Airport workers’ union mistakenly boycotts cab company

Daniel MacEachern
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Union retracts, apologizes; owner rejects restitution offered as a ‘token’

Ed Grant, owner of Valley Cabs, is not pleased that the union representing striking airport workers sent out a letter asking members to boycott Valley Cabs because they incorrectly thought he was on the airport's board of directors.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

A Mount Pearl businessman is furious his taxi company was the focus of a union boycott by mistake.

Ed Grant, owner of Valley Cabs, discovered in March that the Atlantic branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada — which represents workers on strike from the

St. John’s airport  — sent a letter to its members, urging them to boycott the cab company, under the mistaken belief that Grant is a member of the airport’s board of directors.

“We are trying to exert as much pressure as possible on this employer. And we need our members’ help to do it,” reads the letter, dated March 20 and signed by Jeannie Baldwin, regional executive vice-president of the union. “Ed Grant, a member of the Airport Board of Directors, owns Valley Cabs in the city of Mount Pearl. As a show of support, we are asking that you boycott Valley Cabs and contact Ed Grant directly … to let him know that you will not be using his service until the strike at the St. John’s Airport is settled.”

The problem, said Grant, is that he “has not, is not and never will be” a member of the St. John’s Airport Authority’s board of directors.

“I find it incredible that they couldn’t have picked up the phone, called the airport authority, or call me — my number’s in the boycott letter, as they were asking people to call me and pressure me into settling,” he said. The board of directors are also listed on the airport authority’s website.

His calls to the union prompted a retraction letter — Grant calls it a “half-hearted” apology — sent out by the union three days after the original letter. “The strikers had been provided with what they thought was reliable information that led us to believe that the company’s owner Ed Grant was a new member of the

St. John’s Airport Authority Board of Directors. It has come to our attention that this is not the case,” reads the second letter, also signed by Baldwin. “I apologize for this inconvenience, and assure you that I have also apologized to Mr. Grant. Please do not boycott Valley Cabs.”

Baldwin told The Telegram Thursday one of the union’s members had provided the erroneous information, and the boycott letter was sent to about 350 union members. When the union was informed of the mistake by Grant, said Baldwin, they corrected it and apologized immediately.

“We sent a letter of apology to Mr. Grant and we immediately sent a retraction letter to our membership of our error, and it was completely stopped,” said Baldwin. Asked if the union had verified the information, Baldwin said the member who provided the information said he had done that.

“It was a grave error on our part. We apologized to Mr. Grant. I’ve been on the phone with him several times and also wrote a letter of apology to him with the mistake I had made,” said Baldwin.

After the union apologized and retracted the boycott, said Baldwin, Grant then approached the union for monetary damages.

“We agreed to provide Mr. Grant with a $6,000 financial settlement which he could give to the charity of his choice. Mr. Grant refused — he actually wanted the money for himself, personally, I think, or for his company,” said Baldwin. She said they offered Grant $3,000, but if he wanted anything more than that, he would have to provide proof of his losses over the three days the union was calling for a boycott.

The case is now in small-claims court, due back before a judge in October.

“The judge made it very clear, though, that the claimant has to prove damages, which Mr. Grant has not done himself,” said Baldwin.

Grant called the restitution offered by the union a “token” and said it’s impossible for him to prove how much business he might have lost because of the boycott, and when the strike is settled — since the boycott was to last for the length of the strike — he’ll be attempting to determine how much damage was done.

“It’s hard to prove a negative. We had a number of people who called us before the retraction came out and said, ‘We’re not using you.’ They have to believe the boycotts are effective, or they wouldn’t bother doing them. The retraction obviously got back to some people, but the effect is, sometimes they don’t read the retraction letters. They mention (the boycott) to family and friends and don’t bother mentioning the retraction.”

Baldwin also said Valley Cabs was the only target of a boycott letter sent by the union.

“I think there’s a couple things that we’ve tried to do. We’ve been working with some of those businesses, like we’ve been holding information picket lines in front of their businesses. Hopefully that’s bringing our issues to the forefront of what exactly’s going on with the St. John’s airport.”

About 85 members of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees Local 90916 — members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada who handle runway clearing; building and equipment upkeep; fire, security and emergency services; and administrative and billing services — have been on strike since Sept. 11, 2012. The union has been without a pay raise since 2008 and without a collective bargaining agreement since 2009. The most recent round of negotiations broke off earlier this month.

 Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Public Service Alliance of Canada, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees Local

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    June 28, 2013 - 11:57

    This union is pushing the wrong buttons. Their leaders should be showing better direction than this. I wonder if one of the board members had shares in Tim Horton's would they stop sitting around with subsidized pay drinking Tim's coffee and eating donuts. Ha. What a joke.

  • mundy
    June 28, 2013 - 11:51

    Just goes to show the low level of intellgence of union management.

  • Conrad
    June 28, 2013 - 11:04

    Facts aren't a big thing wity you, are they?

  • Citizen x
    June 28, 2013 - 10:57

    Now if folks only showed the same outrage towards things that matter.

    June 28, 2013 - 10:45

    Time to get rid of every last one of them and hire non-union employees. But no wonder they are still on strike. They are receiving full pay. They have nothing to loose. I'd walk a picket line for full pay any day.

  • Incompetence
    June 28, 2013 - 09:50

    And these are the people looking for a pay raise? They don't deserve it if they can't even do the simple job of making a phone call to fact check.

  • Grandma
    June 28, 2013 - 09:42

    I have been on both sides of the bargaining table and both have legitimate claims and expectations. Matters get complicated when both sides lack a spirit of compromise and good faith. I will say to those who are trashing unions that the pensions, vacations, paid holidays and health benefits you enjoy were won on the backs of union workers. Do you think that employers just decided to give these benefits to their employees? Both union and employer consist of our spouses and other family members, our neighbours, our church families etc.. There is no dividing line of good and bad, both sides give to our community, lend a helping hand when there is need and both have legitimate expectations. It is time to let reason prevail.

    • TheSleeveen
      June 28, 2013 - 15:14

      your argument made sense 50 years ago but is no longer valid. These union workers are well paid and are asking for too much from the customers, who ultimately pay. Greed and excess will become the downfall of this union. Paying your workers almost their full pay is not a hardship on these people. Keep them out forever. no one has 100% job security anymore, why should they??

  • Lois
    June 28, 2013 - 09:05

    This strike is rediculous. Based on greed. Let's face it, it's been nearly a year and the airport functions basically the same as when they weren't on strike. Doesn't really prove their worth! I know people with university degrees and 3 yr college diplomas not making the kind of money they are making WITHOUT a pay increase. Get back to work!!! And compensate the man with money for CHARITY?! Not the same. Charitable donations are a lovely idea but not applicable to this circumstance. He shouldn't be greedy, either, 6k is more than fair, but it should go to his wallet, not someone else's. Strikers, you have very little public support. You need to realize public support is EVERYTHING.

  • Barney
    June 28, 2013 - 08:57

    OK so the union sent a letter out to their members retracting the statement - what do you want to bet that all those union members told ever family member, friend, anyone at all to boycott this company when they got the original notice. What do you want to bet that that they contacted all those people they told that it was wrong info and not to boycott? Also - how long after that letter retracting the wrong information was sent did this story come out - that's the time period that the union needs to cover the company's losses - not the 3 days. It has to be from when the public was made known. I'm on Ed Grant's side here and he should go back to March 20th when the original notice was sent to when the mistake was made known to the public. That would cover anyone that the union members spread the lie too.

  • CW
    June 28, 2013 - 08:45

    You assume that the boycott ended in 3 days. As I said before, who knows how many people this reached? Not hard to tell you are a union man, Mr.Murphy!

  • Don
    June 28, 2013 - 08:42

    Even if the man was on the board, does it give justification to this union to target an unrelated business? Very unprofessional. With secondary striking in residential areas, lying to the media about subsided wages etc., etc. and now this. Why would anybody not consider this group a mob. Shameful to say the least...

  • P F Murphy
    June 28, 2013 - 08:12

    While it is impossible to prove "absolutely" what Valley Cabs lost over the 3 days, I would suggest Grant could provide a reasonable approximation by giving the Valley Cabs take over the same three days his company was under boycott (let's say it was a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) going back 3 weeks prior to the boycott. He should divide that amount by 3. He should then compare that average to his 3 days of boycott (say again it was a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). You want to go back 3 weeks to provide a somewhat dependable average of the what the normal 3-day earnings for those days of the week at this time of year would have been (i.e. weekend days are probably bigger earners than week days). Then he should compare what he took in for the boycott days versus the average days and see what the probable loss or gain was and then discuss that with the Union as a reasonable approximation. If the 3 grand is near, he should grab it and go. Going to court and bringing in lawyers will just add to his costs and waste the time he could spend working at his business and enjoying his family and the summer - wherever that is. This Telegram story will possibly be sympathetic advertising for him and his company, but taking a bunch of union members who have been out over 9 months to court could possibly take away from any bounce in business he might have had, He should grab the good, sympathy, and laugh it off so as not to prolong the negative and leave him with an accidentally hurt good guy image. Settling the mistake could be his second Tely ad hit.

    • CW
      June 28, 2013 - 09:13

      Very well said Don. :)

  • CW
    June 28, 2013 - 07:57

    This is ridiculous!! They offered him compensation that he had to donate to a charity?? If he has lost revenue because of this, it was revenue for his company, not charity. They say it was only a 3 day boycott but once the letter is out there, it's out there and how can they quarantee that the retraction will reach the same people that the boycott did. I know they only sent it to the union members, but they all have family and friends that I am sure they passed the boycott information on to. Then those family and friends in turn passed it on. Who can say for sure how many people heard about this and decided to join in the boycott? Shame on you Jeannie Baldwin and on your union. You are dragging innocent people into your fight, without bothering to check the facts. Well the fact is, it's behaviour like this that reassures me that I am right in my decision never to work for a union!!

  • Stephen D Redgrave
    June 28, 2013 - 07:47

    On the issue of cabs at the airport. It was July 2011 when my wife and i returned from Ontario at 1 am and watched in disgust as airport officials went from cab to bab lining their pockets with cash (pay off money). When we got in the first available taxi we were told the cost would be twenty-five dollars for what should have been a fourteen dollar ride home. We asked to get out right now and the cabby refused. By the time he let us go we were ten blocks away from the terminal and had to walk back. We called our own cab and paid the fourteen dollar fair then gave the cabby a ten dollar tip just for being brave enough to venture into hostile territory. As far as I'm concerned , they can stay on strike forever.

  • Robb
    June 28, 2013 - 07:44

    Hey, what is Ed Grant missing here......he should know the low-life antics of the unions....these are creeps who would ruin someone else's business or life just to get a few extra dollars......everyone should understand that these unions are ruthless and totally underhanded...and when any employer or govt stands up to them, they cry foul to the public like spoiled little brats that just got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I wouldn't let a union worker tie my shoe.....the reason I say that is because they stoop so low, they may as well do something while they are down there.....anyway, the big point is the union thugs are the damnation to any business, and the sooner the govt brings in the right to work legislation, the's simple, you don't want to work, get out of the way and let someone who does.......and please you union creeps, lose the grade 2 name calling...every time you use the word scab, I can only look on you as the lowest of the low....these are real people who are only trying to make a living for their families, and especially their children....but you would certainly take the bite out of a child's mouth, and it does not get any lower.....and please, do not try to defend, I have been in unions and witnessed the ugly for my own eyes, and it's just plain ugly.

  • Non-Union Guy
    June 28, 2013 - 07:37

    It could have been much worse; the union could have unleashed usual striker action such as: vandalised his property, threatened his family or caused him personal injury. It's time to legislate them back to work and make the union responsible for cleanup of the unsightly mess on the way to the airport.

  • jim
    June 28, 2013 - 07:22

    get back to the table, settle this strike or FIRE THE DAM WORKS OF THEM

    • Ryan
      June 28, 2013 - 11:51

      .. It won't happen because of the union. Lol. I also support the labatt strike

  • Ed Fry
    June 28, 2013 - 06:56

    It is time to get rid of ALL public sector unions. Enough is enough.

  • hslaw
    June 28, 2013 - 06:46

    Maybe the man should just accept the offer from the union and e done with it. He should remember that there are a lot of union members in these two cities. But the person who gave the union his information should be fair game