Source: UFCW Local 1006A/Facebook

January 2024 won’t be the beginning of a happy new year for 30-40 unionized Chapters workers in Scarborough who are organized with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1006A. As of Jan. 27 these workers will be facing a store closure.

While Chapters cites a lack of profitability following a “standard business review,” it’s clear that this is being used as a pretext to attack one of the few Chapters stores in the country which are unionized.

 A simple case of union busting

The bosses, in their arrogance, assume workers aren’t observant enough to see the obvious. But the Chapters workers have observed this current situation, and they have correctly concluded that this is a simple case of union busting. 

UFCW Local 1006A shop steward Victoria Popov stated, “We think we’re being made an example of for being unionized and for demanding better wages,” she said. “I think they want to show other stores: ‘This is what will happen to you if you dare step out of line.’”

Currently, out of the 87 stores Chapters operates, only three are unionized. This unionized store being slated for closure isn’t a coincidence. Unionized workers fight for better wages and benefits. These fights adversely impact the bosses’ profits. This ultimately led to the Scarborough store’s unfavorable “business review” and being chosen as a location to shut down. 

While the company has stated that they are willing to “support workers”, Popov shows that this is merely an empty PR statement. In the past, when store closures have occurred, employees were given the opportunity to transfer to another location. But workers at this location haven’t been given this opportunity. It’s clear that Chapters views their unionized employees as a threat, and are using financial losses as an excuse to dump them.

Although the company currently claims to be going through a rough period, up until very recently, Chapters had been doing quite well. From 2016 to 2023, the company was consistently reporting profit increases as high as 60 to 70 per cent. The situation only changed in February of last year after a cyberattack that tanked online sales.

While these soaring profits turned out to be a positive note for shareholders and the bosses, it didn’t translate at all into better pay or benefits for the workers. Yet, now that the company isn’t doing so well, it’s the employees who take the hit. Workers are expected not to benefit from soaring profits, but they are expected to bear the cost of losses.

Bust the union busters!

It is said, “Weakness invites aggression.” If the bosses are permitted to act with impunity against one group of workers, it’ll only be a matter of time until they come for others. 

UFCW must take a decisive stand against this provocation from the bosses. The union must campaign around the defense of Local 1006A and the workers who are facing imminent layoffs. They must set up demonstrations and information pickets and, if necessary, fight union busting by staging strikes against Indigo and any related employers.

Additionally, so long as so few stores in the company are unionized, organized workers at other Chapters stores will remain isolated and vulnerable to future attacks. UFCW must expand unionization efforts further across the company. Only a decisive and militant approach that unites Chapters workers can beat back attacks from the bosses.