maple Ridge on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the ongoing strike by workers at the grocery store.

“This is an anniversary none of us ever hoped we’d ever see,” United Commercial Food Workers Local 1518 president Ivan Limpright told the crowd.

Workers at the local store have been on strike since 2008, when they rejected a contract proposal from Extra Foods parent company Loblaw Companies Limited. It would have rolled back their wages by 45 per cent to as little as $9.40 per hour.

Loblaw has so far refused to budge on the initial contract it put forward two years ago, and the two sides haven’t spoken in close to a year.

“I can think of nothing more disgusting than taking away someone’s right to earn a living wage,” said Limpright. “They’ve reduced wages and benefits back to the 1960s.”

UCFW Local 1518 spokesperson Andy Neufeld said the strike is the longest he’s ever seen. The only strike the union has been involved in that has lasted longer was in the early 1980s, when Canadian Tire employees went on strike for three years to win the right to collectively bargain.

“They won their fight,” said Neufeld. “They’re still [union] members to this day.”

Taking part in the rally were District of Maple Ridge councillors Craig Spiers and Linda King, as well as Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NDP MLA Michael Sather, and Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains.

Each spoke to a common theme, that of corporate greed waging war on the middle class.

“This is a national cause,” said Spiers. “[The picketers] are carrying the can for workers across the country.”

After 20 minutes of speeches, most of the throng proceeded on a march past Maple Ridge municipal hall, around the Memorial Peace Park and down 224th Street, carrying signs, chanting, and handing out pamphlets along the way.

Representatives from Loblaw Companies Limited were observing the rally from afar. However, they declined to comment.