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‘Fearing The Spread’ Of Unions In The Service Sector, Canada’s A&W Tells Anti-Union Conference It ‘Monitors High Risk’ Restaurants & Keeps A Secret ‘Watch List’ To ‘Make Sure’ Workers ‘Don’t’ Unionize

Published Thursday, August 15, 2019
‘Fearing The Spread’ Of Unions In The Service Sector, Canada’s A&W Tells Anti-Union Conference It ‘Monitors High Risk’ Restaurants & Keeps A Secret ‘Watch List’ To ‘Make Sure’ Workers ‘Don’t’ Unionize

(TORONTO, ONTARIO/CANADA) - Canada’s Fast Food Giants seem to be nervous about low-wage Workers exercising their right to collective bargaining.

Representatives from A&W and McDonald’s gathered with other major corporations and industry associations at the Toronto Airport Hilton earlier this Summer for a conference organized by the Anti-Union Group LaborWatch.

LaborWatch counts Restaurants Canada, which calls itself “the voice” of Canada’s Fast Food Industry, as one of its member associations and one Restaurant Canada Executive sits on LaborWatch’s Board of Directors.

In a recording obtained exclusively by PressProgress, A&W Canada executives told the conference some of the tricks they use to keep their company “Union-free.”

Nancy Wuttunee, Vice-President of A&W Canada’s Department of “People Potential,” and Mike Atkinson, A&W’s regional VP for Eastern Canada, explained their company keeps a “watch list” of franchises that are “high risk” for Unionizing.

One thing that could put an A&W franchise on its “watch list,” Atkinson said, is if “the neighbor next door” is a workplace where “most of the folks are Unionized.”

“Maybe you’re on the watch list because you’re in a really high-risk area,” Wuttnnee explained. “It’s not always about what you do, it might be where you are.  For example, we operate in some food courts where everyone else in that food court is Unionized.  Those restaurants are on the watch list but not because of the operator but because we want to stay really close: ‘How’s it going here?  Do we know anything?  Let’s pay attention’.”

“Toronto Airport is the best example,” Atkinson added. “We operate a very high volume restaurant in Toronto Airport, one of our highest volume restaurants in Canada, and it is surrounded by Union Employees.  Close to (40,000) people work at Toronto Airport, associated with airlines, Ground Crew, Baggage Handlers, whatever - most of those folks are Unionized.”

Wuttunee also revealed that A&W has a “fire drill,” a rapid-response “crisis management process” for responding to things that “worry us.”

As one example, Wuttunee recalled a “fire drill” after an “incident” where a customer handed an A&W cashier a Union Card at an understaffed restaurant.

“We stop everything we’re doing, it’s a fire drill, and we get people on the phone,”Wuttunee explained.

A&W noted their approach is useful in helping franchisees resist Union Drives without ending up on the losing end of an Unfair Labor Practice complaint.

The A&W reps also noted recent efforts by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to Unionize Foodora Bike Couriers is something that’s on their radar.

“We heard about Foodora getting Unionized,” Wuttunnee said. “Then, we go, ‘who uses Foodora?’  We’re always looking pro-actively.  It isn’t surprising the Unions are looking to get in there, but there are absolutely spillover risks.”

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