Union advocate says Oilers aren’t ‘scabs,’ but should not have crossed picket line

A long-time union advocate has concerns with the Edmonton Oilers staying at a Boston Hotel where workers are on strike, but doesn’t think it’s fair to call them “scabs.”

United Steelworkers member Jason Rockwell explained the term to 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen.

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“Are the Edmonton Oilers ‘scabs’ in the technical sense? Absolutely not.”

“I’m a trade unionist — long-time trade unionist — and that terminology, to me, should be reserved for people who are actually taking other people’s jobs and doing their work.”

Rockwell said that’s not what the Oilers did when they stayed at the Mariott property, but he did take issue with the Oilers crossing the picket line to do it.

“What I would say is that they’re delaying the successful resolution of a labour dispute for workers who are fighting for things like not to have to work three jobs to make ends meet,” Rockwell said. “One of the demands I saw through reading social media was that they wanted some provisions in their collective agreement around being sexually harassed at work. And those are important issues.”

And without public support, a strike is less effective.

“[I]f a company doesn’t see any change in their business,” Rockwell said, “there’s no incentive for them to come back to the table and settle a fair collective agreement.”

With so many hotel stays in a team schedule, Rockwell said it was understandable the Oilers may not have known about the strike when they arrived in Boston.

But, he said the team could have made a different choice.

“Could they have made that phone call and then cancelled at the Marriott? Well, I mean it’s a possibility. Is that a really over-stepping demand on behalf of us in labour? I don’t think so.” said Rockwell.

“I mean, they play there one night out of 42 road games a year, and for one night, all we’re saying is, ‘Can you pick somewhere else to stay?'”

The Oilers are in Boston to play the Bruins Thursday night. The team has respectfully declined to comment.

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