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

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

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

Capt. Alan Millbank, head of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Fire and Loss Prevention Division, takes photos of the scene of a blaze that heavily damaged two apartments on Wakesiah Avenue on Sunday, April 18. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
RCMP, Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigating suspicious apartment blaze

Fire destroyed ground-floor apartment, spread to second storey at Wakesiah Avenue complex

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help them find a 16-year-old who has been missing since Sunday. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: 16-year-old Nanaimo boy located safe

Teen had been reported missing last week and it was thought he may have left town

The Regional District of Nanaimo plans to make its operations more efficient as it works on long-term goals around carbon-neutrality. (PQB News file photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo works to become carbon neutral by 2032

RDN committee of the whole members endorse plan developed by consultant

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read