A core group of locked out L-146 members man a picket line in front of CESSCO daily, in all manner of weather.
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What appears by all accounts to be the last pressure vessel built at CESSCO Fabrication and Engineering Ltd. left the facility in March, widening doubt for a happy ending in the saga that’s had Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta) Boilermakers locked out for more than 20 months. The “for lease” sign on two of CESSCO’s buildings foreshadows a foregone conclusion that the company will soon shutter.
Yet, since the lockout began in June 2020, a core group of Boilermakers has faithfully manned a picket line from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day without fail and in all manner of weather, sometimes joined by family members and supported by other unions, but often alone.
“I consider this as my job now, and it isn’t easy,” says Arno Schulz. “Somebody has to show CESSCO they can’t get away with this. We’ve got to let people know that this isn’t right.”
Thirty Boilermakers were initially locked out at CESSCO, which is part of Ontario-based Canerector Inc., after the company served up “last, best and final” contract demands that would have reduced wages and pension contributions and gutted critical seniority language. The Boilermakers had been bargaining with CESSCO for over two and a half years and had not seen increases in wages or benefits in over five years. They had hoped to continue bargaining until a satisfactory compromise could be reached, but CESSCO locked them out of their jobs instead.
Multiple attempts to reach out to parent-company Canerector’s CEO Amanda Hawkins, which included invitations from IVP-Canada Arnie Stadnick and International President Newton Jones to meet for discussions, were met with silence.
As the lockout approaches the two-year mark—the allotted time the union is guaranteed to be allowed presence at CESSCO—maintaining the picket line is important not only to prove the determination of Boilermakers and Local 146, but for also for the greater local and provincial labor movement.
As Schulz explains, if other companies see the Boilermakers cower and quit, they might get the idea to follow CESSCO’s lead, trampling contracts, locking out dedicated workers in favor of cheap scab labor, and sapping labor’s strength in an already anti-union environment. Alberta is a notoriously anti-union province, and an anti-labor bill known as Bill 32 was recently made law to advance measures similar to the United States’ so-called “right to work” policies.
“I think most people don’t 100% understand why we’re there; but they see we’re out there, and they know we’re fighting for something,” Schulz says. “For me, this is part of pretty much a two-year contract out here I need to finish. So, you just come every day and do what you can. You’ve got to finish it to the end now.”
For more about the CESSCO lockout, visit www.EndOurLockout.org
Thirty Boilermakers were initially locked out of CESSCO in June 2020. Since then, the majority moved on to find other work through Local 146, and several, sadly, crossed the picket line to continue work at CESSCO. Through it all, five Boilermakers have steadfastly walked the picket line every day to stand their ground as a union.
“Somebody has to stand up to these people. The little bit of difference we might be making? We’ve got to do it. We can’t let CESSCO, Canerector and the Hawkins family get away with it. We’ve got to let as many people as possible know what these people are all about. “
– Arno Schulz, prep shop supervisor, 40 years at CESSCO
“Sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed to come here, but we have to do it. We have to give ourselves some reason. We have to be strong for our union, our members and for ourselves. We have to send a message to our members that if something happens to anybody we have to stand together. It’s very important to keep the union strong and for our solidarity.”
– Don Fortin, machinist and foreman, 35 years at CESSCO
“There’s no backing down for us. We’re going to stay strong. You’ve got to be strong and think of the future for the younger generation in our union. Don’t give up, just keep going.”
- Sid Gaasbeek, welder and fitter, 42 years at CESSCO
“It’s been difficult mentally to do this for so many months now, through two different winter cycles and two hot summer cycles. But at the same time, the motivation comes from when we see success in bargaining somewhere else, in other shops in the area.
As long as they’re willing to keep us locked out, we’re willing to stay out here and show the traffic on 99th Street that we’re still here. We haven’t given up. We haven’t gone away. CESSCO and Canerector don’t get to win without us being here and we’ll be right here to the end.”
— Jeff Burns, machine operator, lead hand, relief job steward, 22 years at CESSCO
“I think every once in a while about the CESSCO that once was. We had something here. This was the shop that started the Boilermakers Local 146 here. There was something good here at CESSCO—we were doing something good. Quality products went out of this shop on time and under budget. We were sending out good quality products, and no one ever came back and said we did anything wrong.
“I want to say thank you to anyone who’s shown their support and for coming out and joining us. Stand strong. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If you come down this road, it might be a heavy load, and it might be a long haul.”
– Dwight Watson, pressure welder and job steward, 38 years at CESSCO