Boycott Dove

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by casaguy, Jul 8, 2009.

  1. casaguy

    casaguy Senior Member

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    This strike has been going on for what seems like YEARS. What's the story here at DVP and Lakeshore? (I can't find an existing thread for this).

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. TOinTO

    TOinTO Active Member

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    Whenever I see that picket, I think, "But that's one of the few industrial operations left in this city. I ought to buy their products".
     
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  3. casaguy

    casaguy Senior Member

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    According to this article from 7 months ago, the pickets have been there about one year and two months now.

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    Amid recession, a forgotten strike

    Korex Strike

    Workers at the old Lever Bros. factory at the foot of the Don Valley Parkway have been on strike against Korex Don Valley for six months.

    Workers who set up pickets at Lever Bros.' old factory didn't think they'd still be walking the line six months later


    Dec 06, 2008 04:30 AM

    LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN
    SOCIAL JUSTICE REPORTER

    Toronto factory worker Billy McLachlan would love to be laid off.

    Instead, the 46-year-old father of two and about 100 others who have spent most of their working lives making Sunlight detergent, Snuggle fabric softener and Dove soap are walking a picket line as the days get shorter – and colder.

    None of them imagined they'd still be here on that warm spring morning six months ago when they set up pickets outside the old Lever Brothers soap factory at the foot of the Don Valley Parkway.

    And nobody could have predicted that the Canadian dollar – trading at close to par with the American greenback in June – would plummet by more than 20 cents; the world would be gripped by a global credit crisis; and Ontario's manufacturing industry, including the Big Three automakers, would be on the verge of collapse.

    "Yup, a lot has changed since then," McLachlan says wryly, stamping his feet and blowing on his frigid fingers.

    The only thing that hasn't changed is the workers' determination to win a "respectable" contract from their American employer, Korex Don Valley. It's a curious standoff at a time when factories are closing, union jobs are disappearing and the tumbling stock market is putting everyone on edge.

    The workers, members of CEP local 132-0, have been without a contract since June 2007. They haven't had a raise since 2002 and aren't asking for one. They just want to protect their wages and hard-won job rights, which they say the company is threatening to wipe out.

    Failing that, McLachlan and his fellow pickets would like Korex chair Sandford Pensler to padlock the plant and issue layoff notices so they can collect employment insurance, qualify for job retraining – and get on with their lives. In the meantime, the workers walk. And wait. And wonder, as the economy crumbles around them, if anybody cares.

    Toronto's Lever Brothers soap factory, which became a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever in 1930, has been a local landmark since the 1890s. But the future of the plant, which uses sophisticated equipment and volatile chemicals to produce cleaning products, began to unravel in 2002 when Unilever decided to sell.

    "It was no longer financially viable for the company," says Korex's Pensler, of New Jersey-based Pensler Capital Corp., which bought the factory in August that year.

    Pensler believed he could make a go of the plant by adding it to his growing Korex division of contract manufacturers which produce a wide range of goods for companies such as Unilever. He promised to save jobs if workers agreed to a five-year wage freeze, lower pay for new hires, cuts to short-term and long-term disability benefits and the loss of their defined-benefit pensions.

    The union didn't like it, but the deal was sweetened by a $9 million severance package it negotiated with Unilever for its 280 members.

    Everyone seemed happy enough.

    But when the contract expired in June 2007, the company wanted more concessions.

    "There are a raft of work rules that make the plant very inefficient to run," Pensler says. "Some may see that as seniority rights, but it's much more than that."

    Wages at the plant averaged about $25 an hour, about $4 to $5 an hour more than Korex's unionized competitors in the so-called "secondary" manufacturing market.

    When Pensler bought the plant, the Canadian dollar was worth about 63 cents U.S., making it still relatively competitive, even in the American market, he says.

    But the plant, which is operating with managers and replacement workers on a reduced capacity, is no longer viable – even with an 80-cent Canadian dollar – without significant cost cutting, says Pensler, who last met with the union Nov. 20. He won't speculate on what he will do if the union doesn't budge.

    "Our plans at this point are to maintain the plant and return to profitability. I really don't want to speculate on our other options."

    Union local president Ralph Downing, 55, a 33-year veteran of the plant earning $28.72 an hour, admits wages were decent.

    But he scoffs at Pensler's "attack" on working conditions. "It's one thing to stand still while everybody catches up, but it's another thing to go backwards," he says in the strikers' propane-heated Quonset.

    The grandfather of three is battling hepatitis C, but is on the picket line four days a week. Despite his illness, Downing is quick to charge a strikebreaker's car and hurl a colourful insult. He's proud that just three of the local's 110 members have crossed the picket line.

    Co-worker Paul Hunter, 58, with 31 years at the plant, donated part of his liver to Downing in Feb. 2006 to save his buddy's life. "My liver is older than his and I was just filling it with wine," Hunter says. "I figured he could put it to better use."

    Hunter, a millwright at the plant earning top pay of about $35 an hour, just got a job with GO Transit. But he still shows up for picket duty between work shifts. "We're like family here. We've watched each other's children grow up."

    McLachlan, a shipper-receiver earning $26.53 an hour, is one of the junior members of the union with 18 years at the plant. So even if the company settles, he expects to be laid off due to a shortage of work.

    But on the picket line he's in limbo – unable to collect EI or qualify for career retraining courses.

    "I know I have to upgrade my skills. I'm looking forward to it. I'm young enough," says the Whitby resident, who has a daughter in university and another one in Grade 8.

    At least his wife, a graphic artist, is still working.

    Peter Rechkemmer isn't so lucky.

    Last summer he got shingles from the stress and now pays $400 a month for prescription drugs to keep it under control. In October, his wife Ellen, who works at an auto parts factory, got a layoff notice.

    "I don't know how we're going to do it," says the 56-year-old worker with 24 years at the plant, most recently as a liquid machine operator earning $27.09 an hour. He has tried to find another job. "I have all the qualifications, but I can't get an interview. It's my age. Nobody wants anybody in their 50s.

    "We're not going anywhere," he says of the pickets. "I'm scheduled to work New Year's Eve."
     
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  4. Urban Shocker

    Urban Shocker Doyenne

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    I vow never to wash myself until the Dove workers get a settlement.
     
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  5. CDL.TO

    CDL.TO Moderator

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    I thought it was all over...

    Organized workers feeling the heat
    Toronto Star
    Jun 28, 2009 04:30 AM
    Sandro Contenta

    At the foot of the Don Valley Parkway are haggard symbols of the risk workers take when striking in hard times.

    Employees of the old Lever Brothers soap factory have been walking the picket line for a year. In February, American owner Korex Don Valley filed for bankruptcy protection. Last month, all 100 strikers received layoff notices.

    "We, as the normal common guy, didn't see it coming," David Pal, 48, says of the recession. "We were out in June (2008) and in July we started realizing, holy cow, the economy seems to be in trouble."

    And yet, sitting under a makeshift tent at the plant's gate, Pal and a handful of other strikers say they have no regrets.

    They accepted a long list of concessions in their last contract seven years ago, including a wage freeze – their average salary is $25 an hour – and the loss of their defined-benefit pensions. Last year Korex demanded much more.

    "I'm not going to work in a sweatshop," says Pal, a member of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. "After 30 years of service, some things are worth fighting for."

    [Continued...]
     
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  6. afransen

    afransen Senior Member

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    I like how they would rather shut the place down than accept concessions. Either way they lose income. If you're upset about it, quit and look for another job, and let someone else take your place.
     
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  7. whatever

    whatever Senior Member

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    If you quit you're ineligible for EI and retraining. That's why they were asking for either the status quo or layoffs.
     
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  8. afransen

    afransen Senior Member

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    How about letting them work 30 hours a week while they look for a new job? They don't all have to leave at once either, mind you.
     
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  9. adma

    adma Superstar

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    Er...they're campaigning for real women?
     
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  10. UserNameToronto

    UserNameToronto Active Member

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    It's over!

    The parent company declared bankruptcy, the site is being demolished now.

    Woohoo! My bike rides east to the Beaches will be much more pleasent.

    http://www.thestar.com/article/679226

    Strike-plagued Lever factory declares bankruptcy

    For 36 years, Jim Smith has reported to the old Lever Brothers soap factory at the foot of the Don Valley Parkway. For 14 months, a padlocked gate has kept him and more than 100 other striking workers outside.

    Today, Smith and the other workers will dismantle the picket line – actually a shantytown of wood panels and tarps – and he'll walk away from the now-bankrupt plant for good.

    To where, he doesn't know.

    "A lot of us have been trying to go out and get jobs, but we don't have much skills," the 59-year-old said of his fellow workers, many of whom have been working at the plant for more than 30 years with little more than a high school diploma. "We just know that factory. That's it."

    The drawn-out strike is to end today. The plant's owner, Korex Don Valley, has filed for bankruptcy, leaving the 110 remaining workers – members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada local 132-0 – searching for work.

    "It's bittersweet. We knew this end was coming for a long time, so we're happy it's over," Smith said.

    Korex Don Valley owes upwards of $12 million, said Stephen Funtig, the trustee handling the receivership.

    While Funtig is still evaluating the company's assets, union spokesman David Moffat said the union doesn't expect Korex is worth enough to offer severance, let alone the outstanding vacation pay owed to workers.

    Moffat said he expects employees to get $3,500 in severance from the federal government program's Wage Earner Protection Program Act in addition to whatever they can wrangle in employment insurance.

    They have been receiving $250 a week from the union throughout the strike.

    "It's grim. Really, really grim," Moffat said.

    The Lever Brothers soap factory, which became a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever in 1930, has been a local landmark since the 1890s. But the future of the plant began to unravel in 2002 when Unilever decided to sell.

    At $25-an-hour with benefits, the employees were the best-paid workers in the soap manufacturing business, said Korex's Sandford Pensler, of New Jersey-based Pensler Capital Corp., which bought the factory in August that year. It was no longer financially viable, Pensler has said.

    In exchange for job security, workers agreed to a five-year wage freeze, cuts to disability benefits and the loss of their defined-benefit pensions.

    Pensler, meanwhile, offered a $9 million severance package it had negotiated with Unilever for its 280 members.

    When that contract expired in June 2007, the company wanted more concessions.

    About 160 workers took to the pickets in June 2008, when the company offered a contract workers say wiped out seniority rights.

    The factory ran at a reduced rate until May 2009.

    Pensler says the strike had dragged on too long and the factory's consumers went elsewhere.

    "I've lost a lot of money in this," he said. "It's a sad outcome and I don't think it's one that had to happen."

    Wayne McDowell, who worked at the plant for 20 years, plans on returning to school to be re-trained for a new career.

    "I'm one of the lucky ones. I can go back to school, get things back on track," he said.

    I didn't want to start a new career at 40, but ..."

    His voice is drowned out by cheering. Sam Cancilla, a 30-year veteran, just won the group's last toonie Texas hold'em game.

    The pot? $12.

    "It's going to have to last a long time. Maybe till retirement," Cancilla joked.
     
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  11. afransen

    afransen Senior Member

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    ^Thanks unions.
     
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  12. Northern Light

    Northern Light Active Member

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    Sympathy ....... But the site...

    First off, I have great sympathy for the workers.

    I don't know the concessions requested were, but given no raise since 2002, and wages that are hardly exorbitant... I can't imagine I would be inclined to make many concessions in their position.

    I can't imagine they went on year-long strike though much financial hardship, expecting this outcome, and I doubt that they would not have made reasonable changes in work rules; that said in the absence of the details offers we just don't know.

    Regardless, its a sad thing. That said, I buy Nature Clean detergents since they are green-friendly and made a by a Toronto company, Frank T. Ross, that is based here and pays taxes here.

    I hope the workers get their outstanding vacation and severance pay, and I wish them well.

    ***

    All that said, I am very intrigued at the thought of this massive site being opened to redevelopment.

    This could allow for the Broadview extension to Lakeshore, some new greenspace in the Don Valley floodplain and/or a slight bump of the Don Roadway to the east, allowing more natural area around the river.

    The heritage part of the building would make an interesting loft condo.....

    While the rest is crap and can be torn out. A great site for east end intensification and/or some modern industrial development.
     
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  13. afransen

    afransen Senior Member

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    No, they killed jobs that, if they were not happy with themselves, someone else would likely have gladly taken. 'If it's not good enough for me, no one can have it.'
     
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  14. dt_toronto_geek

    dt_toronto_geek Superstar

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    Is continuing to lose more manufacturing jobs really cause for celebration or am I missing something here?
     
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  15. AKS

    AKS Senior Member

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    $25/hr plus benefits is not good enough? Especially with a high school diploma? Some people with university or college degrees make that much or less.
     
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