Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Workers at a Winnipeg Canada Goose factory are raising a stink after the maker of expensive parkas closed washrooms in its building, forcing them to use outdoor portable toilets that they say are cleaned only every four days.
Some workers have resorted to using their 30-minute break to leave the property, at 1450 Mountain Ave., to find a public washroom. Others go to work with their own commodes, which they keep in their vehicles. Meantime, managers use separate washrooms in the building, which are designated for them, and do not have to use the portable potties.
Workers' washrooms have been out of service for three weeks. One worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were told maintenance was being conducted on the facilities.
It's unfair to expect factory staff, most of whom are minorities, to use the portables, she said.
"Some people don’t like to use public washrooms either, but it’s a lot better than the porta-potties at work," said the worker. "They’re in very, very bad condition and only get cleaned every four days, and it’s in worse condition because of COVID-19."
She said she takes her break when her husband can leave his job to pick her up. They spend her break driving around to find a public washroom.
"They’re in very, very bad condition and only get cleaned every four days, and it’s in worse condition because of COVID–19." – Anonymous worker
"Canada Goose is a company that prides itself on being for the people and supporting people, but they don’t support their own workers," she said. "They don’t treat them well, or even as humans."
The Winnipeg Free Press reached out to Canada Goose for comment but did not hear back.
Jo Ann Pinera, who interned with Workers United and spent time at the factory, said she is outraged.
"I’ve spent a lot of time studying the company, Canada Goose, understanding what the inside looks like, interviewing workers inside who are working in an environment of fear."
Pinera is a part of Winnipeg Youth United, an activist group that draws attention to workers’ rights issues, community education and student issues.
"We’ve had some workers reach out to us and told us the situation had been going on for three weeks," said Pinera. "The fact that we’re hearing about this three weeks later (shows) that they work under an environment of fear… and they don’t want to speak out about what’s going wrong inside for fear of losing their job."
The group has organized a protest at the Mountain Avenue factory at 3 p.m. Friday.
"The fact that we’re hearing about this three weeks later (shows) that they work under an environment of fear… and they don’t want to speak out about what’s going wrong inside for fear of losing their job." – Jo Ann Pinera
"This issue has to be shared with people in our community because it obviously is, from my perspective, a violation of human rights and health and safety concerns, especially in the wake of a global pandemic," said Pinera.
She said the group has members who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and workers' rights is an issue close to them. She added 95 per cent of garment and factory workers are BIPOC and migrant workers.
"The fashion and garment industry, including large luxury brands such as Canada Goose, rely on the hard work of workers that are primarily BIPOC and immigrants," she said. "It’s important that we do not turn a blind eye to the injustices that happen in our communities. We want to make a meaningful change to dismantle the unacceptable working conditions that these workers work under."
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