Profile: Rashpal Sehmby immigrated from India to the Northwest Territories in 1974 where his dad had been hired as a mechanic at Cominco’s lead-zinc mine in Pine Point. His dad had come to Canada five years earlier and worked in Mississauga-area factories before sponsoring his family to come to Pine Point. His dad being a member of the United Steelworkers caused Sehmby to appreciate the role of unions in defending workers from arbitrary bosses. The family moved to Edmonton in 1987, a year before the Cominco mine closed. After high school, Sehmby worked several jobs before joining Canada Post in 1999, and soon after became a Canadian Union of Postal Workers activist. His passion for defending workers’ rights was heightened early on when a Canada Post supervisor told him that he needed to remove his beard if he wanted to remain at Canada Post. Bullying of employees, especially women, by management also encouraged his activism. He was involved in organizing the multi-cultural workforce of Dynamex Courier Service. Since 2017 he has served as health and safety officer with CUPW Local 730, Edmonton.
For a time Sehmby also served as an interim organizer for Service Employees International Union, focusing on elderly Punjabi-origin janitors at Bee Clean in Edmonton. Bee Clean classified these workers as subcontractors rather than company employees. Sehmby’s interview focuses on the experiences of discrimination that caused many of these workers to want to unionize.
Keywords: Bee-Clean; Canada Post and bullying; Canada Post and Occupational Health and Safety; Cheap labour; Cominco; Dynamex Courier Service; Human rights and unions; Janitors; Punjab; Service Employees International Union.
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