Location: Red Deer
Profile: Albert Johnson (1961-2014) was president of UFCW, Local 1118, in central Alberta from 1986 till his untimely death in 2014. The local included only 400 workers when he became president but grew to represent 5000 workers in 2014. Raised on a farm in central Alberta, Johnson began working at Fletchers Fine Foods in Red Deer in 1982. A year later he became active in the union when the company began its campaign to depress wages. As local president, he led the 1986 Fletchers strike, including defiance of injunctions against preventing scab buses coming onto the Fletchers property. He was one of 109 workers arrested for that defiance, but charges against all but one of the accused were eventually dropped. Ultimately the solidarity of the Fletchers Vancouver local, with which the company was more desperate to sign an agreement to avoid a strike, led to a successful Red Deer settlement.
During his long tenure as Local 1118 president, Albert Johnson fought hard to ensure that temporary foreign workers, whose importance within the meatpacking sector was continuously growing, were treated no differently from other workers in terms of wages, benefits, or working conditions. Angry that the federal government was unwilling to provide permanent status to these conscientious workers whom he came to admire greatly, Johnson persuaded employers to include within collective agreements a responsibility to seek a pathway to permanent residency for meatpackers who began their time in Canada as TFWs. In the interview, Johnson describes the ways in which global capitalist competition has led meatpacking companies to expect workers to work at impossible speeds.
In 2015, the Local 1118 education centre was named the Albert Johnson Training and Education Centre.
Keywords: English language instruction for TFWs; Fletchers strike, 1986; Meatpacking industry and global capitalism; Olymel; Racism experienced by TFWs; Temporary Foreign Workers; UFCW Local 1118.
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