by Emily Leedham
On Wednesday February 5, Federated Co-operatives Ltd. CEO Scott Banda gave a shout out to United We Roll, the group responsible for last year’s well-publicized but small convoy to Ottawa claiming to defend oil and gas workers.
“…I kind of noticed that United We Roll was here as well,” said Banda.
“Thank you!” responded Haley Wile, a UWR organizer who recorded Banda’s speech on Facebook Live, while others cheered.
Banda held the Wednesday press conference at 2 PM in Carseland, Alberta announcing FCL had sought an injunction to remove Unifor’s secondary picket at the Carseland Co-op fuel terminal.
Earlier in the week on Monday, United We Roll announced they intended to go to Carseland to remove the safety fences at Unifor’s secondary picket line at the Co-op fuel terminal. On Tuesday, the Co-op announced Banda would hold a press conference in Carseland the same day and time UWR’s planned convoy – Wednesday at 2 PM.
The Monday and Tuesday announcements followed on the heels of a UWR member threatening to run over Unifor picketers via a post in the group’s Facebook page Sunday morning. Banda did not address or condemn this threat at his Wednesday press conference.
Unifor’s secondary picket in Carseland was established around two weeks ago in support of 750 refinery workers in Regina, members of Unifor Local 594. They’ve been locked out by the Co-op Refinery for the past two months. The workers are fighting to save their pensions and savings plans from the employer’s demand for rollbacks.
Unifor representatives say the Carseland picket is intended only to block Co-op trucks from the fuel terminal. For residents, farmers and other truckers, the union says they provide information about the lockout and lets them decide whether or not to proceed.
Derek Emperingham, a refinery worker and shop steward with Unifor 594, has been stationed at Carseland for about two weeks.
He told RankandFile.ca the convoy showed up around 3 PM. He says there were a total of 20 vehicles in the convoy – including two Co-op pickup trucks in the middle. One Unifor video shows Co-op trucks appearing to lead UWR organizer Glen Carritt’s fire truck after the press conference.
Emperingham says the union let through about two or three of the UWR trucks to fuel up.
There were no physical altercations, Empiringham added, but UWR members had a megaphone and shouted obscenities. Many had their phone cameras out recording.
“They were all trying to do interviews on their phones and YouTube channels, Facebook feeds – just how they’re standing up for the oil workers,” Emperingham recalls, “But in the end, they’re actually standing up for the corporations and said that they stand with Scott Banda.”
Yellow Vests intertwined with United We Roll
At least six of the UWR attendees have been identified as members of the so-called “Yellow Vests Canada”, including Derek Storie, Wayne Peters, James Bauder, Don Morrison, Chris Harrod, and Nick Smart.
The research collective Yellow Vests Canada Exposed identified at least six known Yellow Vest members based on Facebook Live streams from United We Roll attendees:
Derek Storie has platformed neo-Nazi Paul Fromm on his Facebook live feed, and attended multiple anti-Muslim PEGIDA rallies, including a PEGIDA Quran-burning alongside the Wolves of Odin and Proud Boys.
James Bauder, who filmed video at Carseland, is founder of two groups affiliated with Yellow Vests.
Chris Harrod identifies as a “Yellow Vest patriot” on Facebook and participated in the convoy, though says he broke off from UWR later in the day.
Nick Smart (pictured above in a yellow vest) frequently spreads conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Don Morrison’s truck (pictured above) is covered in common Yellow Vest slogans including “End the U.N Migration Compact.”
Emperingham says Unifor workers responded to one man in a Yellow Vest by saying:
“We want to keep our jobs. We’re the middle class who work in the oil sector – oil and energy sector – and you’re trying to help the corporations stop us and knock our wages down.”
He says many in the convoy couldn’t see past the Unifor flags.
“They basically said if we weren’t part of Unifor, then they could back us. But because we’re part of a union, we’re part of the problem.”
“When we tried to give them facts, they just went back to, ‘Well, you guys are eastern thugs,’ or ‘You brought your eastern union here.’ That’s what they kind of always just went back to. They never would give a real question or answer,” he continued.
FCL has previously put out statements expressing the same rhetoric, calling Unifor a “Toronto-based union.”
Emperingham reports that the RCMP stayed neutral, ensuring traffic was kept off the highway. In their Facebook live feeds, UWR members expressed disappointment the RCMP were not intervening.
The convoy left after about an hour, he says, adding there were no physical altercations and the fences remained intact.
“Who do they actually stand for?” Emperingham asks. “Do they stand for the middle class oil field workers? ”Cause from what we say, they stand for the corporation, and to help knock the middle class down.”