Losing your job is never an enjoyable experience, but for the workers at Glendale International in Strathroy, Ontario, things were especially bleak. When the manufacturer of Recreational Vehicles declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in January 2010, they were left without a job, benefits or compensation of any kind.
Under the leadership of then-IAM Canadian Education Representative Gord Falconer, the union was selected as a trustee on the bankruptcy committee.
“We were seconded to be on the committee that looked at all of the monies that were owed and all of the monies that were coming in through the bankruptcy,” said Falconer. “We were dealing with the courts, the previous owners, and dealing with the multi facets of the organization.”
The IAM established a Job Action Center in Strathroy to help members get retraining and find new employment. That center remained open for a year, but even after its closure, the IAM continued fighting for its members.
We had to go defend people on Employment Insurance because they were cut off and didn’t have the hours for Employment Insurance,” said Falconer. “We had to go to the courts and try to deal with the severance and terminations pay because the records were not there on the bankruptcy to prove that their case was on. We had to deal with compensation claims. The list was endless and we have continued to do this to this day.”
The members’ local lodge, Local 2373, was merged into another local. The former Glendale members no longer paid union dues, but the IAM continued its fight. The work paid off when the courts awarded the members 75 cents on every dollar owed to them. The first check for 60 cents on the dollar was paid in November 2013; the remaining 15 cents on the dollar will be paid in February 2015.
“This is why you belong to a union, this is why you should belong to the IAM,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie. “Without a union, these people would have fallen through the cracks. We fought for those members’ rights for five years and I think that’s very important.”