Hundreds of members of UNITE HERE Canada’s Ontario Council rallied outside an American Eagle Outfitters store in Toronto’s Fairview Mall on Friday to protest unfair treatment of workers at the third-party warehouse that distributes merchandise to the apparel retailer’s stores throughout Canada.
On April 30, a majority of workers at National Logistics Services, located in Mississauga, applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to vote to join UNITE HERE. Workers wanted a union because they have not received raises in two to three years, lack a fair process to move from casual to permanent employment, deal with daily disrespect from management, and face unfair policy changes, including increasing hours worked before overtime is paid.
The same day that workers applied for union certification, NLS management intensified its anti-union campaign. The company hired a U.S.-based labor relations firm that, acting outside of the norm of labor relations in Ontario, arranged a series of mandatory meetings with employees. Workers were subjected to daily two- to four-hour anti-union meetings, huge "VOTE NO" posters hung in the workplace; the company even mailed an anti-union DVD to their homes. After the intimidation and misinformation, workers lost the vote for a union by a large margin despite strong support for a union just one week before.
"We work hard and want to be treated fairly," said an NLS worker who spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation. "We feel insecure about our jobs because of the company’s intimidation. We need a union because we have no voice."
"We will bring the story of these workers’ struggle to all NLS customers, including Bluenotes, the Shoe Company, Club Monaco, Sporting Life and others," said Alex Dagg, UNITE HERE Canada Co-Director. "While NLS asked its employees to sit through hours of anti-union propaganda, the company lost valuable time for filling the distribution needs of its clients. The union-busting was a lose-lose situation for NLS clients and employees."
American Eagle Outfitters is NLS’s largest client and, until 2006, owned and operated the Mississauga distribution centre.