Two separate squads of info-picketers descended on two different Ottawa area Beer Stores this past Saturday. The two-hour actions, held at the stores on Rideau Street (near Waller) and on Bank Street (near Holmwood in the Glebe), were organized in support of the second province-wide solidarity action initiated by the United Steelworkers union in defence of striking beer can workers in Toronto-area USW Local 9176.
The striking steelworkers work at Crown Holdings Inc., a manufacturing company responsible for producing a large majority of the cans used by the beer companies. Contract talks broke down on Sept 6, 2013 and some 120 workers have been on a strike picketline ever since. The negotiations foundered when the highly profitable company demanded huge take aways in the form of a two-tier wage and two-tier pension system that would destroy the compensation provided to newly hired workers. Local members rejected this model of collective bargaining, through which future workers would bear the cost of concessions negotiated by the current generation.
The actions in Ottawa were eventful. As with the previous province-wide action on December 16th, activists with the ODLC (Ottawa and District Labour Council) and other unions bolstered the Steelworkers info-picket at the Beer Store on Rideau St. This time, a "second front" was opened up at a Beer Store on Bank St. in the Glebe, as a group of six solidarity activists showed up to leaflet customers and appeal for an end to all purchases of beer in cans.
Beer Store management on Bank St was quick to ask picketers to move to the sidewalk and not "interfere" with customers. When picketers did not move quickly enough for the manager's liking, Ottawa police were called. The manager's time, and the time of Ottawa Police Service personnel, were completely wasted in investigating this entirely peaceful, information focused event.
On the other hand, dozens of customers and passers-by heard the message of "Bottles, not cans!" being repeated loudly by the picketers.
"Say no to two-tier wages! Buy your beer in bottles, not in cans, until this strike is settled!"
Many of those receiving leaflets and hearing the message indicated that they would be complying, cheerfully, with the request.
For more info: www.takebacksnomore.ca
An excellent photo-roundup for this province-wide action was pulled together by RankandFile.ca and can be found here, and The Leveller has also posted a short item online about this same action.