New mural demonstrates commitment to reconciliation

Today UFCW 1518 celebrated the inauguration of “Salmon Arrows,” a newly installed mural at the union’s headquarters in New Westminster. Commissioned in early 2019, the mural serves as an acknowledgement that the building is located on the unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation.

“We are delighted to present this project to our members and the city of New Westminster,” said President Kim Novak. “Through this artwork, we acknowledge the history of this land and our connection to the Fraser River. It is a small but meaningful step toward reconciliation.”

“Salmon Arrows” depicts sockeye salmon swimming up the river with arrows representing the ancient instinct of salmon species to migrate to the ocean and back to the water systems of which they were hatched. The mural was designed and installed by Ronnie Dean Harris, a Stō:lo/St’át’imc/Nlaka’pamux multimedia artist and community organizer based in Langley, BC. “Salmon is a keystone species. Without wild salmon the ecosystems and the rivers would begin to collapse,” commented Harris. “For me, I think a large part of reconciliation is protecting wild salmon and letting people know how important that is not just to Indigenous communities but to all of us.”

The mural’s unveiling ceremony was well-attended. Chief Rhonda Larrabee from the Qayqayt First Nation opened the event with a land acknowledgement and traditional welcome. In attendance were President Kim Novak, Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson and UFCW 1518’s Executive Board. On behalf of UFCW 1518, they all received an award presented by New Westminster-Burnaby Member of Parliament Peter Julian in recognition of the union’s work in moving Canada toward reconciliation.

Other distinguished guests included Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Judy Darcy and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote, who spoke to the crowd about the collaboration with UFCW 1518 on this project. “Public art plays an important role in our community to tell stories and to help talk about our culture,” said Mayor Cote. “Being the oldest city in Western Canada we are going to need to have some important and difficult conversations, but to me this is an important way to help tell the story of this land. I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to UFCW 1518 for playing an important leadership role in making this project happen.”

Workers at River’s Reach Pub vote YES to unionize!

About 35 workers at River’s Reach Pub voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining UFCW 1518 last month. A neighbourhood pub in New Westminster, River’s Reach has been serving up burgers and beer since 2000.

“For these workers, bringing in the union was about fairness and respect. They got in touch with us because they knew we could help,” said Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson. The hospitality industry is notoriously precarious and largely non-unionized, making it difficult for workers to find stable employment.

“Without the strength of a union behind them, restaurant workers are on their own. There are basic protections under the Employment Standards Act, but its up tho them to file and pursue a complaint if an employer breaks the law. With a union, we’ve got your back.”

Last week, the BC NDP announced amendments to employment standards that strengthen protection for workers, including a ban on employer theft of tips. Still, the standard of legal protection is lower for non-unionized workers. “When you stand together to fight for better wages and working conditions, you are stronger. It’s that simple,” Secretary-Treasurer Johnson stated. “When we bargain the first collective agreement for River’s Reach, it will be as a united group focused on fairness.”

President Kim Novak welcomed UFCW 1518’s newest members: “We are thrilled to represent the workers of River’s Reach Pub and to help them achieve the fair compensation and respectful working conditions that all workers deserve.”