Defying Expectations

The Case of UFCW Local 401

Ebook

Defying Expectations

In October 2005, Jason Foster, then a staff member of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was holding a picket line outside Lakeside Packers in Brooks, Alberta with the members of local 401. It was a first contract strike. And although the employees of the meat-packing plant—many of whom were immigrants and refugees—had chosen an unlikely partner in the United Food and Commercial Workers local, the newly formed alliance allowed the workers to stand their ground for a three-week strike that ended in the defeat of the notoriously anti-union company, Tyson Foods.

It was but one example of a wide range of industries and occupations that local 401 organized over the last twenty years.

In this study of UFCW 401, Foster investigates a union that has had remarkable success organizing a group of workers that North American unions often struggle to reach: immigrants, women, and youth. By examining not only the actions and behaviour of the local’s leadership and its members but also the narrative that accompanied the renewal of the union, Foster shows that both were essential components to legitimizing the leadership’s exercise of power and its unconventional organizing forces.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Half Title 2
Title 4
Copyright 5
Contents 6
Acknowledgements 8
Introduction 12
PART I THE EVOLUTION OF LOCAL 401, 1997–2017 24
1 Facing New Challenges: From Safeway to Shaw 26
2 Victory at Lakeside 52
3 From Strength to Strength: A Paradoxical Path 72
PART II AN ANALYSIS OF TRANSFORMATION 96
4 Narratives and the Making of Local 401 98
5 Accidental Revitalization and the Role of Leadership 122
6 Revisiting the Business/Social Union Divide 144
Conclusion 166
Appendix A: UFCW Local 401 Timeline 184
Appendix B: UFCW Local 401 Employers 188
Appendix C: A Note on Method 190
References 194