Drug strike long and nasty
By Ulli Diemer
A strike by 400 workers against a Ward 7 company is entering its ninth week with no end in sight.
Warehouse and office workers have been on strike against the Drug Trading Company at Ontario and King Streets since July 28  and to date, there has been no progress made toward a settlement.
The company has taken a hard-line position in its bargaining in offering a base rate increase of 29 cents per hour in the first year and 34 cents in the second. The company’s offer is slightly less than a six per cent increase, but the cost of living over the period of the contract has gone up 9.7 per cent, while company sales have increased by 12.8 per cent in the past year. The company’s relative expenses, according to its own financial statement, actually went down over the same period.
From 1976 to 1978 the stockholders’ earnings per share have tripled, from $7.28 to $22.62.
Members of the union, Local 11 of the Canadian Chemical Workers, are therefore highly critical of the company’s refusal to bargain. The company appears to be trying to simply wait out the strike, and has been bringing in outside strikebreakers at wages far higher than those it pays its regular employees. The basic rate for office workers is currently $127.50 a week.
The company has also been using the services of Islington Driver Services to bring out supplies. Islington has been associated with attempts to break strikes in the past, for example in last year’s lengthy strike against Becker’s.
Strikers complain that although the strike has been a peaceful one, police have been going out of their way to make things more difficult for strikers and easier for strikebreakers and management. They say that policemen wait at streetcar stops for strikebreakers and escort them right to the door of the plant, and that they aggressively push strikers around.
Says union local president Bill Yeaman: “The police are not being neutral. The company is getting the protection of the law but we aren’t.” Yeaman cites an example of a strikebreaker trying to hit a woman with his truck, and of the police refusing to lay charges. “In any kind of a confrontation it’s always the strikers and only the strikers, who get charged,” says Yeaman.
Yeaman also charges that police have tried to interfere in the running of the strike, demanding that the union executive report to the police station to talk about ‘how to run a picket line’. “We know how to run a picket line,” says Yeaman. He adds that this is the first time most of the employees (about half and half men and women) have been on strike, and that “no one is looking for trouble. But some of the police, especially the sergeants, act as if they are.”
Published in Seven News, Volume 9, Number 10, 23 September, 1978.