UNITE HERE supporters gathered outside the Eaton Centre American Eagle Outfitters location last Friday (May 18) to protest the "U.S.-style union-busting tactics" of the chain's main Canadian distributor, National Logistics Services (NLS) of Mississauga.
The action was part of a province-wide, 35-store protest called by UNITE HERE Canada, which lost a vote to unionize some 200 workers at NLS.
Last month, the union applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to represent the workers, filing an additional unfair labour practice complaint alleging intimidation of employees, including supervisors threatening a shutdown if workers voted to unionize.
UNITE HERE Canada co-director Alex Dagg
says the union is targeting American Eagle because it is NLS's biggest customer. She says UNITE HERE is also planning protests against NLS's other clients, including Bluenotes , The Shoe Company , Aritzia , Club Monaco and Sporting Life .
NLS spokesperson Michele Maverick
denies the charges of intimidation.
"It's actually quite insulting, especially given that the union has planted a professional organizer in our company to rally votes."
Until last year, AE owned and operated the warehouse out of which NLS now operates, before it outsourced distribution services to NLS. Still, the company is doing its best to stay out of the fray.
From AE HQ in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, spokesperson Jani Strand stresses that "American Eagle Outfitters is just one of many customers serviced by NLS and is not involved in any way with NLS operations."
UNITE HERE, meanwhile, is planning to continue its campaign against American Eagle et al., even threatening to call for a boycott if NLS fails to address worker complaints.
Says Dagg, "If you have a distribution centre here in Canada and it violates the law, you're just as accountable as you are for any sweatshops in Singapore or Malaysia."