More Strike Breaking Schemes Come to Light
Workers are leaning more about how Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. operates to try to break unions. The information coming to light in the course of the strike struggle of Windsor Salt workers provides valuable insights for the whole trade union movement into how it must adapt to address the challenges it faces today.
A major problem that is coming up more and more is the use of co-packing to attack unionized workers by shifting production away from facilities where workers are unionized and on strike. Co-packing is an operation in which one plant packages products from another plant that may be owned by the same company, or another company which contracts out its packing. A famous example is the former Heinz plant in Leamington, Ontario. After Heinz was purchased by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Capital and another U.S. hedge fund in 2013, the company closed the plant in 2014. It was then reopened as a co-packing facility by Highbury Canco, which repackages Heinz products and other companies’ products, while paying formerly-unionized Heinz workers $9 less an hour to work in the same facility. In the case of Stone Canyon’s salt cartel, it has been packaging table salt from facilities in the U.S. using Windsor Salt boxes so that they can continue selling product to their customers while one section of their workers is on strike.
Workers know this is happening because boxes of Windsor Salt no longer say “Made in Canada” on them and have unfamiliar production source codes showing where they were packaged. It is possible that the salt is even taken from a Morton Salt evaporation plant, shipped to a third party to be co-packed and then shipped into Canada as if it comes from Windsor. The co-packaged salt is then stored at Charron Transport in Chatham for sale to Windsor Salt customers in Canada. They are transported by unionized truckers from a non-unionized storage facility. This is a new form of strike breaking activity that the trade union movement is coming to terms with in order to prevent it.
Stone Canyon has used other dirty tricks. In Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Stone Canyon had mountains of rock salt shipped in and dumped outside of the salt mine to show the workers that the company didn’t need them to keep working. The message was that the workers could keep striking and it wouldn’t make a difference next to a mountain of salt. To no avail, the Pugwash workers tried to convince the government to prevent the use of salt from outside Nova Scotia. Governments refused to defend the workers, always taking the stand that they do not intervene in private business affairs when in fact they intervene by permitting the company to legally break the strike.
Whether as a result of deliberate calculation or dumb luck, the second week of May it was revealed that Stone Canyon’s salt operations in Windsor are strategically located as a source of sodium which may become important for the production of batteries. A subsidiary of Volkswagen is establishing battery production operations in St. Thomas, Ontario while another Volkswagen subsidiary is already producing sodium-based batteries in China. This has given the workers, and the labour movement, something to think about as it means that salt may in fact be one of the critical minerals the U.S. is eyeing to take control over for its supply chains for electrification. Windsor Salt workers are in fact upholding a standard for all operations like these that the U.S. and its allies and rivals are seeking to control at the expense of the workers and their communities.
In this respect, the Windsor salt workers’ resolve is strengthened by knowing they are fighting for all Canadians and for a Canadian standard of living as well as health and safety at work, which contracting out destroys. This is more clearly becoming a collective fight for the rights of Canadian workers to decide what happens with their natural resources and who they will benefit. Governments are providing the narrow private interests with huge government subsidies, handouts and tax write-offs at the expense of the well-being of the natural and social environments. The workers are fighting to humanize the natural and social environment by fighting for wages, working conditions and standards in a manner that protects and respects Mother Earth.