Striking Cargill workers turn to Guelph Food Bank as strike drags on

A large number of striking Cargill workers and their families have turned to the Guelph Food Bank for support as the labour strike enters its second month.

Numbers confirmed by Guelph Food Bank show that in the week of June 17 alone, more than 150 striking Cargill workers and their families signed up at the 100 Crimea St. location. That number doesn't include the unspecified increase of Cargill worker sign ups each of the food bank's nine satellite locations are reporting.

"In a week, we've had an unprecedented number of new sign ups from the Cargill workers," food bank executive director Carolyn McLeod-McCarthy told CBC News.

McLeod-McCarthy said the Guelph Food Bank serves more than 3,400 individuals per month.

"And it's growing," she said. "We have not seen a reduction. We're not status quo. We keep growing month to month to month."

And with the new strike-related increase, McLeod-McCarthy said pressure to meet the need is mounting. She said striking worker sign ups "put an immense stress" on the food bank.

"We don't turn anyone away. But it will be a difficult time to keep up with it all."

McLeod-McCarthy said workers told her and food bank staff they thought the strike would end much sooner and that they "held off as long as they could before they came in need of food."

"We're already dealing with unprecedented numbers as it is with the growth in our area and the Cargill strike definitely doesn't help," said McLeod-McCarthy.

Workers at Cargill's Guelph-Dunlop beef processing facility voted to strike.
Workers at Cargill's Guelph-Dunlop beef processing facility have been on strike since May 26. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

Employer, union response

Cargill said in an emailed statement to CBC News that the company is "concerned about the impacts this labour disruption has had on our employees and their families."

"Our focus is on putting an end to it and welcoming our employees back to work. We look forward to meeting with the union bargaining committee on July 2 to discuss the possibility of doing so," the company said.

Sam Caetano is the director of region six of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing the workers. He did not comment on the food bank sign ups; however, Caetano did say in an interview that he looks forward to planned meetings with Cargill on July 2.

"I'm feeling optimistic that we will come to some sort of recommended settlement where we can bring it back to the membership," he said.