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Labour Day in Grand Forks marked with strike

Rockwool workers march to garner public support in ongoing labour dispute
Darryl Kenyon, owner of Devil Drag Motorsport Rentals, middle, provided a free barbecue lunch for striking Rockwool workers and any members of the public that came down to show support. Photo Karen McKinley

As vacationers headed out for the Labour Day long weekend, striking workers at the Grand Forks Rockwool plant were out reminding people union action brought them this long weekend and all statutory holidays.

Picketers manned the stations around the plant’s entrances and a group marched to the 68th Avenue turnoff to stand on the roadside with signs in hand to remind people the strike is ongoing and garner support from the public.

Most reactions have been positive, with Monday’s demonstration also bringing support, said Katie Crane, first vice president of United Steel Workers (USW) Union Local 1-423.

“I’ve seen one person shake their heads and another give a thumbs-down (while picketing on Monday) but most of the public reaction has been honking horns, waves and a few cheers,” she said.

Some people are unaware there is a strike happening, she added, so a more public demonstration was planned for Monday. This was also a good time to remind people Labour Day and every statutory holiday Canadians get has been brought to them by unions fighting for people to get holidays, or at least compensation for having to work on statutory holidays.

Read more: Workers at Grand Forks Rockwool plant on strike

Picketers have been working to keep morale up and the public aware of the strike action. On Friday there was dancing at the 2nd Street entrance, of which Crane said had a lot of support from passers-by.

There has been support pouring in from the city’s businesses. For Labour Day a public barbecue was set up at the main strike station outside Rockwool’s management office. Darryl Kenyon, owner of Devil Drag Motorsport Rentals said he provided the food at no cost to the picketers because as a former union member, he felt he had to help.

“I thought with Labour Day coming up, what better way to show support and help,” he said. “These guys need all the help they can get to raise awareness. A lot of people in town don’t know they are on strike.”

He added he’s had a good summer business-wise and was in a position to provide some help.

All 168 workers went on strike Aug. 25 after talks between company management and the union were unable to reach a deal. It went to mediation, but time ran out before the 72-hour strike notice ran out. Neither Rockwool or the union can divulge details on what workers and management are negotiating, as they couldn’t be seen to be bargaining through the public and media because it’s gone to strike action.

However, in previous comments Pat MacGregor, president of USW Local 1-423 said workers are struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

Comment from Rockwool wasn’t available as it was the long weekend, but in previous comments Sarah Sinovic, Director of North American Public Relations and Communications for Rockwool said while no company wants to see workers go on strike, the company respected workers’ right to do so and are looking forward to reaching an agreement in the near future.

No timeline has been released for when the union and company will return to the bargaining table.

This is a developing story.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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