by Emily Leedham
“I will always stand with Saskatchewan and the great people that reside across this great province.”
Evidently, this statement from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe doesn’t include 750 oil refinery workers who have been locked out for nearly two months by Federated Co-operatives Ltd. for trying to save their pension and savings plans. Moe has not visited the picket line once – not even over the holidays.
Former federal Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer has also been absent – even though the refinery is in his own riding of Regina – Qu’Appelle.
But both Conservative leaders are ardent supporters of the United We Roll convoy – whose members have posted memes about running over picketers, and who are now organizing an event to break Unifor’s secondary picket line at the Co-op fuel terminal in Carseland, Alberta.
“I just want to thank everybody that’s taking part and putting their financial resources, and most importantly, their time, into the United We Roll campaign,” Moe said in a personalized video message last year.
“I know the hardship many of you are facing, the anxiety for the future, I just want to let you know, we’re with you, we stand behind you,” Scheer said in his own personalized message. He also spoke on the main stage at the United We Roll rally on Parliament Hill.
The lack of support for locked out Unifor 594 workers exposes a clear hypocrisy: the right wing will support oil workers – but only if those workers support their corporate bosses.
United We Roll with Hate Groups
The United We Roll (UWR) convoy traveled across the country last year, beginning in Red Deer, Alberta, and ending up in Ottawa, Ontario. Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier both spoke at the event. The convoy’s main messaging involved support for pipelines and opposition to the carbon tax.
But the convoy served as a Trojan horse to legitimize hate groups.
Tony*, who is a member of the research collective Yellow Vests Canada Exposed, has been documenting the Yellow Vest movement since its inception. He also attended the first United We Roll rally on Parliament Hill last year as an observer.
“You can’t mention that convoy without mentioning the amount of hate groups that were at the rally,” he says.
“I was there, and I documented multiple hate groups…flashing their insignia, wearing their paraphernalia. I would certainly constitute the Yellow Vests as a hate group too, so at least half the attendees had a yellow vest on, so it was pretty obvious.”
The Rebel’s Keean Bexte, who has links to a white supremacist organization, also traveled with the convoy, producing multiple videos, including the full speeches of both Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier.
Tony says UWR has since distanced themselves from the Yellow Vests, at least on the surface, but with the amount of attention the convoy got, the damage was done.
“You’re legitimizing these people, you realize that,” he says of UWR organizer Glen Carritt. “He attempted to legitimize these people.”
In August, UWR organizers took a photo with Rebel personalities Ezra Levant, Keean Bexte and Sheila Gunn Reid, referring to them as “our friends” in the caption and closing out with “We love you!”
United We Roll Through Picket Lines
Last Wednesday, the Rebel published a video titled, “Keean crosses the Unifor picket line for Co-op gas in Alberta.”
On Sunday, members of the United We Roll convoy and the Rebel showed up to Carseland Co-op fuel terminal.
That same morning, a UWR member posted about running over picketers.
Terry Ferrell, a Unifor rep stationed in Carseland, tells RankandFile.ca the police let the union know the convoy was planning to show up after monitoring UWR Facebook posts.
Ferrell says around 8-10 trucks showed up, and the Unifor workers let them through without incident. He says the union’s main intent is to block Co-op trucks from refueling. For other trucks and residents, their goal is to provide information, and then let them decide whether they would like to proceed.
Facebook posts indicate the UWR member who posted about running over picketers was part of the convoy that afternoon, but Ferrell says there were no incidents or altercations.
“The United We Roll group stayed about an hour and they left peacefully,” he recalls. “Rebel media was also with them and they basically did some interviews inside the cardlock, and they were off as well. That’s what happened.”
United We Roll Out the Red Carpet for Bosses
The next day, the United We Roll Facebook page shared CBC Saskatchewan’s video of CEO Scott Banda’s statement on the lockout.
In the video, Banda calls for police intervention to bring down Unifor’s blockade.
“Glen, he’s not an ally of union workers, or oil workers, he’s an ally of oil companies,” Tony says. “And most of these Yellow Vests and right wing groups, they’re anti-union, which is, you know, counter-productive to most of them.”
In his Facebook live video, Glen Carritt refers to Banda’s statements as a factor in UWR’s planned intervention on Wednesday.
“We need to go out there and really rally the troops,” Carritt says. “We’ve got lots and lots of people saying that they’re going to support what we’re doing. We need boots on the ground, we need trucks, and we need people to stand up with us to go down there and get rid of these barricades and get Co-op trucks in there and get working.”
UWR is planning to meet at the Husky House in Strathmore at 2 PM tomorrow before attempting to break the picket line.
United We Roll Back Workers’ Pensions
In one breath, United We Roll says they fight for down & out oil workers. In another breath, they will threaten to run over fellow oil workers fighting to take care of their families. A cross-country convoy with Yellow Vests and other hate groups is considered worthy political endeavor by UWR, but picketing to fight for pensions makes workers “thugs.”
The Co-op Refinery was the first unionized refinery in Canada, and Local 594 paved the way for further organizing in the sector, driving up wages for energy workers across the country. High wages, good pensions and benefits were never benevolent gifts from the oil industry, they were fought for over time.
If the Co-op breaks Unifor 594, energy companies across Canada will follow suit, attacking other locals and driving down wages for all workers, unionized and non-unionized.
United We Roll’s enthusiasm to help the Co-op break Local 594 – and take away other oil workers pensions – indicates whose side they’re really on.
Moe, Scheer, Jason Kenney, and Doug Ford readily endorsed United We Roll last year. They have been absent to 750 Co-op Refinery workers. who have been locked out for two months.
The ruse is up. When oil workers refuse to be props in corporate propaganda, they are literally left in the cold by those who claim to be their champions.