IN THE MATTER OF THE LABOUR RELATIONS CODE  
UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION,  
LOCAL NO. 401  
Applicant  
- and -  
CARGILL LTD.  
Respondent  
Date of Decision: April 29, 2022  
FILE: GE-08267  
BOARD MEMBERS  
J. Leslie Wallace Vice-Chair  
Carol Graham Member  
Peter Marsden Member  
APPEARANCES  
For the Applicant:  
Kara O’Halloran (Counsel), Kristan McLeod (Counsel), Devin Yeager,  
Joe Attwood, Miriam Tukku, Jamie Walsh-Rollo  
For the Respondent: Damon Bailey, Q.C. (Counsel), Alison Adam (Counsel), Rebecca  
Silverberg (Counsel), Tanya Teeter  
Classification: Public  
REASONS FOR DECISION  
I.  
Introduction  
[1]  
These are reasons given in an application to summarily dismiss an unfair labour practice  
complaint at the close of the Union’s case. They explain and amplify the “bottom line” decision  
given in this matter on May 20, 2021, which allowed the application and dismissed the  
complaint.  
[2]  
Cargill Ltd. (“Cargill” or the “Employer”) operates the largest meat packing plant in  
Canada just outside High River, near Calgary, Alberta. In March and April, 2020, it was the  
location of what was, for the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest outbreak of the  
COVID-19 virus in Canada measured by direct and linked cases. Over 1000 cases linked to the  
plant occurred. Two employees died of the virus during that time.  
[3]  
The outbreak placed immense strains on the workplace and on the bargaining relationship  
between the Employer and its employees’ bargaining agent, United Food and Commercial  
Workers Union, Local No. 401 (“UFCW”, “Local 401”, or the “Union”). It posed a very serious  
threat to employee health and safety, to ongoing production at the plant, and more generally to  
public health in the Calgary region. It became a major issue for government agencies, notably  
Alberta Health Services (“AHS”) and Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”), which both  
became involved in the Employer’s response to the outbreak.  
[4]  
Part of the Employer’s response was an approximately two-week shutdown of the plant  
in late April 2020. The Union had already publicly called for a shutdown before this. It viewed  
Cargill’s health and safety measures as inadequate, and opposed the reopening of the plant from  
this shutdown on May 4, 2020. On May 1, 2020, it filed a complaint to this Board that the  
Employer had interfered with the Union’s representation of employees and discriminated against,  
restrained or intimidated employees for union membership or activity, contrary to sections  
148(1)(a)(ii) and 149(1)(a)(i), (ii) and (viii), 149(1)(b) and (c) of the Labour Relations Code (the  
“Code”). It sought, among other relief, an interim order that the plant remain closed.  
Classification: Public  
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[5]  
The Board denied an urgent hearing, scheduled the matter to hearing before this panel in  
the normal course, and appointed its Vice-Chair Lyle Kanee, Q.C., to assist the parties to resolve  
some or all their issues. Their meetings with Vice-Chair Kanee resulted in an interim agreement  
that operated for some or all the time occupied in bringing the complaint to the stage of hearing  
that it reached.  
[6]  
Though we will canvass all aspects of the Union’s complaint presently, for now it is  
enough to say that the crux of the Complaint is that the Employer failed to accord the Union its  
proper representational role in evaluating and responding to the outbreak. It says this failure  
manifested itself in multiple ways, including undermining or failing to recognize the roles both  
of full-time Union representatives, and Union appointees to the Employer’s Joint Workplace  
Health and Safety Committee (“JWHSC”). A secondary aspect of the Complaint alleged that  
Cargill suspended its second shift starting April 13, 2020 in retaliation for the Union’s public  
advocacy.  
[7]  
The Union presented evidence over six days in separate groups of hearing days in June  
2020 and January 2021. At the close of the Union’s case, the Employer applied for the Board to  
dismiss the Complaint on the basis that the evidence did not disclose a substantive case that  
either section 148 or section 149 of the Code had been violated.  
II.  
A.  
Facts  
Overview  
[8]  
The Cargill plant at High River supplies approximately 30% of Canada’s beef. It  
employs some 2000 unionized employees, along with out of scope salaried employees and  
managers, in two principal production areas: harvest, colloquially the “kill floor”, where animals  
are slaughtered; and fabrication, where the carcasses are broken down and cut into wholesale  
cuts, and packaged for shipping. The Union’s predecessor Local 1118 was the certified  
Classification: Public  
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bargaining agent for the production employees of Cargill from 1991. In 2016, Local 1118  
merged with Local 401, the present bargaining agent.  
[9]  
The Cargill workforce is exceptionally diverse. A great many of the production  
workforce are recent immigrants to Canada. Many national communities are represented.  
Turnover is high. Many employees have a first language other than English and imperfect  
command of the English language, along with the unfamiliarity with labour relations that exists  
in many industrial workforces. The production process is highly integrated. It depends upon  
continuous, high-speed operation of the production line, and minimizing down time. Food safety  
and occupational health and safety are imperatives. All of this makes union representation of the  
workforce much more challenging than in most other workplaces.  
[10] The Union relies heavily on face-to-face communication with its members in the Cargill  
unit. This is so in part because the exceptional diversity of the workforce tends to fragment  
social media communities by ethnicity and culture and so makes electronic communication more  
difficult. Although the Union assigns two full-time representatives to the plant, there are other  
key elements to its representational work. Important to this case are the employee  
representatives to the JWHSC and the “walking stewards”, production workers who by the  
collective agreement are entitled to be released from their production role to “roam” the floor,  
monitor workplace conditions and represent union members in the immediate vicinity of their  
work stations.  
[11] It is convenient at this point to list the principal actors on behalf of both parties in these  
events:  
Local 401  
Thomas Hesse: President of the Union. Mr. Hesse was a long-time organizer and official  
for the Union until 2019, when he succeeded to the presidency after the death of  
President Douglas O’Halloran.  
Devin Yeager: Labour Relations Officer for the Union, formerly Executive Director of  
Local 1118, now with responsibility for members at the smaller Cargill Case-Ready plant  
in Calgary, and as a representative at Cargill High River.  
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Joe Attwood: Labour Relations Officer for the Union, with secondary responsibility for  
Cargill, and temporary representative on the JWHSC in the fall of 2019.  
Jamie Walsh-Rollo: Cargill employee, at the time of the hearing a “Cryovac [sealing  
machine] operator”, shop steward, and employee representative on the JWHSC.  
Miriam Tukku: Cargill employee and shop steward, at the time of the hearing working in  
the “back packoff” area, and the other employee representative and co-chair on the  
JWHSC.  
Cargill  
Tanya Teeter: Vice-President of Human Resources, working out of Cargill offices in the  
United States. She is the principal Employer contact to Mr. Hesse.  
Dale LaGrange: General Manager of the High River Plant.  
Devin Tretiak: Senior Employee Relations representative at the High River Plant. He is  
the most senior Employer labour relations representative on site and the principal point of  
contact with Messrs. Yeager and Attwood.  
Rob Hale: Senior Human Resources representative at the High River Plant, most often in  
contact with Mr. Yeager.  
Renee Siki: Safety Manager, High River Plant. She was member of, and the principal  
Employer point of contact with, the JWHSC, and therefore with Ms. Walsh-Rollo and  
Ms. Tukku.  
[12] The COVID-19 respiratory virus surfaced in Canada at some time in February 2020. It  
proved to be highly contagious, spreading by various means respiratory droplets, aerosolized  
particles, and fomite (inanimate surface-to-host) transmission, the relative ease of each being still  
under study and debate over two years later. It presents in a baffling range of virulence,  
affecting some hosts so little as to be essentially asymptomatic (and undetected), while  
hospitalizing and killing others, most notably older persons and those with underlying health  
conditions and the immunocompromised, and all points in between. At the time of writing,  
several mutant variants, with differing characteristics, have fed new waves of the pandemic.  
Although the medical world still struggles to achieve a full understanding of the epidemiology of  
COVID-19, early in the pandemic, and still, there was little doubt that the dominant transmitter  
Classification: Public  
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of the disease is close indoor contact with infected hosts. The risk increases greatly with the  
number of contacts and exposure time. The environment of a meat packing plant, featuring large  
numbers of employees working close together on an open production line and performing  
physically demanding work, congregating in lunchrooms, hallways and other common areas, and  
often travelling to and from work by shared transportation, is an example of an extremely high-  
risk transmission environment.  
B.  
A Timeline  
[13] We have elected to set out the Union’s evidence of the main events of the first COVID-  
19 wave at the Cargill plant in a timeline drawn from the documentary and testimonial evidence.  
Although the Employer has not yet led evidence, most of these bare events are documented and  
allow for little doubt. More at issue are the meanings of and motivations behind what happened,  
and we address those issues later by canvassing the evidence more fully and as necessary,  
witness by witness. For brevity, and with no disrespect, we will often refer to the principal  
actors by their surnames.  
[14] Here is how the first wave of COVID-19 and the response to it unfolded at Cargill:  
1. Early March 2020: Cargill High River plant management and staff are on heightened  
alert for first signs of the COVID-19 virus in the plant.  
2. March 10, 2020:  
global pandemic.  
The World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 a  
3. March 10, 2020:  
The first indication appears in the documentary record of Cargill’s  
COVID-19 response. Minutes of the Health and Safety Committee meeting make brief  
mention of the need to observe hand washing protocols.  
4. March 17, 2020:  
Cargill is monitoring the number of employees under quarantine.  
In response to an enquiry from Union plant representative Devin Yeager, Cargill Senior  
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Employee Relations Specialist Devin Tretiak reports 7 employees quarantined, and no  
confirmed cases yet.  
5. March 17, 2020:  
emergency.  
The Government of Alberta declares COVID-19 a public health  
6. March 20, 2020:  
Local 401 President Tom Hesse and Secretary-Treasurer Richelle  
Stewart issue an eight-page letter to Local 401’s major employers, including Cargill. It  
advocates a culture of workplace respect in response to the pandemic; heightened  
tolerance of workplace absences; waiver of sick note requirements; increased sanitizing  
of surfaces; frequent health and safety meetings; social distancing marked by reduced line  
speeds, increased space between workstations, reconfiguring of work schedules to reduce  
the number of workers in close proximity, and staggered breaks and lunch periods; paid  
isolation, personal and family illness absences; waiver of waiting and eligibility periods  
for access to benefits; suspension of grievance time limits; and an expedited dispute  
resolution process. It asks for detailed responses, including employers’ action plans in  
the event COVID-19 appears in the workplace.  
7. March 23, 2020:  
Cargill Vice-President Tanya Teeter responds to the Hesse/Stewart  
letter with a two-page reply stating the safety measures being implemented at High River.  
Among these measures are staggered break times; changed table configurations in  
lunchrooms; heated outdoor break space; small-group training; increased sanitation  
procedures in the common areas; restriction of visitors; premium pay of $2.00 per hour  
for a six-week period; a $500 bonus for completion of 8 weeks of scheduled shifts; and  
14 days of paid time off for COVID-19 related absence, including unavoidable childcare  
absences. Mr. Hesse is disappointed with the overall response, though he considered the  
monetary changes to be “positive steps”. He leaves it to Union plant representatives to  
monitor the situation.  
8. March 24, 2020:  
The staggering of break times, without reducing chain speed on the  
fabrication floor, and the high number of absentees, cause a spillover controversy about  
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the Union’s walking stewards. They are now sometimes not released by their  
supervisors as being unable to be absent from their work station at the usual times.  
Union walking steward and JWHSC member Jamie Walsh-Rollo is unable to “walk”  
from March 17, 2020 onwards. Devin Tretiak informs Union plant representatives Joe  
Attwood and Devin Yeager that where walking stewards cannot be released, walking  
stewards from the kill floor will be made available. On March 25, 2020, an alleged  
incident of a Cargill supervisor refusing to release a walking steward and purporting to  
designate a replacement causes Yeager to protest to Tretiak and insist that the Company  
not try to designate the Union’s stewards.  
9. March 25, 2020:  
Mr. Yeager corresponds with Cargill to propose the general waiver  
of grievance time limits Mr. Hesse’s letter spoke of. Senior Human Resources Specialist  
Rob Hale replies with agreement, excepting grievances with accumulating liability.  
Yeager misunderstands Hale to mean any grievance with any degree of monetary  
liability, and seeks clarification. The issue appears not to have been spoken of again in  
the documentation.  
10. March 25, 2020:  
Safety Manager Renee Siki asks Myriam Tukku and Jamie Walsh-  
Rollo of the JWHSC for assistance locating translators among the bargaining unit to  
assist in preparing documentation for the new COVID-19 active screening process to be  
implemented at the entrance to the plant. No response is provided.  
11. March 26, 2020:  
The regular JWHSC meeting occurs. Walsh-Rollo and Tukku  
attend. COVID-19 issues dominate the meeting.  
12. March 27, 2020:  
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (“CMO”) orders closure  
of non-essential businesses in Alberta. The CMO order exempts essential businesses.  
Cargill is considered an essential service for purposes of public health restrictions.  
13. March 30, 2020:  
Union representatives start advocating for more robust health and  
safety responses from Cargill, based on their understanding of practices at Olymel, a pork  
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producer in Red Deer that is also a Local 401 employer. Yeager proposes to Hale a  
meeting at the plant to discuss the issues. Hale replies on April 2 with a qualified “yes”,  
but one qualification is to exclude Yeager because, as a Union representative with more  
than one assigned workplace (he is the principal Union representative at Cargill’s smaller  
Case-Ready plant in Calgary), he fell afoul of Cargill’s new rules against employees and  
visitors moving from plant to plant. Hale also notes that managers are extremely busy  
with COVID-19 issues and high absenteeism, and suggests meetings once every two  
weeks. The discussion of this point breaks off for about a week.  
14. March 31, 2020:  
contact quarantine.  
Walsh-Rollo is absent from the workplace until April 13 on close  
15. March 31, 2020:  
Mr. Hesse corresponds with Plant Manager Dale LaGrange about  
the temperature screening program. He expresses concerns about employee privacy and  
the efficacy of temperature screening as a safety measure; asks for details of  
administration of the checks and use of the resulting information; and asks for assurances  
that employees sent home will be compensated.  
16. April 3, 2020:  
Ms. Teeter responds to the March 31 letter to Mr. LaGrange. She  
outlines the screening process, confirms the application of the 14-day paid time off  
provision, and confirms no deductions from pay for late starts due to the testing.  
17. April 4, 2020:  
The first positive COVID-19 case at the plant is confirmed.  
Yeager telephones Teeter to ask her to inform the Union early of positive cases because  
of the climate of fear and the prevalent “rumour mill” around COVID-19 at the plant.  
18. First week of April, 2020:  
Union officials receive accumulating news of confirmed  
COVID-19 diagnoses at other meat plants, principally in the United States. They hear  
that one eastern U.S. plant is closed in the face of over 100 diagnoses. The volume of  
calls from members to Local 401 officials and representatives steeply increases as “panic  
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sets in”. The Union receives at least one report of a sick employee being scheduled to  
work that it takes up with Cargill. The concern turns out to be unfounded.  
19. April 7, 2020:  
Alberta Health Services performs a site visit and tour of the plant.  
Union representatives are neither invited nor involved. During the visit, AHS discloses a  
second confirmed case among plant employees. AHS does not issue a report of the  
results of this visit.  
20. April 8, 2020:  
Amid building anxiety about the upcoming Easter weekend,  
LaGrange writes a letter to employees that is posted in the plant. It is sent to Yeager in  
advance and copied to the Union after posting. It advises employees of the second  
confirmed COVID-19 case at the plant. He attempts to reassure them about plant safety,  
while exhorting them to practice good sanitation habits and to mitigate or cancel outside  
social gatherings.  
21. April 9, 2020:  
The Union is aware of approximately five confirmed cases.  
Yeager renews his March 30 request to Hale for an immediate meeting over health and  
safety issues. No immediate response is provided.  
22. Easter Weekend (April 11-13, 2020):  
Going into the weekend holiday closure,  
stewards make anecdotal reports to Yeager and other Union representatives of more  
COVID-19 cases in the plant. Yeager texts Teeter asking for the latest numbers. She  
reports 38 cases 29 bargaining unit members, 5 salaried employees, and 4 contractor  
employees. This confirms some of the anecdotal evidence. Yeager reports the  
developing situation to Hesse. This is the last formal notification from the Employer to  
the Union of case numbers at the plant.  
23. April 11, 2020:  
Safety Manager Renee Siki advises shop stewards and JWHSC  
members Tukku and Welsh-Rollo that the April JWHSC meeting is cancelled. Tukku  
protests that it should continue, but the message does not list Siki as a recipient, and so  
does not get to Siki until too late. Siki later emails Tukku and Walsh-Rollo saying, “we  
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need to talk about this”, but Walsh-Rollo, on the verge of an illness, does not follow up.  
Nor does Tukku. On April 14, Siki emails Yeager and Attwood to offer to reschedule the  
meeting the following week if enough members are available. The plant shutdown  
intervenes and the meeting is never held.  
24. April 12, 2020 (AM, Easter Sunday):  
Mr. Hesse writes and sends a two-page letter  
(the “Easter Sunday Letter”). It is addressed to LaGrange and copied to the Premier of  
Alberta, the Minister of Labour and Immigration, Teeter, Tretiak and Hale, and published  
that day to members through the Union’s e-mail system. The letter expresses fear that  
hundreds of employees in the plant may soon be carrying the virus. It says that as many  
as 30 UFCW members across North America have died of COVID-19 at that point. It  
expresses the view that the Employer is not doing enough for employee health and safety  
and says, “It is time to act”. It calls for an immediate two-week plant closure, a  
comprehensive safety assessment, continued pay for employees, and an immediate  
meeting with Union officials, experts and government officials to design enforceable  
health and safety rules for the workplace.  
25. April 12, 2020, evening:  
A brief phone conversation between Teeter and Yeager, in  
reaction to the Hesse letter. Teeter asks if the Union is trying to instigate a work  
stoppage. Yeager says no. Teeter enquires about distribution of the letter to members;  
Yeager confirms it has been distributed to the membership. He assures her Union staff  
were under direction to answer members’ questions by saying the plant is not closed and  
wait to hear from your employer.  
26. April 13, 2020:  
Another phone call from Teeter to Yeager. She advises that  
attendance at the plant is down, the line speed has been reduced and the second shift  
would be cancelled. She suggests that the Union had been “irresponsible”. Layoff is  
mentioned. Teeter suggests that the Union’s letter put the staffing issue outside the  
Employer’s control, thus justifying layoff, but Teeter declines an invitation to set out the  
Employer’s position in writing. Ultimately the Union files a grievance over the shift  
suspension.  
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27. April 13, 2020:  
Teeter sends a letter to Hesse announcing immediate suspension of  
the second shift. It expresses “deep concern” with the Union’s “inflammatory” letter of  
April 12, rejects the argument that Cargill’s health and safety measures were insufficient,  
restates the measures taken, and expresses Cargill’s view to be that closure is not  
warranted. It advises that 45% of day shift employees failed to attend work that day and  
says the Union’s letter “likely contributed” to that. It advises that willing second shift  
employees would have opportunity to work on the day shift, according to needs, skills  
and seniority. At the plant level, Tukku has a brief exchange with Tretiak in the cafeteria  
area in which he blames the Union for the loss of the second shift.  
28. April 13, 2020:  
Union representative Joe Attwood e-mails Hale to request full  
updated information on confirmed positive cases in the plant.  
29. April 13, 2020:  
Cargill posts notice in the plant of the immediate shutdown of the  
second shift. It also distributes a letter to second shift employees over LaGrange’s  
signature confirming suspension of the shift and opportunities for second shift workers to  
temporarily move to day shift. It advises that employees unable or unwilling to move  
will be laid off without pay. The shutdown of the second shift in fabrication requires the  
kill floor to be shut down to avoid overflowing the coolers. After this, the kill floor  
remains shut down day-to-day depending on the state of cooler space.  
30. April 14, 2020 (AM):  
A virtual meeting is held between Alberta Occupational  
Health and Safety officials and Cargill. Tukku and Walsh-Rollo are in attendance as  
members of the JWHSC. Tukku asks to have Yeager patched in by phone from outside,  
but this is not done. Yeager sends an email that afternoon, after the meeting is over,  
asking for a call in number. He learns that the meeting was already held. The meeting  
canvasses health and safety measures in place at the plant and promises an OHS virtual  
site inspection at a date to be determined (in fact, it takes place the next day). The OHS  
report of the meeting mentions the Union’s expressed concerns, but does not indicate  
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whether the meeting was intended as a response to those. Tukku and Walsh-Rollo are not  
satisfied with the report, but do not express these concerns to other Union representatives.  
31. April 14, 2020:  
Hale sends a letter to Yeager advising that Cargill had sufficient  
day shift work for all willing fabrication employees to work; and so no employees would  
be laid off at that time. It also advises that kill floor employees with fabrication  
experience were invited to report to the fabrication day shift. Now and following, Yeager  
expresses concern about the consistency and completeness of Cargill communications of  
these work opportunities to the bargaining unit, because bonuses and other compensation  
items may depend on employees’ knowledge that work is available.  
32. April 15, 2020, PM: OHS conducts its promised virtual inspection of the fabrication  
facilities and common areas (the kill floor being inactive). Tukku attends for the Union.  
The OHS report issued the next day notes the health and safety measures in place. It  
concludes:  
It is the opinion of the officer, that the employer, as far as it is reasonably  
practicable for the employer to do so, ensure [sic: ensured?] the health and safety  
and welfare of workers engaged in the work of that employer (…)  
33. April 15, 2020:  
Another friction point appears between Union and Employer. The  
Union had scheduled a virtual “town hall” meeting with members in its industrial units,  
including Cargill, for Sunday, April 19, 2020. To publicize the meeting, and without  
prior notice to Cargill, it engages a contractor to erect a mobile sign outside the plant.  
Similar signs go up in front of other major UFCW industrial employers. The sign  
mentions COVID-19. Hale calls Yeager. He is upset. Several emails follow between  
them, and the exchange becomes acrimonious. He tells Yeager the sign is on company  
property. Yeager denies any intent to use company property and requests property  
information to support moving the sign. Verbal information only is provided. After a  
delay, the sign is moved, but Yeager chides Hale for being so concerned about the  
Union’s communication to its members.  
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34. April 16, 2020:  
AHS convenes a virtual meeting on the state of COVID-19 at the  
plant. Hesse, Yeager and Teeter attend. AHS participants leave the impression upon the  
Union that they are attempting to broker better communication between Employer and  
Union. The Union expresses the need for more factual information on the current state of  
the workforce and the case numbers that AHS is recording. The meeting ends when AHS  
indicates its allotted time is up. Two days later (April 18), Teeter forwards Yeager the  
April 15 OHS inspection report, and a full list of employees who are under quarantine for  
either a positive test, a close contact, or screened out by active screening. In this e-mail,  
Teeter confirms to Yeager that management is willing to have him and Hesse tour the  
plant. The invitation is not accepted, and no tour takes place.  
35. April 17, 2020:  
In the course of an email enclosing notes of the April 14 OHS  
meeting, Siki asks Tukku and Welsh-Rollo for the names of possible “rovers” (i.e.,  
walking stewards) for the reduced shift currently operating. Yeager emails Hale and  
Tretiak to protest Siki’s involvement in assignment of walking stewards and directs that  
such matters go through himself or Attwood.  
36. April 17, 2020:  
The Union concludes from AHS sources that there may be over  
300 cases of COVID-19 at the plant.  
37. April 17, 2020:  
Teeter informs Yeager that Alberta government officials and  
Cargill will be conducting a virtual “town hall” meeting of their own on Saturday, April  
18, 2020, the day before the Union’s meeting. Yeager reports this to Hesse. The Union  
is unhappy with the news, considers that it is likely to undermine the Union’s own  
meeting the next day, and is concerned at the possibility it was purposively scheduled to  
do so and may have been a response to the sign controversy. To Yeager, Teeter offers to  
try to get the meeting moved, but it is not.  
38. April 18, 2020 (AM):  
The Union sends a letter by email to members. It  
disparages Cargill’s and the government’s motives in scheduling that afternoon’s meeting  
as late and inauthentic. It reminds members to join the “real authentic” town hall  
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meeting, the Union’s, the next day to get the “real facts” and “real truth”. It tells  
members the Union is aware of 358 confirmed cases from the plant, with one member in  
intensive care.  
39. April 18, 2020 (afternoon): The government/Cargill town hall takes place. Union  
officials are not invited to participate, but Walsh-Rollo and Yeager attend virtually. The  
presenting panel includes only one production employee. Yeager’s opinion is that the  
call was aimed at conveying the messages that the plant was safe and it was imperative  
the plant stay open.  
40. April 19, 2020:  
The Union town hall is held. “A few thousand” members  
participate, the largest number from Cargill. Hesse speaks to general issues. Yeager  
speaks to Cargill-specific issues, including reinforcing Teeter’s information about  
availability of work.  
41. April 19, 2020:  
The first employee fatality from COVID-19 at Cargill. A female  
worker in fabrication dies of the virus. The Union learns of it the next day.  
42. April 20, 2020:  
Cargill management decides to temporarily idle the entire plant.  
Teeter discloses this to Yeager by phone and indicates a planned closure date of  
Wednesday, April 22, after the coolers were emptied. Yeager follows up with questions  
on the operational details of the shutdown.  
43. April 21, 2020:  
Yeager corresponds with Hale for details of how the idling period  
will roll out, whether maintenance or other non-production employees will report to  
work, and what level of income maintenance will operate. Teeter responds to Yeager’s  
email of the previous day with some details. She indicates the Employer will not be  
implementing a layoff, but paying guaranteed weekly hours instead. Hale responds the  
next day, April 22, to the same effect, adding that Maintenance, Waste Water and  
Warehouse personnel will continue to work.  
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44. April 22, 2020:  
45. April 22, 2020:  
The plant closes to slaughter and fabrication employees.  
Union counsel Mark Wells, at Hesse’s instruction, writes and  
sends a letter to Teeter, OHS Investigations Unit Director Marc Smith, and Labour and  
Immigration Deputy Minister Shawn McLeod. It formally reports the death of the Cargill  
employee and states that another Union member is hospitalized and in medical distress.  
It calls for an investigation. It demands Union participation in that and any further  
investigation. It expresses frustration with the level of information provided by Cargill to  
the Union, and skepticism at the accuracy of the information provided so far. Deputy  
Minister McLeod replies on April 26, 2020, advising that OHS has issued a demand to  
the Employer to carry out an investigation, and prepare a report with participation of the  
JWHSC, as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  
46. April 23, 2020:  
Hesse writes a letter to the Premier. It calls for a new regulatory  
regime for food industry employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It outlines what the  
Union sees as necessary features of that regime, both generally in the food industry and  
specific to grocery stores. The letter is a call for government action and is not sent to  
Cargill. It is copied to many political and trade union officials.  
47. April 23, 2020:  
OHS schedules an inspection of the plant for the afternoon of  
Monday, April 26. Cargill advises the Union and invites a Union representative.  
48. April 24, 2020:  
The Union files a group/policy grievance alleging breaches of the  
collective agreement, occupational health and safety legislation, and public health orders.  
It canvasses the course of the pandemic at the plant to date and the Employer’s response.  
It cites the death of one member and the hospitalization in ICU of another. Prominent in  
the particulars are allegations that the April 15, 2020 OHS virtual inspection was  
inadequate; and that Tukku and one other member had been called back to work from  
COVID-19 isolation in breach of the quarantine period. It alleges failure to adequately  
involve the Union in the COVID-19 response and “reckless and negligent” actions in  
respect of safety.  
Classification: Public  
16  
49. April 24, 2020 (PM):  
Teeter sends an invitation to the Union to participate in a  
tour of the plant along with OHS officials on April 27, 2020. Mr. Wells at Hesse’s  
instruction responds two days later, on Sunday, April 26. The letter takes issue with the  
conduct of a tour of the idled plant without progress on the Union’s grievance, its April  
22, 2020 call to OHS for an investigation into the employee death, and Hesse’s letter to  
the Premier. It calls for a “worker-based methodology” to identifying COVID-19  
hazards at the workplace. The letter nevertheless engages cautiously on the subject of a  
tour and requests information on its origin, the participants and the scope of the  
inspection, among other things.  
50. April 27, 2020:  
Cargill outside counsel Alison Adam responds to Wells. She  
rejects criticism contained in his letter and restates Cargill’s intent to have a Union  
representative at that afternoon’s inspection. The in-person inspection occurs as  
scheduled. Yeager attends it. During the inspection, Yeager takes some photos on his  
phone. This generates a side controversy that the photos may disclose Cargill proprietary  
business information in connection with the plant layout. Adam emails Wells that  
afternoon to protest and seek for the photos be deleted. Yeager refuses to delete photos  
identified as problematic by Cargill. There is no indication in the record that Cargill  
pursued it further.  
51. April 28, 2020:  
OHS releases its report of the previous day’s inspection. The  
report details the health and safety measures in place, insofar as those are apparent in the  
idled plant.  
52. April 29, 2020:  
There is apparently another inspection of the plant by AHS, OHS,  
and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Union is not advised or invited. We say  
“apparently”, because there was no evidence about it except for a mention in Exhibit #A-  
49, the Employer’s document entitled “Safety Measures Taken by Cargill in Response to  
COVID-19”.  
Classification: Public  
17  
53. April 29, 2020 (morning):  
Yeager e-mails Teeter to say employees are receiving calls  
from supervisors that the plant will soon reopen. Teeter phones Yeager to advise that the  
plant is to reopen on May 4, 2020.  
54. April 29, 2020 (PM):  
That afternoon a press release issued by a Calgary media  
consultant confirms the reopening. It contains a quote attributed to Cargill’s President  
containing the assertion: “We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS  
and OHS and have welcomed them for site visits which served to validate the enhanced  
safety measures in our facility”.  
55. April 29, 2020 (PM):  
A letter from LaGrange goes to employees stating a return  
to work for May 4 and May 6, 2020, for slaughter and fabrication employees  
respectively. It states the health and safety measures adopted both before and during the  
shutdown. It also takes issue with four items of “misinformation…circulating in the  
community” and attempts to refute them.  
56. April 29, 2020 (PM):  
Teeter emails Hesse. She attaches the LaGrange letter to  
employees and states that Cargill is meeting the “majority” of items specific to food  
manufacturing contained in Hesse’s April 23 letter to the Premier.  
57. April 29, 2020 (PM):  
Shortly before this, Hesse emails Teeter to say that Cargill  
should not reopen the plant. He speaks of the lack of any “reliable process” to conclude  
the plant is safe. The message closes by saying “Our concerns are grave. We will be  
taking steps to prevent reopening. (…)”.  
58. April 30, 2020:  
At Hesse’s instruction, Wells sends a letter to Deputy Minister  
McLeod, OHS Director Smith, and Teeter, requesting that OHS and Alberta Labour issue  
a “stop work” order for the High River plant under the Occupational Health and Safety  
Act. Alternatively it requests active OHS monitoring of the reopening of both parts of the  
facility. It alleges that Cargill had not yet investigated or reported on the fatality and  
serious illness complained of by the Union in its April 22 letter. It indicates that AHS  
Classification: Public  
18  
sources had confirmed as of April 28 seven Cargill employees hospitalized, of which five  
were in intensive care. The letter then listed the Union’s outstanding concerns with  
OHS’s processes, including: failure to speak with employees in the investigation; failure  
to share hazard assessments, COVID-specific safety policies, or other safety documents,  
with the Union; and failure of the investigation to address a number of issues like  
crowding, enforcement of safety policies, staff shortages, and adequacy of personal  
protective equipment. It complains of the Union’s exclusion from inspections by OHS,  
AHS, or the Ministry of Labour and Immigration leading to the determination the plant  
could be reopened. Cargill by counsel responds the same day, rejecting allegations it has  
not complied with its OH&S obligations, but agreeing to UFCW’s suggestion that an  
OHS officer be assigned to monitor the resumption of operations.  
59. May 1, 2020:  
This Complaint is filed with the Labour Relations Board, leading  
to the appointment of Vice-Chair Kanee under section 11 of the Code, and the interim  
agreement in effect pending this litigation. The Union also files a group/policy grievance  
about the cancellation of the second shift on April 13, 2020, and two grievances about  
weekly pay guarantees for that and the following week.  
60. May 3, 2020:  
Hesse emails Teeter during the course of the LRB mediation.  
Although he speaks of being encouraged by some of the dialogue, he also reports that a  
poll of Union members recorded 85% were afraid to return to work and 80% believed the  
plant should not reopen. He requests that Cargill voluntarily continue to idle the plant  
pending results of the Board’s process.  
61. May 4, 2020:  
62. May 6, 2020:  
63. May 7, 2020:  
Slaughter operations reopen as scheduled.  
Fabrication operations reopen as scheduled.  
The second death occurs in the bargaining unit. A senior employee  
and shop steward dies after a lengthy time in intensive care.  
Classification: Public  
19  
[15] With this timeline in mind, we briefly state the Union’s Complaint. We then canvass the  
evidence of each witness insofar as it bears on the case. We have not attempted to exhaustively  
reproduce witnesses’ testimony, but have selected the aspects of the evidence that we considered  
important to the issues.  
C. The Complaint  
[16] The thrust of the Complaint was stated by the Union as follows, after extensive  
particularization of the facts:  
71.  
The Employer suspended the 2nd shift operations, resulting in lost shifts,  
confusion, fear, and uncertainty to employees in retaliation for the Union representing  
their members and advocating on their members’ behalf on issues of health and safety.  
By taking this retaliatory action the Employer is trying to ensure workers fear for their  
employment, attend work and not exercise their right to a safe and healthy workplace.  
72.  
Further, the Employer has refused to substantively deal with the Union with  
respect to the COVID-19 outbreak at the workplace, creating mass confusion, and  
interfering with the Union’s ability to represent its members in a most critical time.  
There is an ongoing failure on the part of the Employer to consult with and include the  
Union in discussions and decisions related to COVID-19, while at the same time the  
Employer is taking its message directly to employees and/or allowing the government to  
do it for them. The Employer’s decision to reopen the facility again created fear,  
confusion and uncertainty. The Employer failed to consult with the Union on this  
decision or give them appropriate Notice. The employer’s communication to employees  
in respect to the reopening was inaccurate and misleading and/or designed to create  
employee distrust in the Union. The Employer’s conduct has served to interfere with the  
representation of employees by the Union and the employees’ rights to representation in  
violation of s. 148(1)(a)(ii) and 149(1)(b) of the Code. Employees are particularly  
vulnerable during this time of pandemic and in light of the rapid increase of COVID-19  
cases at their workplace; ignoring their Union and retaliating against employees for their  
Union advocating for employees’ health and safety is particularly egregious interference  
with representational rights.  
73.  
The Employer’s conduct has also discriminated against the affected employees in  
regard to their employment and/or any term or condition of their employment in violation  
of ss. 149(1)(a)(i), (ii), (viii) of the Code. By taking this action the Employer also sought  
to compel employees to cease to be a member of a trade union in violation of s. 149(1)(c)  
of the Code.  
Classification: Public  
20  
D.  
Evidence of Thomas Hesse  
[17] Mr. Hesse testified about these events from his position of executive responsibility, i.e.,  
about the Union’s strategic response to COVID-19 among all its members’ employers, and not  
necessarily with knowledge of every Union-employer communication pertaining to Cargill. That  
said, he was heavily involved in these events. He started his testimony with comments about the  
unique challenges to representing employees in meat processing plants generally, and  
specifically at Cargill. He characterized the work as hard and dangerous, requiring employees to  
work quickly at minute tasks. The mechanized line running at a set speed makes it impossible to  
perform representational tasks except at breaks and away from the line. The workforce is  
fragmented by their many different languages and cultures and often-imperfect command of  
English. Representation is made more than ordinarily difficult by the large number of  
commuting employees and the sheer physical exhaustion employees feel at the end of a shift. To  
an unusual degree, the Union depends upon face-to-face contact with its members: “It’s like  
social work”, he said, Nothing else is as effective.”  
[18] Mr. Hesse said of the pandemic, “it turned us upside-down”. The Union had to rely  
much more on telephone contact with members and much more upon the in-plant presence of its  
shop stewards, as the full-time representatives found their mobility and frequency of workplace  
visitations reduced. He noted that this plant did not have a large supply of experienced,  
sophisticated shop stewards. To this was added the pressure of having to learn quickly about the  
disease and its workplace implications and then engage with all employers in a “complete  
reassessment” of the normal employer-employee relationship.  
[19] The March 20, 2020 circular to major UFCW employers (Ex. #A-3) was an effort to  
engage in this reassessment. Mr. Hesse characterized the Cargill response as cursory for a plant  
of its size and pointed to its brief discussion of sanitation measures and failure to mention the  
role of workplace health and safety committees. He contrasted it unfavourably to the Union’s  
experience at the Olymel plant in Red Deer, which he visited, and Olymel’s closure of its  
Quebec plant based on a small number of positive cases. He came away with the impression that  
that employer had “real, substantive engagement” with the Union and its employees and a level  
Classification: Public  
21  
of cooperation and transparency not seen with Cargill. In cross-examination, Mr. Hesse agreed  
that he did not follow up with Ms. Teeter about this dissatisfaction with her response, and offered  
the explanation that he was trying to be circumspect and not make a bad situation worse so early  
in the dialogue.  
[20] Mr. Hesse testified to the origins of his Easter Sunday (April 12) letter to major food  
processing employers, including Cargill, and copied to government officials (Ex. #A-10). By  
then he had reports of Cargill’s first positive case and tentative information of an increase to over  
30 cases; news of plant outbreaks in the U.S.; and first cases at the JBS plant in Brooks. He was  
greatly concerned at the trajectory of case numbers. He considered it a matter of conscience to  
do something and wrote and sent the letter calling for a two-week closure, a comprehensive  
safety assessment, enhanced compensation and high-level tripartite meetings of employer, union  
and government to formulate new health and safety rules. He denied any intent to incite Cargill  
workers to stay home, and said, although there was “plenty of enthusiasm” for a wildcat strike, “I  
wouldn’t have it”. Mr. Hesse testified that he was disheartened by Ms. Teeter’s response,  
especially that (in his view) the employer had rushed to blame the Union for absenteeism.  
[21] Later that week, Mr. Hesse was invited by AHS to the April 16 conference call  
concerning safety at the plant. He attended, but was not reassured by what he viewed as AHS  
participants’ qualified answers to the question of plant safety and failure to say whether the plant  
should close or not. His own view was to wonder, if the plant was safe, why were so many  
employees not coming to work?  
[22] The next major event for Mr. Hesse was the controversy over the back-to-back town hall  
meetings on April 18 and 19, 2020. He learned about the meeting of the 18th scheduled by the  
government only a day earlier, in a phone call with the Minister of Labour and Immigration.  
This generated an email exchange between Hesse and Teeter in which he expressed the view that  
the event occurring the day before the Union’s event would be confusing to employees and  
would undermine the Union. He testified, as our notes record it, that “There’s a global  
pandemic, the plant has slowed significantly, there is mass confusion, the message should be to  
employees that they should talk to their union. To the extent they’re saying, ‘don’t talk to the  
Classification: Public  
22  
union, talk to us’, they were at least turning a blind eye to the obvious conduit through which  
information should flow”. Mr. Hesse protested to the Minister of Labour and Immigration the  
next morning (Ex. #A-27), urging him to cancel the government town hall, and saying “[It] feels  
like a dirty trick.”  
[23] The government town hall meeting went ahead, and late on the morning of April 18 the  
Union sent out an email circular to members (Ex. #A-28). It was critical of the government town  
hall, suggested that it was only being done as a result of the Union’s pressure, and urged  
members to ask questions if they attended it. It spoke of 358 cases of COVID connected to the  
plant, and revealed that one employee was in a coma on a ventilator fighting for life. And it  
reminded them that “the REAL AUTHENTIC absolutely necessary Town Hall is tomorrow  
(Sunday) at 2 PM.”  
[24] The Union town hall went ahead the next day. Mr. Hesse testified that his main  
impression of the meeting was “a lot of fear”, that employees were not reassured by what the  
Employer and government were saying.  
[25] By then, Ms. Teeter had extended an offer to Mr. Yeager for he and Mr. Hesse to tour the  
plant to see the safety protocols in place (Ex. #A-29). It is not clear exactly when Mr. Hesse  
became aware of the invitation; but he testified that when he did get it, he was skeptical. He was  
wary of going into a plant that most of his members said was unsafe, and thereby sending  
“contradictory messages”. And anyway, by then the plant had been idled (suggesting he learned  
of the offer only on the 20th); he did not believe it would give the same picture as the plant in full  
operation.  
[26] Mr. Hesse spoke of the letter of April 22 from Mark Wells to Shawn McLeod, Deputy  
Minister of Labour and Immigration, and others (Ex. #A-33) as his acting on the belief that the  
Employer was ignoring the Union and failing to give it reliable, or any, information. It raised the  
specific issue that Cargill’s spreadsheet of employee availability (Ex. #A-29) showed both the  
deceased Union member and the member in intensive care to be available to work. It speculated  
Classification: Public  
23  
that AHS and OHS may have relied upon unreliable information about safety issues at Cargill,  
and demanded that the Union be involved in future evaluations of Cargill’s worksite.  
[27] Discussion continued about a Union viewing of the plant during the idled period. On  
April 23, OHS scheduled an inspection of the plant for the following Monday, April 27. Ms.  
Teeter the next day invited the Union to participate in this inspection. Mr. Wells, again at Mr.  
Hesse’s instruction, replied on Sunday, April 26 (Ex. #A-38), expressing skepticism about the  
inspection’s motivation, advocating a more “worker-centred” approach to safety evaluation, and  
asking a series of questions about the inspection. It closed by saying:  
To be clear, Union officials are very interested in observing and understanding  
working conditions at Cargill’s High River operations, but it strikes the Union  
that if the goal of a “tour” is to establish whether the facility is safe for workers,  
workers’ perspectives should first be obtained. The unfolding tragedy in High  
River appears to be a product of a top-down approach to worksite safety dictated  
by Cargill, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Occupational Health and Safety.  
The Union’s position is that it would be unwise to repeat that approach and expect  
a better result.  
[28] The inspection went ahead with Mr. Yeager in attendance, leading to the side issue of the  
photographs he took in the plant. Two days later, April 29, Cargill announced its reopening  
with one shift on May 4, 2020. Mr. Hesse was put in contact with the communications  
consultant handling the press release and received Cargill’s statement (Ex. #A-43). He testified  
that he was not satisfied with the announcement because it did not contain any representation  
from Cargill that the plant was safe. Further, he did not like the reference in a statement in the  
press release attributed to Cargill North American Leader Jon Nash saying [emphasis added],  
“We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS and OHS and have welcomed them  
for site visits which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in our facility”. In his view,  
this was “pure spin, not authentic”. He considered that it was both untrue and an attempt to co-  
opt the Union to look like it was approving the message.  
[29] Mr. Hesse immediately emailed Ms. Teeter to express his view that the plant should not  
reopen, to complain about the lack of any report on plant safety coming out of the OHS  
Classification: Public  
24  
inspection (or otherwise), and advising the Union would take steps to prevent the reopening.  
There followed three days later the Union’s request to OHS for a “stop work” order (Ex. #A-46),  
and another day later this Complaint to this Board. No stop work order was issued, this  
Complaint was mediated to produce an interim protocol, the plant reopened as scheduled, and the  
second member of the bargaining unit died. Through it all, Mr. Hesse testified that he was  
concerned that the plant was reopening in the face of the widespread fear among his members  
and the still-increasing trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Alberta. In his testimony in chief, he  
closed by saying, “Institutionally, the Union struggled with this. But more importantly, our  
members are in an unprecedented head space. The world turned a blind eye to the vulnerability  
of these workers, or that they had a union. Someone needs to say something about that, and  
that’s why we’re here.”  
[30] In cross-examination, Mr. Hesse admitted that his early communications with Ms. Teeter  
did not express any building reservations he may have been feeling about Cargill’s response to  
COVID-19. He was reluctant to “beat up” on company officials at a difficult time, and instead  
thought it best to “shift focus to the plant level”. The atmosphere of the relationship changed,  
however, with Hesse’s Easter Sunday letter and Teeter’s response to it. Mr. Hesse  
acknowledged not thinking about giving Cargill advance warning of his letter. And while he  
admitted that Teeter’s response did engage to some extent on issues of plant safety, he felt the  
“three big asks” – a closure, comprehensive safety assessment, and high-level meetings on safety  
measures were not addressed. He said that from the letter and Mr. Yeager’s reports from the  
plant, production rather than safety was Cargill’s first concern.  
[31] Mr. Hesse was pressed on the seeming disconnect between the Complaint which alleges  
failure to communicate about safety issues, and two invitations to personally view the plant that  
he did not accept. He agreed that the first invitation did not cause him to think differently. In an  
evocative turn of phrase, he said, “It was way too little, way too late… I’m not going to tour  
Hiroshima after the bomb”. Of the second invitation, around April 24, he insisted that it would  
be pointless because it was a “walk-through” of an idled plant, not a real investigation or the  
worker-centred enquiry it insisted upon; and by then, the Union was wary about being drafted  
Classification: Public  
25  
into events that might look like an endorsement of the plant. Whatever value the second tour  
might have, he said, it could not be the basis of a decision to reopen.  
[32] Of the two “Town Hall” meetings scheduled on consecutive days, Mr. Hesse  
acknowledged that he did not know whether Cargill or the Government of Alberta organized it,  
but he maintained that they acted together, and by timing and design it was bound to confuse  
workers and undermine the Union’s position in the workplace when the “obvious legal advocate”  
did not have a central role in the meeting. He agreed that legally the Employer did not need pre-  
approval to speak to its employees about COVID-19 issues, but maintained that it was in ethical  
terms a “dirty trick”, because “in context, it had to look like it was undermining us”.  
[33] Of Cargill’s decision to reopen and the Union’s reaction, Mr. Hesse acknowledged that  
Ms. Teeter attempted to inform him that day (April 29), and later sent an email to him (Ex. #A-  
44) enclosing Cargill’s letter to employees and inviting further discussion. He acknowledged  
that he did not follow up on that invitation, and said that the Union was considering its litigation  
options, so he was not going to engage the Employer under those circumstances.  
[34] Mr. Hesse’s cross-examination ended with a discussion of the cancellation of the second  
shift on April 13th, the day after the Union’s Easter Sunday letter. Mr. Hesse agreed that he was  
made aware of attendance being significantly down that day, but said that he considered Ms.  
Teeter’s response and reports from Mr. Yeager to indicate that the Employer was “in no small  
measure” punishing both the Union and employees; though he agreed it would not be  
punishment of employees for exercising a right under the Code.  
E.  
Evidence of Devin Yeager  
[35] Mr. Yeager was in many ways the principal witness for the Union. As both a salaried  
Union representative reporting directly to Mr. Hesse, and the representative serving as the  
principal Union contact to both plant management and union stewards (in the frequent absences  
of Joe Attwood in collective bargaining), he had the broadest combined knowledge of executive-  
level and shop floor-level events among the Union’s witnesses. Mr. Yeager started his testimony  
Classification: Public  
26  
with discussion of the Union’s presence at the Cargill plant. It comprised a small Union office;  
himself and Mr. Attwood as full-time salaried Union employees with shared responsibility for  
this and at least one other employer (Mr. Yeager’s other charge was the Cargill Case-Ready plant  
in Calgary); part-time or relief representatives Joseph Kob and Ben Salonius; several volunteer  
job stewards; and walking stewards, who are more highly trained than regular stewards. He  
explained that under the collective agreement, walking stewards are entitled to scheduled  
absences from their production jobs to perform representation on the floor and deal directly with  
supervisors and company human resources officers. Walking stewards serve on six-week  
rotations, increased from two weeks at the time of these events.  
[36] Asked about the quality of the overall labour relations relationship at Cargill, Mr. Yeager  
said it was mixed, “we had some good times and not-so-good times”. Though he would not call  
it one of the Union’s “better” units, the Union had a fair working relationship with some of the  
human resources officers, and he had worked successfully with Ms. Teeter as lead negotiators for  
the most recent Cargill Case-Ready agreement.  
[37] Mr. Yeager’s testimony about the events in question started with the issue of walking  
stewards not being released at scheduled times. He noted that restricting the mobility of the  
walking stewards and replacing them with other representatives put the Union and employees at  
a disadvantage, both from the loss of the walking stewards’ greater knowledge and experience,  
and the loss of continuity when issues are dispersed among several stewards. He said that he  
advised Devin Tretiak that the Union was willing to work with the Employer to overcome  
problems, but that it could not let the Employer nominate its stewards.  
[38] The walking stewards issue came up again in mid-April, when Yeager received Renee  
Siki’s email transmitting the OHS Report of its April 14, 2020 virtual meeting and the  
accompanying mention of the “rovers” (walking stewards) issue. Mr. Yeager said that he  
“keyed” on the mention of the rovers, and was concerned that the health and safety department  
was now attempting to get involved in the assignment of walking stewards. Historically this had  
been a matter for discussion between senior HR personnel and the full-time union  
representatives. Yeager sent Tretiak and Hale an email protesting Siki’s involvement and  
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27  
saying, “We believe that Renee [Siki] has shown a pattern in the last week of attempting to  
exclude the Union Labour Relations Officers [i.e., he and Attwood] from discussions or meetings  
and as such, we request that she should direct all labour relations matters to either yourselves to  
address to us, or to us directly”.  
[39] The next significant issue in time was the Union’s early request for more frequent health  
and safety meetings, tracking the experience at the Olymel plant. He was disappointed in the  
Employer’s failure to adopt that idea, and further at the news that he would be restricted from  
attending at the plant because of the new Cargill rule against employees moving between  
locations. At the time, Joe Attwood was heavily involved in collective bargaining for the  
Union’s very large Safeway bargaining unit. Yeager’s exclusion thus put the Union in a difficult  
position at Cargill: He said, “we just don’t have enough people trained up to do [the job]”. It  
moved one experienced walking steward to help with phone enquiries, and relied as far as  
possible on phone and video contact, but, in his words, “it was a busy, trying time”.  
[40] Mr. Yeager testified at length about the consequences of the first confirmed case at  
Cargill on approximately April 4. He said that without accurate information directly from the  
Employer, the Union was left to contend with the “rumour mill”. Supervisors sometimes  
announced news of a positive case, sometimes it was simply employees chasing information  
about an absence, but “the anxiety level spiked, exponentially”; and it manifested itself in Union  
voicemail systems being inundated with calls and demands for information from “freaked out”  
employees. There was confusion between public gathering limits instituted by Alberta Health  
and workplace restrictions, many employees asking why Cargill continued to operate with so  
many employees close together. Rumours developed about absent employees coming back to  
work inside the isolation period. And some employees reacted badly to Dale LaGrange’s April  
8th notice urging compliance with public health directives over the upcoming Easter weekend,  
asking (in Mr. Yeager’s words), “why the concern about 15 people and not the 500 people on the  
production floor?”  
[41] Mr. Yeager confirmed that he was not made aware of the first AHS site visit to Cargill on  
the afternoon of April 7 until after it occurred.  
Classification: Public  
28  
[42] There was still no progress on increasing the number of health and safety meetings going  
into the Easter 2020 weekend. Yeager started getting reports from his stewards that there were  
many more positive cases than the five the Union knew about. Even though Cargill shut down  
production for the Saturday and Sunday, Union phone and email systems were jammed with  
enquiries. Yeager had started building a list of reported COVID-19 related absences among the  
membership, and he reported his concerns to Mr. Hesse leading up to Easter Sunday. He was  
involved in the review, but not the writing, of Mr. Hesse’s Easter Sunday letter and oversaw its  
communication to members through the Union’s email system. And he spoke with Ms. Teeter  
that day and the next, first clarifying that the Union was not inciting a stoppage and would be  
telling enquiring employees that the plant was not closed and they should “wait to hear from  
your employer”; and the next day, repeating that the Union was not inciting employees not to  
come in to work, then discussing whether the Employer would treat a suspension of the second  
shift as a layoff. He said that he fielded many employee calls that day, mostly asking why the  
plant was not closing down, and after the shift suspension announcement, whether they were laid  
off and what should they do now?  
[43] Cargill soon backed away from the thought of laying employees off and instead resolved  
to merge willing workers into the remaining shift, as it explained to the Union (Ex. #A-17) and  
started trying to communicate to its workforce. But that, Mr. Yeager explained, made the  
Union’s communication difficulties with the Employer and with its members more acute. The  
Union had no answers for how and when enquiring members would be contacted about the  
availability of work. It faced confusion among members whether they were laid off or not, and it  
was unhappy that management efforts to contact employees about the availability of work (when  
attendance bonuses might depend upon it) seemed to it to be haphazard. Further, the Union had  
not yet received the positive case numbers from the Employer it had requested and took to  
prodding management about it (Ex. #U-19). The situation was made more chaotic by a  
temporary shutdown of the kill floor when the loss of the second fabrication shift created a  
bottleneck in the coolers. Mr. Yeager spoke of the Union having to assign up to six people to  
triaging phone enquiries from members.  
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[44] The Union remained confused and unsatisfied with the Employer’s direction on health  
and safety issues. Yeager testified that he and his colleagues did not see how merging two shifts  
into one, at an unreduced chain speed, helped to achieve social distancing. And they were  
concerned that they were learning about some safety measures, like the installation of Plexiglas  
shielding between stations, only from Ms. Teeter’s communications to Mr. Hesse.  
[45] Mr. Yeager’s testimony then turned to the three main events of that week (April 13-19):  
the OHS conference call of Tuesday, April 14 that he attempted to join but did not; the April 16  
conference call with AHS officials that he and Mr. Hesse attended; and the controversy over the  
upcoming Town Hall meetings, including the conflict over the Union’s sign advertising its  
meeting. Of the OHS call, he confirmed that he was waiting to be patched into the call, but  
never was. He learned that Miriam Tukku had asked for him to be on the call, but received no  
answer. When he received a copy of the OHS report of its virtual inspection the next day, he  
was struck by a reference to “rovers”, the walking stewards, and became concerned that Cargill  
health and safety officials, principally Renee Siki, had started to become involved in the  
assignment of walking stewards. The result was an email from Yeager to Rob Hale and Devin  
Tretiak (Ex. #A-25) expressing concern at this, reiterating that this was an issue to be directed to  
himself and Attwood, and asking how the Employer was meeting its obligations to release  
walking stewards with the kill floor suspended.  
[46] Of the April 16, 2020 virtual meeting with AHS officials, Mr. Yeager, like Mr. Hesse,  
thought that AHS was making an effort to facilitate dialogue between the parties. He said the  
tone was one of, “how do we move forward?”, but much of the time was occupied by he and Mr.  
Hesse getting basic information from AHS: case numbers, contact tracing procedures, and  
inspection procedures, for example. Yeager said that Union participants were surprised when  
AHS ended the call, and said that had they known there was limited time, they might have  
allocated their own time differently.  
[47] Mr. Yeager related his dispute with Rob Hale over the placement of the Union sign  
advertising the Union town hall meeting of April 19, 2020. It spanned several phone calls and e-  
mails in which Hale was insistent that the sign had been erected on Cargill property and  
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demanding removal, while Yeager disavowed any intent to trespass, asked for the real property  
report to show the property line, and informed Hale that he was doing what he could to get the  
sign moved. The sign was eventually moved after the discussion had descended to mutual  
threats of removal and legal action. Mr. Yeager testified that the main thing he took away from  
the exchange was that the Employer was focused on something trivial like the sign, where it  
should have been more concerned with getting health and safety information to the Union.  
[48] At the time of this exchange, the Union was not yet aware of the government/Cargill  
telephone town hall meeting scheduled for April 18 (we will call it the Government” meeting,  
while acknowledging the initial ambiguity about who sponsored it; the best indication in  
evidence is the e-mail from Ms. Teeter to Mr. Hesse on the evening of Friday, April 18, Ex. #A-  
26, in which she attributes the meeting to Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture). Mr. Yeager said  
that he did not believe that it had yet been set up, and he believed “they” – in context, probably  
Cargill, though he did not specify – got the idea after learning about the Union’s meeting. When  
he did learn about the Government town hall, on Friday, April 18, he too was concerned about  
the prospect of confusion among employees. He attended the Government town hall meeting,  
and testified that to him, the call was a joint effort between Cargill and the Alberta government.  
It was a moderated call; the Minister of Labour and Immigration, Minister of Agriculture, Chief  
Medical Officer of Health, and Cargill senior executive Jon Nash were all present. In Yeager’s  
view, the dominant message was that the plant was safe and it was imperative that it stay open.  
He contrasted it with the mood of the Union’s town hall the next night, where he agreed with Mr.  
Hesse’s testimony that there was a great deal of fear expressed about the safety of the plant.  
[49] Mr. Yeager’s testimony then turned to the events of the first “shutdown week”, April 20  
to 26, 2020. On the evening of Saturday the 18th, he had received Ms. Teeter’s email attaching  
the report of the OHS inspection on the 15th and a full list of Cargill employees with quarantined  
employees highlighted, along with the invitation for he and Mr. Hesse to tour the plant. Like Mr.  
Hesse, Mr. Yeager indicated that they did not follow up the invitation, for fear that the Employer  
was trying to enlist the Union into validating its safety claims. However, on Monday the 20th, he  
then learned from Ms. Teeter that the plant would be idled on the following Wednesday. The  
next day, he sent emails to Mr. Hale and Ms. Teeter asking for some details of who, if anyone,  
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remained working, their hours, employer contact information during the shutdown, the  
anticipated length of the shutdown, and employee pay while idled. Late that day, Ms. Teeter  
responded with answers to most of these questions (Ex. #A-31). She indicated that maintenance  
and other ancillary employees would tentatively work through, some shift schedules might  
change for them, the shutdown would last that week and the next, and the Employer would pay  
employees’ weekly guaranteed wages rather than lay them off.  
[50] Asked what his view of the shutdown was, Mr. Yeager responded that it was the right  
thing to do, but it had been too late and the Union remained concerned that some employees  
were still working. He also said, “we were questioning whether it was sincere or just motivated  
by the first fatality”.  
[51] The second week of shutdown, April 27 to May 3, 2020, was dominated by the OHS  
inspection of the idled plant on Monday, April 27. Mr. Yeager testified that he received notice  
of it and an invitation to participate from Ms. Teeter on April 24, but collectively he and his  
UFCW colleagues were unsure of the intent, i.e., was it in preparation for a relaunch, and were  
again suspicious that it was an attempt to co-opt the Union into the message that the plant was  
safe. He attended the OHS inspection on April 27. He said that he was generally happy with the  
OHS Officer’s conduct of the tour, and wanted to document with his phone camera the items that  
the OHS Officer was looking at. This is what led to the dispute over his photos of the plant  
floor. Mr. Yeager said that he also asked Renee Siki about rumours of the plant reopening on  
May 4, a week away, but both she and Plant Manager Dale LaGrange deflected the question. He  
noted, however, that upon returning to his office he was already in receipt of a letter from Cargill  
counsel objecting to the picture-taking. He said that this was “part of the pattern of focusing on  
small things rather than the things of real importance”.  
[52] Mr. Yeager testified that on the Monday and Tuesday (April 27-28), he received  
increasing reports from members that Cargill supervisors were talking about reopening the plant  
on May 4, 2020. So, on Wednesday, April 29 he emailed Ms. Teeter to ask her directly. She  
responded that it was true, the decision had just been made. That afternoon, Cargill’s  
announcement to that effect was released (Ex. #A-43); Ms. Teeter confirmed the news to Mr.  
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Hesse, forwarded to Mr. Yeager; and a letter over Mr. LaGrange’s signature went to Cargill  
employees (Ex. #A-44).  
[53] Of Cargill’s public announcement of the reopening, Mr. Yeager testified that the Union  
was concerned about some of the content of the quotation attributed to senior executive Jon  
Nash. (Ex. #A-43) The quotation said, in part:  
In partnership with health, regulatory officials and after taking actions suggested by the  
local union, we have made the decision to reopen our facility (…).  
(…)  
We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS and OHS and have  
welcomed them for site visits which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in  
our facility. (…)  
[54] Mr. Yeager said that these comments made it seem to employees as if the Union had been  
involved with the reopening more than it was, while in fact it had not been given the information  
needed to approve what the Employer had done. He said, “I was allowed into the plant for the  
first time two days prior, and to say that we’re working with them is inaccurate”.  
[55] The LaGrange letter to employees of that day set resumption dates of May 4 and May 6  
for the kill floor and fabrication employees respectively, outlined safety measures in place, and  
sought to correct several points of what Cargill referred to as “misinformation” about the  
COVID-19 response at Cargill. It also made references to the Union:  
“Cargill will begin reopening the High River facility on May 4. This decision comes  
after significant deliberation among the Cargill leadership, as well as discussions with  
your Union and support from health authorities and other regulators. (…)  
“We have also been in communication with the local UFCW, inviting them to be part of  
an April 16 discussion with AHS and subsequent meetings. While our views and  
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approach differ, we believe that we share the same goal: to ensure your safety and  
wellbeing. (…)  
[56] Mr. Yeager said that he and his colleagues did have some concern about the content of  
the LaGrange letter, mostly that the reference to “misinformation”, Cargill’s pledge of “honesty”  
and the listing of the points it responded to, gave an impression of disparaging the Union’s  
message and work.  
[57] When questioned about the Union’s April 30, 2020 letter to Alberta Labour and  
Immigration Deputy Minister McLeod and others, Mr. Yeager indicated he contributed  
background information for its drafting.  
[58] Mr. Yeager concluded his direct examination by speaking of his involvement in the  
reopening. He said that he attended two Zoom calls with AHS and employees at the plant, and  
participated despite not being initially invited, and being “heavily vetted” by the AHS  
participants at the outset. He also followed the AHS and OHS tours of the facility on May 3,  
2020, and joined the debriefing afterwards. Mr. Yeager also identified the Union’s letter of May  
4, 2020 to the OHS Officer responsible for the inspection, constituting a final effort to have the  
reopening stopped. He explained that he and his colleagues were not satisfied the plant was safe  
because, as he put it, “the basic tenor of a lot of the inspection on May 3 was, “we’ll figure it out  
as we go”. And he spoke of Cargill’s list entitled “Safety Measures taken by Cargill in Response  
to COVID-19” (Ex. #A-49) to indicate that that document had not been shared with the Union  
before and “none of this was known to us” around the dates stated for their implementation. He  
expressed the criticism that the safety reviews had not sufficiently involved the workers  
themselves, had not shared hazard assessment and other safety documents, had not involved the  
JWHSC, and failed to address several topics.  
[59] Overall, Mr. Yeager offered the view that the central aspect of the Union’s dissatisfaction  
with Cargill’s actions during these events was what he called the Union’s “exclusion” from  
health and safety discussions and the responses Cargill adopted. He said, “I jokingly refer to [the  
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health and safety issues] as a ‘national secret’. I think this has caused the issue we’re here  
about”.  
[60] Mr. Yeager was cross-examined first about the early issues that developed between the  
parties about walking stewards, and relaxation of grievance time limits. Of the walking  
stewards, he acknowledged that the issue was not the Employer’s refusal to give walking  
stewards release from their duties on the line, but purporting to designate their replacements. He  
agreed that this issue died down between himself and Devin Tretiak by the end of March, only to  
be revived when the amalgamation of two shifts into one after April 13, 2021 occurred. He said  
of this, “I think Devin [Tretiak] was honest, he was trying, but I think that he was not always  
being told of the situations developing out on the floor”.  
[61] Of his conversations with Rob Hale on suspension of grievance time limits, he agreed  
that he interpreted Hale’s refusal to suspend limits to be related to any grievance with a monetary  
value, not just ones where liability builds over time.  
[62] The next topic in cross-examination was the abortive attempt to schedule a meeting  
Yeager made to Hale on March 30, 2020. Mr. Yeager acknowledged that his initial proposal was  
for a meeting on short notice of only a few hours and required “rounding up” participants from  
other areas, though he noted that the short notice was not unprecedented between them. He  
confirmed that Hale did not refuse a meeting outright, but wanted them less often and wanted  
someone other than Yeager to participate because Yeager was exposed to another workplace. He  
agreed that he did not respond to this by email, but only sent a letter saying he would speak to  
legal counsel. The request for a meeting was not renewed until April 9, a week after Hale’s  
response. Mr. Yeager agreed that this was not a type of meeting contemplated by the parties’  
collective agreement, though it was “not unusual” for them, and that he did not assert any  
provision of the agreement (notably Article 15.5) to any of Hale, Tretiak, or Tanya Teeter in  
support of the demand for a meeting.  
[63] Mr. Yeager was asked about the follow-up to Mr. Hesse’s letter of March 20, 2020  
advocating pandemic response measures to Cargill and other food industry employers, and Ms.  
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Teeter’s “disappointing” response of March 23. He agreed that he had been left as the person  
responsible for follow-up, and did not specifically raise the letter with Mr. Tretiak in their  
meeting the next day. He said that they talked about some topics around COVID-19, like traffic  
flow, social distancing in congested areas, and the special problem of the cafeteria. He said that  
it was a “good conversation”, and he did not fault Tretiak if he did not yet have answers.  
[64] The lack of information coming from the Employer to the Union about positive cases was  
a theme in Mr. Yeager’s direct examination. In cross-examination, he was asked about the news  
of the first confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis among plant employees, and how it was  
disseminated. He testified that Hale had told Joe Attwood that supervisors were the source of the  
information, and the Employer had directed them to tell employees in small groups. Asked,  
“what was your problem with that?”, Mr. Yeager responded, “it makes us look useless if we  
don’t get that information beforehand”. Mr. Yeager took the question up with Ms. Teeter, who  
said she was willing to share that information, but only on the strength of confirmed case  
information, not rumours. Unfortunately, rumours were rife, there would be delays before  
Cargill got the information, and then it might be conveyed to any of several people in the  
Union’s and Employer’s organizations.  
[65] On that same theme, Mr. Yeager had expressed unhappiness about not getting advance  
notice of Mr. LaGrange’s April 8 letter to employees about the second positive test at the plant  
(Ex. #A-9). He agreed, however, that he was not entirely sure about that, and that an email in  
Exhibit #E-43 shows that the Union was indeed given advance notice of the letter that morning.  
He also agreed that in another incident around that time, a report received by the Union about a  
sick employee returning to work, the Employer responded quickly and the matter was resolved.  
[66] Cross-examination then moved to the April 7, 2020 site visit by AHS personnel that the  
Union was not invited to. Mr. Yeager could not recall whether he expressed displeasure to Ms.  
Teeter when they next spoke. He confirmed that Teeter agreed to share information about the  
report verbally, without committing to sharing the report itself without having seen it; and he  
acknowledged that AHS in fact did not send out any report.  
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[67] Turning to Mr. Hesse’s Easter Sunday letter and its aftermath, Mr. Yeager confirmed that  
there had been no attempt by the Union to deal with the confusion among employees by sending  
a mass email to members calling on them to report to work. Instead, he and his colleagues were  
completely occupied with responding to employees individually. He acknowledged that  
attendance the next morning, April 13, was reduced, though he did not have numbers. He agreed  
that Ms. Teeter did not tell him that the shift suspension was an attempt to punish employees for  
the Union’s Easter Sunday letter, but says that he considered that to be the effect. And he  
confirmed that the Union filed a grievance over the shift suspension, one of the issues being  
whether the Union’s letter made the situation one “outside the company’s control” that obviated  
the requirement of two days’ notice of layoff.  
[68] There was significant cross-examination about the missed meeting with representatives of  
OHS on the morning of April 14, 2020. Counsel reviewed two related lines of communication:  
a text string between Myriam Tukku and Renee Siki from the previous day (Ex. #A-15); and an  
email string from that day between Siki and Joe Attwood, copied to Mr. Yeager (Ex. #E-46).  
Reading them together, Mr. Yeager confirmed that, in fact, three meetings were originally  
scheduled for April 14: the virtual meeting with OHS in the morning, and the joint ergonomics  
committee (JET) and JWHSC meetings that normally proceeded in the afternoon. On April  
11, Ms. Siki proposed cancelling both the JET and JWHSC meetings. The next day, Ms. Tukku  
asked that the JWHSC meeting go ahead.  
[69] The text string between Tukku and Siki occurred the evening of the next day, Monday,  
April 13. Tukku asked, “what about including Jamie [Walsh-Rollo] and Joe Attwood in  
tomorrow’s safety meeting?”. Siki responded, “Sure they could join the call if they are in the  
plant?”. Tukku replied, “Are you able to get Jamie off the FAB floor and Joe will be there  
tomorrow.” Siki agreed, “Okay, will need to schedule a larger room for everyone to fit.(…)”.  
And the next morning, Siki confirmed to Tukku that the front board room was reserved for 9:30  
am and she and Walsh-Rollo would be let off the floor at 9:15 am.  
[70] Returning to the email string, as of the morning of April 14, the OHS call was going  
ahead at 9:30 am and no steps had been taken to have the afternoon joint committee meetings go  
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ahead. Forty minutes before the start time of the OHS meeting, Joe Attwood advised Siki,  
copied to Yeager, that “someone from my office would attend” on “this [unspecified] call”. Ten  
minutes later, Siki advised Attwood, copied to Yeager, that she had arranged the larger front  
boardroom for in-person attendees to meet social distancing requirements. The OHS virtual  
meeting went ahead at 9:30 am. Mr. Attwood was not there. Ms. Tukku asked for Yeager to be  
patched into the call. This did not happen. At 2:41 p.m. that day, Mr. Yeager emailed Ms. Siki  
asking for a call in number for the meeting. She advised that the call with OHS had already  
taken place, OHS would provide a report of the call, the JWHSC meeting was cancelled, but she  
was open to rescheduling it for the next week.  
[71] In cross-examination, Mr. Yeager confirmed what was plain from the overlapping text  
and email strings: that Siki had voiced no objection to Joe Attwood attending the OHS safety  
meeting, and it was anticipated that it would be Attwood attending for the Union along with  
Tukku and Walsh-Rollo. He confirmed that he had not been happy that he and Attwood had not  
been included in the original emails about the cancellation of the JET and JWHSC meetings, but  
acknowledged that he had not attended any of these meetings before. To counsel’s question  
whether Attwood had attended at any time since relinquishing his co-chair responsibilities in the  
fall of 2019, he could not say.  
[72] Of his 2:41 p.m. email on April 14, after the OHS meeting had concluded, Mr. Yeager  
acknowledged that he had believed the meeting in question was the regular JWHSC meeting that  
afternoon, but noted that there had been no employer response to Tukku’s request he be patched  
into the morning OHS call. He stated that he believed he had been intentionally excluded. To  
counsel’s question of how this squared with Siki’s text expressing willingness to have Attwood  
there, Mr. Yeager could not offer a response. He also agreed that he did not know whether Ms.  
Siki had been present in person for the morning OHS meeting, or had attended virtually.  
[73] Finally on this point, Mr. Yeager was asked why he did not respond positively to Ms.  
Siki’s offer to reschedule the cancelled JHSC meeting. He responded that he did not read Siki’s  
email as a request for his dates, that he gave no specific instructions to reschedule the meeting,  
and, “it was chaotic” at the time. Nor did the Union express interest in a new date for the JHSC  
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meeting in an exchange with Ms. Siki on April 17, when she raised the topic. Mr. Yeager said  
he strongly denied the suggestion that the Union was not interested in another meeting, but  
acknowledged there was no evidence of that interest in this email.  
[74] Cross-examination then turned to the April 16, 2021 call with AHS that Messrs. Yeager  
and Hesse attended. Mr. Yeager reiterated that the Union had been cut off before they had  
finished their questions, but could not speak to the proposition that AHS had scheduled the  
appointment and limited it to one hour, nor that AHS had been the party to conclude the call.  
Mr. Yeager was pressed, however, on the matter of the follow-up to this meeting. He  
acknowledged that Mr. Hesse in the conference call had mentioned that the Union had not been  
afforded an opportunity to tour the plant, and that Ms. Teeter in her follow-up email two days  
later (Ex. #A-29) did offer a tour to either or both of Yeager and Hesse. Questioned why neither  
accepted the offer, he repeated Mr. Hesse’s testimony to the effect that, as he put it, “it would be  
hypocritical to say the plant was unsafe, and then be paraded around to make it look like an  
endorsement”.  
[75] Cross-examining counsel then asked a pointed question, which our notes record as:  
“How can you reconcile saying, we aren’t being told what the company is doing, then when  
invited to see, we won’t go, and we’ll later say in a complaint that they aren’t telling us what  
they’re doing?” Mr. Yeager did not make a substantive reply. To counsel’s follow-up, “It’s the  
optics, isn’t it?”, he denied it, without elaboration.  
[76] Of the town hall meetings of April 18 and 19, 2020, Mr. Yeager was asked whether he  
had been worried about the government “getting the first word in” and contradicting the Union’s  
message. He responded that he and his colleagues had inferred that the government had learned  
about the Union’s town hall and then, “only days later, they had one scheduled for the day  
before”. He did not answer the question whether it would have been any different had the  
government town hall been scheduled the day after the Union’s, except to say, “it may have  
been, I don’t know, it’s hypothetical”.  
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[77] Mr. Yeager was cross-examined on an important theme in his testimony, that the Union  
did not get satisfactory information from the Employer on the case counts in the plant at any time  
after the report of 38 cases on April 11, the start of the Easter weekend. Challenged as to  
whether he disbelieved Teeter’s and Hale’s responses that the Employer did not have a number  
to give them, he said, “It was odd to me that they went silent after it went public that there were  
38 cases, it all ceased after April 12. (…) It seemed odd that they were so focused on tracking  
and tracing, yet couldn’t tell us what the numbers were.” In re-examination by Union counsel,  
Mr. Yeager noted that he had not considered the last confirmed case count of 38 to be “small”; it  
was higher than expected, and by far the largest outbreak in the Local. Even the numbers  
publicly released by AHS were not entirely satisfactory, he also said, because they never broke  
the case counts down between salaried employees, contractors, and bargaining unit members.  
[78] Eventually, as the outbreak exploded, AHS began providing the Cargill case numbers  
publicly, but the Union continued to be dissatisfied with its access to the numbers. To counsel’s  
question why it continued to be so concerned, Mr. Yeager responded that he and his colleagues  
were highly concerned that the Union had to rely on the news to learn about its sick members; he  
called it “highly troubling” that this was the case. He admitted that he did not renew his original  
requests for positive test numbers after getting the quarantine list, but said “I didn’t feel I needed  
to repeat [the request] every day”. He also confirmed that he did not approach Ms. Teeter about  
the Union’s concerns about the accuracy of the quarantine list after learning that it showed its  
critically-ill steward as “available for work”. To the question, “why did you file a complaint  
with OHS instead, was it just a desire to be adversarial and give no opportunity to explain?”, he  
responded simply, “we chose to file a complaint, to go another way”.  
[79] The last topic in Mr. Yeager’s cross-examination was the lead-up to the plant reopening  
on May 4. He could not say whether the April 27 inspection was done at the instance of OHS  
rather than Cargill, only that Cargill told the Union it was an OHS request. He confirmed that  
Cargill representatives were upset about his taking photos, but ultimately did not pursue that  
issue any further.  
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F.  
Evidence of Joe Attwood  
[80] Joe Attwood, the second full-time Union representative with responsibilities for  
employees at the Cargill plant, gave limited evidence. He was not physically present at the plant  
between March 4 and May 21, 2020. For much of that time he was heavily engaged in  
bargaining two other collective agreements, with Canada Safeway and Mountain Creek Farms,  
then was away for three weeks of scheduled vacation starting approximately April 15, 2020. His  
testimony was mainly directed at discrete topics: the operation of the JWHSC at Cargill, the  
walking stewards controversy, the early friction between Union and Employer over COVID-19  
case numbers, the missed OHS virtual meeting of April 14, 2020, and in cross-examination, the  
state of Union-Employer communications in respect of several items early in the period under  
review.  
[81] Mr. Attwood testified about his efforts to transform the JWHSC into a more effective  
committee when he was first assigned to the Cargill plant in May 2019. He found that the  
committee lacked structure and attendance was lax. He named himself Union co-chair of the  
committee and started a process of recruiting and appointing Union representatives to the  
committee. This ended in July 2019 with appointment of Ms. Tukku and Ms. Walsh-Rollo along  
with six other members and seven alternates. There remained occasional problems with  
supervisors releasing committee members on time for meetings, but the structure was robust  
enough that Attwood terminated his co-chair assignment in favour of Tukku and Walsh-Rollo in  
September 2019. He did not attend JWHSC meetings after that.  
[82] Mr. Attwood took the panel through several emails with Devin Tretiak and Rob Hale  
early in the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he stated the Union’s position that it should receive  
full information about positive results. Both sides, Union and Employer, were cautious about  
their information, trying to observe a measure of employee privacy while guarding against  
rumour and gossip. Attwood became more insistent around April 11, 2020, asking Hale for  
accurate information. Hale responded that he would supply an update and was seeking the  
information himself. On April 13, Easter Monday, Attwood sent a more pressing email to Hale  
complaining of the lack of information. In cross-examination, however, Mr. Attwood  
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41  
acknowledged that Ms. Teeter had sent the complete list of quarantined employees to Mr. Yeager  
the day before, and he (Attwood) had been unaware of that at the time.  
[83] Mr. Attwood was peripherally involved in the walking steward controversy, in that Jamie  
Walsh-Rollo complained to him and Devin Yeager that she had been denied opportunity to  
“walk” three days in a week. He confirmed that Mr. Yeager was the representative most  
involved, and that he shared Yeager’s view that the Union had the “definitive” right to designate  
the walking stewards. He expressed that he was surprised when Renee Siki appeared to become  
involved in the issue of the walking stewards in her enquiry to Tukku and Walsh-Rollo about  
other possible “rovers”. He acknowledged in cross-examination, however, that he was unaware  
of any communication to Siki that issues around the walking stewards would be confined to  
people other than her – himself, Yeager, Tretiak and Hale. He said that “maybe” Siki had  
unknowingly become involved an issue she was not expected to be part of.  
[84] Of the April 14 OHS meeting, Mr. Attwood added only that he thought he had told Mr.  
Yeager that the OHS meeting was at 9:30 am that day. Cross-examining counsel put it to him  
that Siki thought he, Attwood, would be attending; Attwood did not say specifically Yeager is  
attending; but Yeager believed the meeting is at 3:30 pm; so was it not just a colossal  
misunderstanding rather than an attempt to exclude the Union? Mr. Attwood said, “it ended up  
that way”, i.e. a “colossal misunderstanding”. To further questioning about the Union’s failure  
to respond to Siki’s offer to reschedule the JWHSC meeting also scheduled for that day, and  
what that said about the Union’s degree of concern, Mr. Attwood acknowledged, “this may be an  
example of a communication that was missed”.  
[85] Employer counsel took Mr. Attwood through several email chains in late March 2020  
that Attwood participated in: one about a sign that went up in the workplace about revised break  
times; one about the Union assisting the Employer to locate translators; and another one about an  
employee rumoured to have returned to work after going home with symptoms. In each case,  
Mr. Attwood acknowledged that the Employer and Union had timely discussions about them,  
and any missed communications were inadvertent.  
Classification: Public  
42  
G. Evidence of Jamie Walsh-Rollo  
[86] Jamie Walsh-Rollo cryovac operator in Fabrication, walking steward and Union co-  
chair of the JWHSC testified mostly with respect to JWHSC operations, her activities and role  
as a walking steward, and the early events of Cargill’s COVID-19 response in March 2020. She  
had little to say about events in April 2020 because she worked only four days that month: she  
was absent from March 31 to April 12 inclusive on COVID-19 quarantine; at work April 13 to  
15; absent April 16 to 20 with an unrelated illness; at work April 21; and then absent from the  
plant-wide idling for the rest of the month.  
[87] After describing her work as a walking steward, Ms. Walsh-Rollo spoke of the start of  
problems doing that work in mid-March of 2020. Her walking steward assignment commenced  
on March 16, but for that day and the remainder of that week her supervisor declined to release  
her at the usual time due to, he said, too many absentees in her area. She spoke to Attwood or  
Yeager about this, probably on March 17, and was eventually released to walk that day, but the  
problem recurred after that. On March 20, she advised Renee Siki of her inability to “walk”,  
without response. In the end, combined with her absences, she did not resume walking steward  
duties until after the reopening in May.  
[88] Ms. Walsh-Rollo described the routine of preparing and then following up a JWHSC  
meeting. Union members are canvassed for agenda items. These and management items are  
incorporated into a Power Point presentation. Minutes are kept by a management member and  
distributed on request, and in any event at the next monthly meeting. Since the reopening,  
follow-up is now done through an “action register” recording tasks and the action taken. Ms.  
Walsh-Rollo said, however, that previously she had to check to ensure JWHSC tasks had been  
carried out. She related what she considered to be an ongoing problem leading up to the  
pandemic of management representatives “swamping” the small numbers of union members who  
were interested enough to attend the JWHSC meetings. She also noted that each department  
normally held its own health and safety meetings as well, but these stopped around the time of  
the pandemic because, she said, management considered that there was “too much going on”.  
Classification: Public  
43  
[89] Ms. Walsh-Rollo testified that COVID-19 measures first came up in JWHSC meetings  
only in mid-March 2020, and then only briefly, but that by March 26, it was the dominant topic  
of that day’s JWHSC meeting. There was already controversy on the floor about supervisors  
wearing masks while bargaining unit members had none. She (Walsh-Rollo) raised issues about  
crowding of locker rooms, lunchroom tables and microwave areas, and the lack of hand sanitizer.  
[90] As earlier noted, Ms. Walsh-Rollo was absent from March 31 to April 12, during which  
time the Union’s Easter Sunday letter was written and sent. She returned on April 13 and was  
quickly asked by one of the supervisors whether “you (the Union) are telling people not to come  
in?”, adding “now they (management) are looking at layoffs”. She heard nothing more, but  
experienced three long days in which uncut meat piled up and the line had to be stopped.  
[91] Ms. Walsh-Rollo was in attendance at the April 14 OHS meeting, and confirmed that on  
Mr. Yeager’s instructions she asked if he could be put into the call. No answer was given and, as  
we know, neither Yeager nor Attwood attended. She spoke of some of the topics covered in the  
OHS meeting –– poor social distancing between operators and stagers (helpers), noise levels  
inhibiting communication from a safe distance, difficulties with mask use, problems sourcing  
face shields, and the state of communications between management and union. Asked to  
comment on the OHS Report on this meeting (Ex. #A-20), she noted the absence of any mention  
of masking problems and microwave cleaning.  
[92] Ms. Walsh-Rollo then was absent again until the reopening. She did, however, attend  
both virtual town hall meetings. She expressed her own confusion about the sudden meeting  
called by the government, and concern that the presenters in that meeting included only one plant  
worker. In her view, the Sunday meeting the Union hosted was the better one, with many more  
questions asked and answered.  
[93] In cross-examination, Ms. Walsh-Rollo was asked about the controversy over walking  
stewards, starting with her not being allowed to “walk” as normal in late March. She said that  
initially she did not believe the statement of her supervisor that there were too many absences to  
release her because her own immediate area was not obviously shorthanded; but she accepted  
Classification: Public  
44  
that assessment upon returning to work from her quarantine absence on April 13. Nevertheless,  
she raised the issue of walking stewards at the April 14 OHS meeting because the kill floor was  
idled at that time, making substitute walking stewards from the kill floor unavailable. Renee Siki  
asked her and Myriam Tukku for names of substitutes, leading to Devin Yeager’s complaint to  
Cargill management about Siki becoming involved in an issue reserved to the full-time UFCW  
representatives and their management counterparts (Tretiak and Hale). Ms. Walsh-Rollo said  
she had been unaware of the Yeager complaint, and did not speak to Yeager about her role in  
getting Siki involved in the issue.  
[94] Asked about her concerns of management attendees “swamping” the few Union members  
attending JWHSC meetings, Ms. Walsh-Rollo agreed that member interest was low leading into  
the COVID-19 period (only three or four of fifteen authorized representatives typically  
attended), but in response to her concern, Joe Attwood elected not to ask management to reduce  
its attendance, but told her he would try to get more Union attendees to come. Nonetheless, she  
agreed that Union member concerns were addressed early in each meeting, were never removed  
from the agenda, and were generally followed up. The problem with follow-up, in her view, was  
simply that the actions taken were not sufficiently communicated to her; she never had occasion  
to complain to management that Union safety concerns from the JWHSC meetings were being  
ignored.  
[95] Ms. Walsh-Rollo agreed with the proposition that she was absent from the plant for a  
significant time in April 2020, during which there were changes made to safety measures in the  
workplace, including installation of barriers, adjustment of break times, and changes to the  
lunchroom configuration. Face shields were slow to be distributed; she acknowledged, however,  
that management informed her they were not available in sufficient numbers and she did not  
doubt that to be the case. Also slow to happen was rearrangement of the lunchroom tables,  
which took at least three weeks. She noted that she was frustrated by this delay because it posed  
a serious potential for transmission.  
Classification: Public  
45  
H.  
Evidence of Myriam Tukku  
[96] Myriam Tukku, shop steward and Union Co-Chair of the JWHSC, works in the Back  
Packoff area, the last group of stations in the fabrication area before shipping. She was a major  
witness for the Union, in that she was the only witness who was present on the plant floor for the  
entire time under review that the plant operated.  
[97] Ms. Tukku spoke of some of the same issues from early in the period under review as did  
Jamie Walsh-Rollo: the role of the walking steward, walking stewards not being released from  
the line, efforts to make the JWHSC more effective and the perceived imbalance on the JWHSC.  
She noted some of the early problems with COVID-19 response in the workplace that concerned  
her: poor support for social distancing, lack of hand sanitizer and substitution of bleach solution  
for bargaining unit employees, and a lack of masks until sometime around the Easter weekend.  
She expressed support for the Union’s early efforts to advocate for better COVID-19 response,  
and particularly for Mr. Hesse’s Easter Sunday letter. She also criticized Mr. LaGrange’s April 8  
letter to employees cautioning against normal social interactions over the Easter weekend, saying  
that she felt the company was placing safety responsibilities on the employees, and potential  
blame, while safety measures in the plant fell short.  
[98] Of the aftermath of the Easter Sunday letter, Ms. Tukku testified that on April 13, 2020,  
she had an encounter with Devin Tretiak, who was moving tables in the lunchroom and told her  
that the night shift was cancelled, that “that is what your union wants”, and that “people were  
going to be let go”.  
[99] Ms. Tukku then spoke of the OHS conference call on April 14 and the virtual tour it  
conducted the next day. It will be recalled that she and Jamie Walsh-Rollo were the only Union  
representatives physically present for the April 14 call, that Renee Siki had been told Joe  
Attwood would be present, but Attwood was away in collective bargaining. She said that she  
learned late that Mr. Attwood could not attend, after she had cleared it with Renee Siki for him to  
be patched into the call; and the morning of the meeting, when Siki’s assistant was setting up the  
Classification: Public  
46  
call (Ms. Siki was attending virtually), she declined to try to add Yeager because she only had  
instructions to expect Walsh-Rollo and Tukku.  
[100] Of the OHS virtual tour on April 15, Ms. Tukku took the panel through an email chain in  
which Ms. Siki asked her to participate in the virtual tour and arranged for her to be released to  
do that. She testified that after this exchange, she and Siki talked, and the discussion centred on  
the walking stewards problem. Siki indicated that she was unaware of the problem before then  
and would look into it, but expressed that some kind of steward coverage would be available.  
[101] Ms. Tukku spoke of the virtual tour, the course that it took through the plant, and her  
criticisms of it. She noted that the cafeterias were closed, hallways were empty, the line was  
“really slow”, harvest and night shift had both been cancelled, and day shift had been reduced  
from about 500 to 200 employees. Overall, she felt it had not been conducted at a normal time  
and was not a fair depiction of the plant.  
[102] Later that day, April 15, Renee Siki emailed Tukku and Walsh-Rollo to send them the  
Contact Report prepared after the April 14 conference call (Ex. #A-25). In the course of that  
email, Siki asked for suggestions for substitute walking stewards, and for their views of a  
rescheduled smaller JWHSC meeting to replace the cancelled one. Siki repeated the request in  
another email two days later. Ms. Tukku did not respond to either request. She explained this by  
noting Ms. Siki had been upset that Jamie Walsh-Rollo had raised topics in an earlier OHS  
meeting that had not been raised with her (Siki) beforehand. Ms. Tukku said she did not want to  
similarly get in Siki’s “bad books” over the fact Devin Yeager had rebuked management for Siki  
becoming involved in the walking stewards issue; she said it would be known she was Yeager’s  
source for that information, and so just didn’t respond.  
[103] The last part of Ms. Tukku’s examination-in-chief addressed the plant’s reopening on  
May 4 and the OHS inspection prior to opening shift that morning. Counsel took her through the  
OHS Notice to Produce given to Cargill beforehand, requiring several documents: the most  
recent COVID-19 hazard assessment, various worker training procedures and policies, a rapid  
response plan for workers becoming symptomatic on site, and meeting minutes of recent JWHSC  
Classification: Public  
47  
meetings. She testified that she had never been given copies of those documents by  
management. That morning, she delivered to the OHS Officer a copy of the Union’s demand to  
close the plant, with which she agreed.  
[104] In cross-examination, Ms. Tukku was questioned about some of the concerns she  
expressed in her evidence and the degree of communication about them that existed between  
herself and either management, or other Union representatives. Of the JWHSC meetings, she  
acknowledged that she did not pursue with Joe Attwood the problem of inadequate Union  
attendance that developed after he stepped down as Union co-chair. She indicated that she was  
focused on her own participation, and did not report the ongoing difficulties getting a quorum of  
Union participants. Of her dissatisfaction with the degree of follow-up her issues in the JWHSC  
received, she spoke of specific issues that were not addressed quickly or at all, but acknowledged  
that for a couple of issues a problem with box stand design and placement, and COVID-19  
preparedness at the March 10, 2020 meeting she also missed opportunities to follow them up.  
Of Renee Siki’s March 25, 2020 request for assistance in locating translation resources to  
implement the new active screening process, she agreed that she did not attempt to tell Siki that  
she, Tukku, could not find translators for that task. And to Ms. Tukku’s criticism that hand  
sanitizer was not available to bargaining unit members while administrative staff were observed  
using it, she allowed that perhaps there was a general shortage as Ms. Siki had claimed, and that  
she did not pursue with Siki her concern of differential treatment among parts of the workforce.  
Finally, Ms. Tukku acknowledged some productive exchanges on safety topics with Renee Siki  
in an impromptu meeting they had on April 2, 2020, and that she did not at that time raise with  
Siki some of the criticisms she voiced in her testimony.  
[105] Ms. Tukku was cross-examined in some detail about the April 14, 2020 meeting with  
OHS officers that neither Attwood nor Yeager attended. She testified that Attwood was added to  
the call list at her suggestion in a phone conversation with Siki the evening before. She had, she  
said, spoken with Attwood that evening and agreed that “the Union” (meaning, presumably, a  
full-time representative) should be included; but Attwood had not committed to coming at that  
point (doubtless because he had Safeway bargaining the next day). Yet she advised Siki he  
would be attending, to which Siki agreed, on the understanding Attwood would be in the plant.  
Classification: Public  
48  
She, Tukku, learned late that evening that Attwood would not be there and Yeager would phone  
in instead. The next morning, she was busy with her work until being released from her station,  
and so did not tell anyone from management that Yeager would be on the call until the meeting  
was assembling. She told Ms. Siki’s assistant, she said, that Yeager would be calling in, but the  
assistant had no instructions to that effect. Yeager was not added (and indeed, we know from  
other evidence that he was unaware that the call was in the morning rather than the afternoon).  
Asked why she did not protest that Yeager should be on the call, she answered, “I just felt  
defeated, they outnumbered us”.  
[106] Counsel reviewed with Ms. Tukku the notes of the meeting kept by Jamie Walsh-Rollo to  
challenge the assertion that the Union members of the Committee felt intimidated. He noted that  
the notes showed she and Ms. Walsh-Rollo raising several topics. Ms. Tukku said she was  
comfortable raising “some, not all” of her concerns during the meeting; but of the example she  
gave, the lack of hand sanitizer for bargaining unit employees, she acknowledged that she had  
simply forgot to raise that issue. Of the issues she did raise, she testified that the management  
representatives there were quick to “jump in with an answer”, making things uncomfortable for  
her.  
[107] Ms. Tukku’s cross-examination then moved to address the next day, April 15, 2020, and  
the email from Renee Siki attaching the OHS Contact Report from the previous day’s meeting.  
She acknowledged that she did not respond to Siki’s suggestion of a rescheduled, smaller,  
JWHSC meeting the next week. Asked why that was so, she was not able to answer other than  
to speculate that she may not have carefully read the entire email.  
[108] Ms. Tukku was asked about Siki’s follow-up email of April 17 on that topic, which also  
prodded Ms. Tukku for the names of possible “rovers”, i.e., walking stewards. She  
acknowledged that this was Siki’s attempt to help after hearing the complaints of Tukku and  
Walsh-Rollo that they were not being released from the line to perform those duties. The email  
chain shows, and Ms. Tukku acknowledged, that she forwarded the email to Yeager and relief  
Union representative Ben Salonius in order to enlist their help in finding substitute walking  
stewards. This, of course, led Yeager to believe that Siki was inappropriately intervening to deal  
Classification: Public  
49  
directly with stewards on a matter that was properly dealt with by the full-time Union  
representatives and their Human Resources counterparts; the result was Yeager’s email late that  
afternoon to Tretiak and Hale objecting to Siki’s involvement.  
[109] Asked why she did not speak to either Yeager or Siki to clear up the confusion and  
identify herself as the (innocent) instigator of the controversy, rather than “let the Union rip into  
Renee (Siki)”, Ms. Tukku did not offer an explanation, other than she was worried about herself,  
she assumed that Siki would understand what had happened, and she felt the need to support her  
Union.  
[110] The last topic in cross-examination was the OHS virtual tour of April 15, 2020, i.e., the  
day after the missed conference call with OHS officers noted above. Ms. Tukku acknowledged  
that she did not ask for a full-time Union representative to be on the tour, because “it was just  
[Siki’s subordinate] Rob Petersen leading it” and she had been hurriedly released from the  
production floor to attend it. She was not able to offer an answer why she did not inform the  
Union of the tour when, in hindsight, it was now apparent that the Union was annoyed it had not  
been invited.  
[111] This closes our review of the Union’s evidence. We proceed to our analysis of the case  
presented thus far.  
III.  
Decision  
[112] In the Board’s jurisprudence, an application to summarily dismiss a complaint may be  
made at any time, and without putting the moving party to its election whether to call its own  
evidence. The standard such an application must meet is sometimes expressed as, whether the  
proceedings to that point raise an arguable case. Sometimes the test is put as, whether the  
applicant has established a case with a “reasonable prospect of success”: see, e.g., UNA, Loc.  
311 v. Good Samaritan Society, [2009] Alta. L.R.B.R. 1; UNA v. Capital Care Group Inc. et al.,  
[2016] Alta. L.R.B.R. LD-059. Practically, the analysis to some extent depends upon the stage  
of the proceedings when the application is made. If made at the close of the “pleadings” –  
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50  
application, response, and any particulars the Board has little ability to make any nuanced  
evaluation of the facts; it must proceed on the assumption that the facts pled in support of the  
application will be established by evidence, unless the facts pled lack even an “air of reality”:  
Complainant v. AUPE, [2021] Alta. LR.B.R. 1. This tends to focus the enquiry in such cases  
upon whether the materials raise an arguable case according to law. The case generally proceeds  
if the pled and assumed facts arguably entitle the applicant to relief within the Board’s existing  
jurisprudence. If, like in this case, the application