Winnipeg SimplexGrinnell Workers Score Quick Campaign Win
June 17, 2013
In what organizers are calling a stellar campaign victory, a determined group of skilled technicians working for SimplexGrinnell in Winnipeg stood up for rights on the job and voted IBEW May 22.
The 15 new members of Local 435 install and maintain fire alarm and security systems in commercial buildings throughout Manitoba’s capital city.
“This was an amazing win,” said Local 435 Business Manager Bruce Krause, who played a key role in the campaign. “These workers are an impressive group. They were well-organized before they even contacted us, and they had a clear understanding of what they were doing and why they were doing it.”
Loss of overtime pay and lack of workplace structure prompted the employees to reach out for support.
“The company was randomly changing terms and conditions of their employment,” Krause said. “They were reducing overtime on a whim, and their wages are all over the map. There was no rhyme or reason for how they got paid.”
The first organizing meeting on May 22 sealed the victory when a strong majority of the workers signed authorization cards. In the province, the labor board will automatically grant certification for a union if 65 percent plus one of the employees sign cards – a threshold handily exceeded by the SimplexGrinnell workers.
Krause petitioned the Manitoba labor board the following day, and the union was officially recognized May 31.
While the campaign moved like clockwork, Krause said, the company sent an antiunion letter to employees after learning of the first meeting.
“But that didn’t stop these workers one bit,” Krause said. “The employees told them, ‘”We’re not wavering. We’re sticking together.’”
The new unit is the first union-represented SimplexGrinnell shop in Canada. Darrell Taylor, who coordinates professional and industrial organizing for western Canada, said the effort sets a major precedent for more of the company’s employees looking for increased fairness on the job.
“For this to be the first group nationwide is huge,” Taylor said. “This is a great path forward for the company’s hard-working professionals.”
SimplexGrinnell has 150 offices in the U.S. and Canada and provides fire and life safety services to 1 million customers, according to the company’s Web site.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Steve Snodgrass.