Workers who make status-symbol jackets for Canada Goose have overwhelmingly voted to join a union in a move hailed as Canada’s biggest private-sector victory for manufacturing employees in three decades.
Eighty-six percent of the roughly 1,200 garment workers at two of the outerwear brand’s production facilities in Winnipeg voted in favor of joining the Workers United Canada Council, an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, the union said earlier this month.
Workers United also represents Canada Goose workers in two locations in Ontario. Altogether, the parka purveyor employs more than 4,590 workers, making up roughly one-fifth of Canada’s garment-making workforce, to make its goods domestically in eight owned-and-operated facilities across Montreal, Toronto, Scarborough and Winnipeg.
“This is a wonderful moment for our workers. We work so hard to make this company a success,” Alelie Sanvictores, a leader of the union effort who has sewn clothing for Canada Goose for the past five years, said in a statement. “Now we feel we have a real voice in the company to share in that success.”
The union vote followed accusations last year that Canada Goose had targeted pro-union workers for disciplinary action. Workers at the Winnipeg plants also complained of unsafe working environments, low piece-rate pay and abusive behavior by managers who racially discriminated against the largely immigrant workforce. Canada Goose, whose coveted, coyote-fur-trimmed parkas can cost up to $1,500 apiece, has denied the allegations. It also refutes claims that it is anti-union, adding that more than half of its workers in Winnipeg earn more than the local minimum wage of 12 Canadian dollars ($9.54) an hour.
“Our goal has always been to support our employees; respecting their right to determine their own representation,” a Canada Goose spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We welcome Workers United as the union representative for our employees across our manufacturing facilities in Winnipeg and look forward to working alongside them as we have in Scarborough and Toronto for decades.”
Founded in 1957 by immigrant and Holocaust survivor Sam Tick, the brand has built a reputation of social responsibility. In April, it hired Bill Nye the Science Guy to help guide its sustainability strategy to “keep the planet cold and people warm,” including attaining Bluesign approval for the majority of its materials. A few months later, Canada Goose made headlines for committing to phase out the purchase of fur by the end of 2021 and stop manufacturing with fur altogether “no later” than the close of 2022. November saw the new footwear entrant achieve certification under the Responsible Down Standard for its signature stuffing, enabling a chain-of-custody process that promises animal-welfare best practices.
The Winnipeg union decision was the culmination of three years of lobbying by workers, said Workers United, which represents 86,000 workers in the apparel, laundry, food service, hospitality, warehouse distribution and manufacturing industries in Canada and the United States.
“I want to congratulate the workers of Canada Goose for this amazing victory,” said Richard Minter, international organizing director for Workers United. “I also want to salute the company. No employer wants a union but Canada Goose management stayed neutral and allowed the workers the right to exercise their democratic vote.”