Salt Workers Challenge Arrogant US Holding Company
The strike at the Windsor Salt operations in Windsor, Ontario is into its third week. The workers report that the company’s lawyer, a well-known anti-union gun-for-hire, left town after tabling the company’s first unacceptable offer to contract out workers’ jobs, returning to Milwaukee. Since that time, despite the workers making it clear they are ready to negotiate, there has been no response from the company to negotiate. However, the company has been trying to remove large amounts of stored salt by rail from the evaporation facility, which the workers were able to prevent until the company was granted a court injunction on March 1 to stop striking workers from defending their livelihood by blocking the removal of salt from the plant.
The workers also indicate that the mine safety representative from the province of Ontario has taken their safety equipment out of the mine, meaning that no production can take place underground, which the company seemed to want to try and do using managers. At this point managers are sleeping in the facilities on three-day shifts. Workers indicate that normally after a two week shut down of operations of the mine it can take up to a month to re-start operations as machines seize over time and have to be made ready to work again.
In discussion on the picket line the workers make it clear that they are firm in their resolve to not be dictated to and have their union dismantled through contracting out, which they see as an attack on the entire labour movement and the country as a whole. They explain that during the pandemic they were considered essential workers and kept the operations going 24/7 — going to work while isolating from their families. The company gave them essential worker letters so that if they were stopped by police while going to work during the mandatory isolation periods, they would not be fined. Now that the company wants to attack their union, they are declared de facto non-essential and dismissed as irrelevant. It is not something they are in any mood to accept.
The workers are also clear that having a union in their operations is what upholds their own health and safety in the mines and processing. The demand to contract out the work would undermine health and safety in the operations, something the workers cannot accept.
There is a lot of disdain growing for the arrogance of the U.S. company, Stone Canyon Industries Holding Ltd., Mark Demetree and Affiliates, that bought the operations. The workers note, in particular, that the bringing in of a third-party lawyer who is a well-known anti-union gun-for-hire signals that the company thinks it can do as it pleases in Canada and this they cannot accept.
The workers know that the work they do and the salt they extract and process is of huge value to the society. They are ready to negotiate agreements that are for mutual benefit but are not in a mood to accept being dismissed and dictated to by U.S. anti-union, anti-worker firms. They know that Windsor is being established as a hub for the transport of critical goods, which includes the salt operations, and they want this to be of benefit to the community, not a chance for more blackmail from U.S. owners who just want to make a quick buck and then flip the company to another buyer.
They report that they are receiving a lot of support from the community and that this really helps them to keep standing tall.