400 workers are off the job as three mills closed in the northern BC town of Mackenzie: that is nearly 10% of the community’s population. The mill shutdowns are the result of an economic downturn in BC’s forestry industry, which has also left many loggers and contractors out of work. As the unemployed workforce leaves town in search for jobs, other businesses and workers are also struggling.
Last Thursday, a rally was organized to draw attention to what many are calling a crisis in this small community. UFCW 1518 Executive Board member Nan Fredericks was one the organizers of the #MackenzieMatters rally, which had nearly 1,000 people marching in solidarity. The numbers showed an inspiring level of support in the close-knit community of about 3,300 people.
“We wanted to bring a spotlight to what is happening in small communities that are forestry-based towns like ours,” said Fredericks. “We wanted to bring attention to the government, because it’s not just the markets, there are several mitigating factors and something needs to be done.”
The event had the presence of many local unions, politicians, business owners and entire families. The rally is only the beginning of a bigger lobbying effort, said Fredericks. As residents fear job losses will continue, they are calling for more government intervention.
“Everything is connected, the grocery store, the hospital, the school. Everything is about the amount of people that work in an area and when their income is not there, everything starts to fall apart,” asserted Fredericks. “It’s like a domino effect. My own grocery store, we have had several layoffs because the business is not there anymore.”
UFCW 1518 stands in solidarity with the community of Mackenzie during this difficult time. Our union represents about 50 workers at the Mackenzie Co-op, who also see themselves are affected by these closures. Members of PPWC Local 18, Unifor 1092 and USW 1-2017 are also among the list of those now without a job.
“When workers lose their jobs, we hurt entire families, businesses and communities,” said President Kim Novak. “An initiative like the #MackenzieMatters campaign is what the labour movement is about: coming together to fight for fairness. That’s something we are proud to stand behind.”