Boilermakers Calgary Rep Steve Warren and Pre-Apprentice Instructor Kayla Vander Molen collect non-perishable donations at the L-146 Calgary hall for a local Calgary food bank.
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BOILERMAKERS FROM LOCAL 146 (serving Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta) stepped up fast when they saw essential workers in need. After conducting a successful mask drive to provide greatly-needed personal protective equipment to medical professionals, they realized those front-line workers also needed something else: moral support from their community.
But it all started with a mask drive—an idea suggested by Boilermaker Meeka Faucher to L-146 BM-ST Hugh MacDonald in March. In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE (especially masks), was in short supply. And when the call went out that the mask drive was “on,” despite struggling at the time with an estimated 85% drop in work as a result of the pandemic, the local swung into action, focusing their energy on finding masks for Alberta Health Services and workers at essential retail stores.
To the delight of MacDonald and Faucher, contractors and workers came through, and the local received dozens of N-95, 3M and North masks right away, which were distributed to, among others, a rural physician who was doing house calls with no PPE. They also spread the word through the province’s nurses’ union—the United Nurses of Alberta—that they had masks available, as well as a machine to sanitize them.
Even with a successful mask program in the works, it wasn’t enough. There were other needs the Boilermakers knew they could address. So, in mid-April, they launched Supporting COVID-19 Essential Workers: Purple Ribbon Campaign.
With COVID-19 causing uncertainty and suffering, the campaign was a way to thank those risking their lives to help their communities and also to support local food banks. For a monetary donation to a local food bank, participants received a purple ribbon printed with “Support Essential Workers” to wear in support of front-line workers.
“We are fortunate to be positioned to support those in need,” Assistant Business Manager Mackenzie Walker said. “The Purple Ribbon Campaign is a way to involve our communities and visually show our essential workers we are thankful for their devotion.”
The campaign soon got the attention of media, which promoted it through stories in several news outlets—and elected officials took notice.
“I know these are difficult times, and I truly want to thank all the hardworking Albertans who continue to work and provide services during these unprecedented times,” said Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping. “These ribbons honor our essential workers while symbolizing their dedication and strength. It’s important to support each other and our communities.”
It wasn’t long before the Purple Ribbon Campaign expanded—beyond Alberta and beyond ribbons. Local 146 added purple ribbon car decals, yard signs and hard hat stickers to the mix—available in exchange for non-perishable food donations—as well as sales of purple non-medical masks made by local artisan seamstresses, all of whom have ties to Local 146.
They also added a contest to encourage everyone to get in on the action and spread the love for essential workers. Participants were entered into a monthly prize drawing by submitting a photo of themselves wearing their purple ribbon.
And for kids and grandkids of Local 146 members to show their support, they added a children’s purple ribbon coloring contest. Children under age 12 were invited to download a coloring page and submit their best work, with one winner drawn from the submissions each month.
BM-ST MacDonald stressed that the local is first and foremost a community organization whose purpose is to support its members and also its neighbors.
“Essential workers are daily performing critical work to keep us safe; and in these times of need with many Albertans laid off, we are happy we can and will do our part. Wearing a purple ribbon while also donating to the Edmonton Food Bank is one way for us to fulfill our mandate.”
Watch this news broadcast about the launch of Local 146’s Supporting COVID-19 Essential Workers: Purple Ribbon Campaign. https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/purple-ribbons-show-support-for-essential-workers-1.4899576