Labour groups urge Canadians to boycott beer cans

19-month strike persists at Crown Holdings factory in Toronto

Labour groups are urging Canadians to reach in the cooler for a bottle of beer, as opposed to a can.

The boycott was initially launched by the United Steelworkers against Crown Holdings, a U.S.-based beer can manufacturer whose Toronto facility has been at the epicentre of a long and bitter labour dispute.

In 2013, the local chapter’s 120 workers went on strike after the company pushed for major concessions.

Nineteen months later, on April 9, the Canadian Labour Congress (an umbrella group which represents 54 unions and more than three million affiliated workers nationwide) joined the boycott, effectively making the effort a national one.

“We must not let this incredibly profitable multinational company — with a CEO making an average of $13 million a year — show such utter contempt for the very workers who have helped build its success,” said Hassan Yussuff, the CLC’s president.

Crown Holdings initially proposed new-hires would be paid 42 per cent less than veteran staffers, which the union rejected. The company then proposed all workers accept an across-the-board wage cut of 33 per cent, according to the CLC.

With both sides digging in their heels at the bargaining table, Ontario labour minister Kevin Flynn intervened in March and appointed mediator-arbitrator Morton Mitchnick to conduct an industrial inquiry. That process is currently ongoing.

In its 25-year history of being unionized, Crown Holdings’ Toronto operation has only had one other strike — a six-week endeavour in 1995.

The boycott includes canned Molson, Coors, Labatt, Budweiser, Moosehead and Creemore brands.

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