This has been brewing for long enough

Stella’s employees strike in hopes of better working conditions

Two years after the Not My Stella’s platform was created on Instagram highlighting worker complaints against Stella’s management, the local restaurant chain is in hot water again.

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Employees allege this managerial attitude has been constant, which led to the most recent strike of employees at Stella’s Sherbrook location on Sept. 20. President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 (UFCW) Jeff Traeger says this strike is a result of the conflict of bargaining between Stella’s management and its workers’ union, which he says have been going on since June of this year.

“The main issues (brought up by the union) are respect and dignity in the workplace, working conditions and treatment of workers by management,” Traeger says.

“At this point, Stella’s has said that they are not prepared to address any of those issues, and that is why our members voted 100 per cent to go on strike, which tells you something, because it is very unusual in a workplace where all of the members decide to go out on strike.”

In addition to the strike, Not My Stella’s is picketing daily in front of Stella’s Sherbrook location and encouraging a boycott of all of Stella's locations until worker situations improve. 

Andrian Lampa, former general manager at the Stella’s Sherbrook location, shared his thoughts via Facebook on his experience at the restaurant, and why he chose to leave.

“I left Stella’s on my own accord due to a severe lack of healthy, safe and professional working conditions,” he says.

“They made decisions that disrupted my store without consulting me. Shuffled my entire management team around constantly to the point where I was training a new manager every few weeks on the Collective Agreement and the functions to operate a unionized store.”

Lampa alleges these tactics created a hectic schedule resulting in 16-hour shifts. These conditions, paired with a lack of support from management, led Lampa to leave the restaurant. 

With this experience, the former general manager implores others not to settle and continue to fight for better working conditions at Stella’s.

“Please do not allow Stella’s to create a narrative that they are the victims, that they are the ones struggling to make this situation better,” he says. 

“I have witnessed firsthand their perception of unions and how they despise them. For a time, I was a part of it.”

It is the very culture that Traeger points to that created this standstill between management and the union. He says if this continues, it would be long before either side can likely apply for a binding arbitration under Manitoba law to determine a contract between them, which would likely take three months.

“I think that this would be unfortunate for Stella’s, because it would have a disastrous effect on their business,” he says.

Not only is “the restaurant closed, because it is not opened during the strike and not making money, but also the image of the Stella’s brand is being damaged by these events.”

However, there is hope to fix this. Traeger and UFCW have applied for conciliation to re-negotiate with Stella’s management in an effort to reach an agreement, which Traeger says is important in an industry where employers normally take advantage of their workers.

“It is critically important that we start to make strides like this, and I think that COVID-19 has also shown us that essential frontline workers need to be paid better, treated better and protected when they are in the workplace,” he says.

Published in Volume 75, Number 04 of The Uniter (October 1, 2020)

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