BCGEU's Responsible Investing Program
In the early days of unionism, united workers and organized worker capital gave us the strength to take on some of the largest and most powerful business interests of the day to win incredible advances to working conditions.
We are adapting these lessons to organize worker capital in a modern context. People are taking notice of this innovative approach, and our work has made national and international headlines.
Right now we are engaging with dozens of leading Canadian companies -- like Loblaws, Dollarama, TD Bank, and Thomson Reuters on some of the most important issues of our time. We have asked these companies to take stands on human rights, climate protection and the rights of workers. Since we started this program just a few years ago, we’ve pushed companies like the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to commit to not financing the U.S. private prison sector, pushed Dollarama to massively reduce food and water waste and pushed the Bank of Montreal (BMO) to start looking into the climate impacts of its financing and lending activities, and much more.
Here's just a small sampling of the work that we've been doing over the past year:
Dollarama’s warehouses and distribution centres are staffed entirely by temporary workers without contracts, benefits, or rights. But there’s nothing temporary about these temporary staffing agencies: these workers, many of whom are new immigrants and asylum seekers in Canada are permanently temporary.
Workers have complained about major safety issues, workplace injuries, and a lack of training. However, the precariousness of their employment makes many workers hesitant to report incidents and occupational injuries, or to file for compensation. This is deliberate on the part of their employer.
Working closely with workers, we asked Dollarama to prepare a report outlining how it addresses the human rights issues that arise out of its use of third-party staffing agencies for its warehouse and distribution centre staffing needs. This proposal goes to a vote in June.
Canadian media giant Thomson Reuters created a data software that has been used to track, detain and deport undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in the United States. This includes separating families and detaining people in conditions that violate their human rights. We asked the company to investigate and report on human rights abuses enabled by the use of these software products.
Last year, our proposal earned considerable media coverage and the attention of major investors. Almost 30% of non-controlled Thomson Reuters shareholders voted for our proposal, representing billions of dollars of shareholder value. This year, we filed a similar proposal, and it’s going to a vote in just a couple of weeks. Already, more investors are backing the proposal than ever before and we expect it to earn an even stronger vote.
Throughout the pandemic, Loblaw's frontline workers have kept Canadian families fed, clothed and safe. We are so grateful for their ongoing work in these most difficult times. In 2020, Loblaws enacted hero pay for frontline workers but ended the pay bump after just 3 months. It then spent hundreds of millions of dollars repurchasing shares (benefiting only shareholders). The amount it spent on share repurchases could have funded hero pay for five additional months. We filed a shareholder proposal asking the company asking why it had chosen to put profits ahead of workers, and to examine their capital and risk management practices during the pandemic.
Research published in October 2020 shows that grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, with those in customer-facing roles five times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions.
The proposal earned the support of several major investors, and though it did not pass, our proposal made sure that the experience of workers were brought info focus at company's annual shareholder meeting.
In 2020, the union’s provincial executive voted to begin purchasing shares in a select group of publicly-traded companies where fellow members work.
This included Great Canadian Gaming, IDEXX Laboratories, Sienna Seniors Living and Chartwell Retirement Living.
Being an investor gives us leverage beyond the bargaining table. We are starting to make plans for these companies that centre you, and the issues you’re facing in your jobs.
This year we were able to file a shareholder proposal at Chartwell Retirement Residences asking the company to ensure it had board-level oversight for risk. We are proud that we were able to drive this proposal forward through surveys and conversations with front line workers.