Laura Mauke, administrative assistant with USW Local 1-1937, helps unpack bacon at the union hall Friday for distribution to striking workers. MIKE YOUDS/ Alberni Valley News

Port Alberni rallies for mill workers

Fundraisers helping ease the sting of five months without work

  • Nov. 19, 2019 5:00 p.m.

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

The Alberni Valley community is rallying in support of mill workers and loggers who have been affected by a five-month forest sector strike.

Talks between Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 broke down again over the weekend, with no future mediation dates scheduled at press time.

Members filed into the United Steelworkers hall Friday morning (Nov. 15), there to pick up strike pay as well as food hampers, the latter a sure sign of the deepening impact of a protracted dispute.

Boxes of bulk food donations were unloaded from Hertel Meats, Double R Meats, No Frills and the Salvation Army, a few of many donors who have stepped up.

Much of the initiative — as with Friday’s show of generosity — has come from the community at large, said Laura Mauke, administrative assistant with Local 1-1937.

“We’ve been doing some different fundraising,” Mauke said. “It’s definitely because of initiatives by people in the community. They’ve been so helpful in working to help people who have been on strike since July.”

The organizer of Friday’s food drive preferred to remain anonymous, Mauke said. About 100 members took advantage of the donations to augment their strike pay, which some said is barely enough to cover essentials.

“The members were very appreciative,” Mauke said. “It was a good turnout.”

There were some leftovers remaining to hand out, she added.

About 240 Port Alberni union members are among 3,000 Western Forest Products employees from six mills have been on strike since July 1. The local strikers include millworkers and some loggers, Mauke said.

READ MORE: Striking Western Forest Products workers on Vancouver Island rally against concessions

Mayors of half a dozen coastal communities, including Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Ladysmith, North Cowichan and Gold River, sent a letter last week appealing to both parties for a resolution to the dispute. Workers and families are suffering to the point where layoff notices are being issued at businesses reliant on Western’s fibre supply, they said.

“As leaders of communities that are severely impacted by the Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers labour dispute, we are compelled to draw your attention to the economic devastation this dispute is causing for the families who live and work in our communities; the people whose support we rely on as the economic backbone of our local economies,” the letter states.

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions did not sign the letter, saying it was a council decision to leave her name off the letter. “While we respect and appreciate the intent of the mayors represented on the letter, our council felt that it wasn’t the right path,” she wrote in a Facebook post after visiting workers on the picket line at Cameron Shops near Port Alberni.

“As a council, we are aware that our community is suffering from the consequences of this labour dispute. That fact, and the community implications, are not by any means lost on us.”

A burger and beer night fundraiser at The Blue Marlin on Friday, Nov. 22, is next in line on the calendar. The night includes a silent auction and music by Short Term. Other communities have been holding similar fundraisers, said organizer Mary Ann Cheetham.

“I couldn’t stand by and not see something done for Christmas for local loggers,” Cheetham said. “Our town thrives on that industry.”

Some families are already having to make tough choices, Cheetham said. Some are having to leave the picket line in search of jobs elsewhere, she said.

Save-On-Foods is also organizing a food-basket initiative for the striking workers leading up to Christmas, said manager Stephanie Benbow.

“It will be a different Christmas, for sure,” said one worker on the picket line. Throughout the strike, lots of people from the community have been supportive, often dropping off food and refreshments at the picket-line shack located near the foot of Bruce Street.

Tickets for Friday’s event at the Blue Marlin are $20 and available in advance from the Blue Marlin, the USW hall or Cheetham at ma_cheetham@wosscable.com. Silent auction donations can be dropped off in advance at the union hall.

Pat Deakin, the city’s economic development manager, said one in nine workers in Port Alberni is employed directly by the forest industry while many others rely on the business generated.

“We’re making progress on diversification, but it’s tough; it’s still our biggest sector,” Deakin said.

While there is no data available to show the strike’s impact on the local economy, Deakin hears it when he walks into local businesses.

“We are hearing from many owners, employers and proprietors that their revenues are down in their respective businesses,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Workers have been on the picket line at Western Forest Product’s Alberni Pacific Division (APD) Sawmill since July 1. MIKE YOUDS/Alberni Valley News

Just Posted

Nicole Abbott and her 10-month-old daughter, Ophelia, shown here at the Metchosin Fire Hall for the Halloween events last year. Residents are invited to a drive-through version this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore fire halls take pandemic-safe approach to Halloween

One spooky lane among three drive-thru features by firefighters

For Owen Bains, having autism makes navigating the rules and social norms around COVID-19 challenging, says his mother. (Courtesy Nicole Zimmel)
Pandemic poses serious problems for children with autism, say Victoria parents

Parents of children with autism say COVID-19 is overwhelming and reducing social skills

Lacrosse player Patrick Dodds, 19, got his start playing for the Saanich Tigers in Braefoot Park and has now been drafted to the Calgary Roughnecks for the upcoming National Lacrosse League season. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Calgary Roughnecks draft young Saanich lacrosse star for coming NLL season

Going pro at 19 is ‘surreal,’ says Patrick Dodds

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read