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  • authored by news
  • published Sat, Aug 3, 2002

MFD Weekend: UFCW UFO's

UFO's hover but no signs of intelligent life so far

It was a year ago this month that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union embarked on what may well turn out to be the biggest public relations blunder in mainstream union history: The Union that bills itself A Voice for Working America launched the first of a number of lawsuits against union members and members of the public who have criticized it and its various officials.

As the months have passed, we've taken to referring to the UFCW lawsuits as UFO's, based on our recommended response for anyone who finds themselves on the receiving end of one: Ufcw F.O.!

Although the UFO's have been floating around for months, the Voice of Working America has done little except sit on them. Here's MFD's UFCW UFO report to date:

In August 2001, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against Bill Gammert, a part time grocery clerk and member in good standing of Vancouver-based UFCW Local 777. Gammert's crimes-against-the-UFCW: He posted the UFCW International Constitution on the Internet. He also posted a creative take on the UFCW acronym and some critical comments about the union and its officials on a simple protest web site. The UFCW moved for a trial after Gammert started turning up on the MFD site fairly frequently this year. It got a surprise on the first day of the trial when the judge ordered the posting of its constitution on the Internet. The UFCW complied with the judge's order but so far has not withdrawn its suit against Gammert and has not asked for a continuation of the proceedings so that its other beefs with Gammert can be disposed of.

Last August also, the UFCW filed another lawsuit; this one against former UFCW official HJ Finnamore. The UFCW is mightily pissed with Finnamore because of comments he's made about its internal practices in the mainstream media. He's said that they practice nepotism, that they party hearty, and that they do backroom deals with employers - among other things. Finnamore filed a lengthy Demand for Documents with the court shortly after being served with the lawsuit. In the Demand, he requested copies of UFCW records on dozens of different subjects. He hasn't received a single page and the UFCW has done nothing to get the lawsuit on for trial.

In February of this year, the UFCW filed yet another lawsuit - this time against this web site, its administrator Kelsey Sigurdur, and Sharyn Sigurdur, a part time grocery store clerk and member in good standing of UFCW Local 1518. The UFCW's beefs with the MFD web site and the Sigurdurs: MFD's use of the URL www.ufcw.net is an attempt to capitalize on the goodwill associated with the UFCW's good name and confuse workers into believing that MFD is an official UFCW web site. The MFD site also contains defamatory stuff, the UFCW laments. Like what? We don't know. They've never said and we've never heard anything further from them.

A month or so later, in March, the UFCW sent its lawyers after Steve Guiliano, a Toronto-area grocery store worker and member in good standing of UFCW Local 1000a. Their beef with Guiliano: an article that appeared almost a year earlier in an activist publication. Apparently Local 1000a officials are miffed that the article reflects poorly on them. Named in the lawsuit also is Socialist Action, the publication in which the article appeared, and a couple of Toronto area social activists. Nothing doing on this suit as far as we know.

What are the leaders of the UFCW thinking? First, they fire the litigation cannon, whining all the way about their embarrassment and distress and asking for permanent restrictions on the citizens' constitutional rights to free speech. Then they sit on their thumbs like nothing's doing. Are they just busy looking for the truckload of documents that Finnamore requested? Are they combing the MFD site for stuff that isn't factual or fair comment? Maybe they are searching high and low for someone who will tell them that they really thought www.ufcw.net was an official UFCW web site? Or maybe they are trying to figure out just what they bit off and how badly they want to chew on it after all?

Mainstream labour organizations like the AFL-CIO in the US and the CLC in Canada ought to be concerned about these lawsuits. Apart from the chill that they cast over workers' freedom of expression, suing your members isn't exactly going to endear you to the millions of unorganized workers out there: "Join our union - a lifetime of putting up and shutting up awaits you". Then there is the whole question of what might happen if the UFCW UFO's ever do land in a courtroom. Finnamore's Demand for Docs gives us a good idea of the rich crap-estry that will be hung out for public viewing. Helpful to the cause? Not likely.

Should Brothers Sweeney and Georgetti be concerned? Should AFL-CIO and CLC affiliated unions be worried about getting tarred with the UFCW's intolerance for dissidents? Tell us what you think.

MFD contributorabout unions on biz union hypocrisy.

Former UFCW Canadian Director Cliff Evans, on freedom of expression in the UFCW.

  • posted by lefkenny
  • Sat, Aug 3, 2002 6:51pm

I have given authority to those who have my id. to give it up freely to UFCW International if and only if they promise to sue me.

In my political opinion the actions by UFCW Canada or UFCW International against all said individuals so named above suck.

Anyone who belongs to UFCW who has an once of honor and integrity in my political opinion should have already written UFCW International stating their disgust for the actions of their union UFCW International et alllii against said individual law suits.

In my political opinion UFCW Canada and UFCW International should spend less money suing union members and more time representing members like the Lowmans workers.

aboutunions

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Aug 5, 2002 6:02am

I don't think the biz-unionists from the Planet Stupid will come after you AU. You are from CUPE and that might cause political problems. The fact that CUPE may not be too warm on you right now wouldn't matter. The code of union officialdom says you can do what you want with your own, but leave mine well enough alone.

I think the mainstream labour orgs should be concerned for sure. When the shit starts hitting the fan, everyone will be sprayed with it - including unions that do not engage in nepotism, hearty partying or backroom dealing.

  • posted by lefkenny
  • Mon, Aug 5, 2002 10:30am

Ah, that is disappointing. I was really looking forward to being sued by United Food and Commercial Workers Union International or Canada.

Friends of mine and family, tell me to be careful what I say so that I too do not get sued. Of course as you can read I do not head their advice.

While there is pathetic representation of members rights, autocratic leadership and corruption within, I have to express my political opinions as I see it.

I did so before I knew of ufcw.net, why would I change now just because there is millions of viewers.

Here are a few snippets of legal documents I think viewers should see, and I swear by.

Section 1 and 2 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:

1. 'The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrable justified in a free an democratic society.'

2. 'Everyone has the following fundamental Freedoms:
.

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;'

I quote from the Supreme Court case U.F.C.W., Local 1518 v. Kmart Canada Ltd., [1999] 2 S.C.R.

'Freedom of expression is fundamental to freedom. It is the foundation of any democratic society. It is the cornerstone of our democratic institutions and is essential to their functioning.'

I quote from Edmonton Journal v. Alberta (Alberta General)[1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326.

'It is difficult to imagine a guaranteed right more important to a democratic society than freedom of expression. Indeed a democracy cannot exist without that freedom to express new ideas and to put forward opinions about the functioning of public institutions. The concept of free and uninhibited speech permeates all truly democratic societies and institutions. The vital importance of the concept cannot be over-emphasized."

I again quote from the Supreme Court case U.F.C.W., Local 1518 v. Kmart Canada Ltd. [1999] 2 S.C.R.

'Moreover, it has repeatedly been held that rights and freedoms under the Charter must be interpreted generously in order to secure the full benefit of the Charter's protection. See Hunter v. Southam Inc., [1984] 2 S.C.R. 145, at pp. 155-56: R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295. at p. 344, Edmonton Journal. at p. 1356. .

Freedom of expression is not, however a creature of the Charter. It is one of the fundamental concepts that has formed the basis for the historical development of the political, social and educational institutions of western society. Representative democracy, as we know it today, which is in great part the product of free expression and discussion of varying ideas, depends upon its maintenance and protection.'

In Libman v. Quebec [1997] 3 S.C.R. 569 at para. 31 it was said and I quote:

'Unless the expression is communicated in a manner that excludes the protection, such as violence, the court recognizes that any activity or communication that conveys or attempts to convey meaning is covered by the guarantee of s. 2 (b) of the Canadian Charter.'

Further at paragraph 50 of U.F.C.W., Local 1518 v. Kmart Canada Ltd. I quote:

[ See also J.A. Manwaring, 'Bringing the Common Law to the Bar of Justice: A comment on the Decision in the Case of Dolphin Delivery Ltd.' (1987), 19 Ottawa L. Rev. 413. At pp. 432-33 the author wrote:

If the Charter protection for freedom of expression has any substance, it must protect the right to seek out on controversial issues such as disputes over wages and working conditions. Sometimes the speech will provoke action. If the speech is peaceful and is not accompanied by any unlawful acts, and if the actions taken as a result of the speech and are themselves lawful, it is difficult to justify restraining freedom of expression solely on the basis that some people may agree with the views expressed.]

aboutunions

  • posted by siggy
  • Mon, Aug 5, 2002 8:27pm

Who can name the song and the verse that possessed "biz-unionists from the Planet Stupid" to fly ufo's in MFD country?

  • posted by lefkenny
  • Mon, Aug 5, 2002 8:39pm

Ok Scott this one is yours. BP says your the best, this is the test.

aboutunions

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Tue, Aug 6, 2002 6:44am

Actually, it's a slogan on the side of a race car.

Biz Unionists from the Planet Stupid!

zoom...zoom...boom

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