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[book cover] Defying Expectations

Jason Foster

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January 2018

9781771991995 (Paperback)
9781771992008 (PDF)
9781771992015 (ePub)


Working Canadians: Books from the CCLH

Labour Studies



About the Book

In October 2005, Jason Foster, then a staff member of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was walking a picket line outside Lakeside Packers in Brooks, Alberta with the members of local 401. It was a first contract strike. And although the employees of the meat-packing plant—many of whom were immigrants and refugees—had chosen an unlikely partner in the United Food and Commercial Workers local, the newly formed alliance allowed the workers to stand their ground for a three-week strike that ended in the defeat of the notoriously anti-union company, Tyson Foods.

It was but one example of a wide range of industries and occupations that local 401 organized over the last twenty years.

In this study of UFCW 401, Foster investigates a union that has had remarkable success organizing a group of workers that North American unions often struggle to reach: immigrants, women, and youth. By examining not only the actions and behaviour of the local’s leadership and its members but also the narrative that accompanied the renewal of the union, Foster shows that both were essential components to legitimizing the leadership’s exercise of power and its unconventional organizing forces.


About the Author

Jason Foster is associate professor of human resources and labour relations at Athabasca University. He was previously the director of policy analysis at the Alberta Federation of Labour and is the co-author of Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces (with Bob Barnetson). Jason lives in Edmonton, Alberta.



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Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited.


Download the entire book

Select a Chapter

DownloadFront Matter

DownloadTable of Contents



Part I   The Evolution of Local 401, 1997–2017

Download1. Facing New Challenges: From Safeway to Shaw

Download2. Victory at Lakeside

Download3. From Strength to Strength: A Paradoxical Path

Part II   An Analysis of Transformation

Download4. Narratives and the Making of Local 401

Download5. Accidental Revitalization and the Role of Leadership

Download6. Revisiting the Business/Social Union Divide


โปรแกรมพรีเมียร์ลีกDownloadAppendix A: UFCW Local 401 Timeline

DownloadAppendix B: UFCW Local 401 Employers

โปรแกรมพรีเมียร์ลีกDownloadAppendix C: A Note on Method



“Riveting ... Foster is a skillful writer whose account reads like a screenplay.”

Blacklock's Reporter


“Studying a thriving labour union in Alberta is a bit like studying an organism that flourishes in scorching, sulfur-laden undersea vents. [...] Defying Expectations portrays an imperfect organization that, despite a harsh political climate, has brought concrete gains to low-wage workers and their families. Simultaneously, it underscores how the North American labour movement might connect with those who stand to benefit most from unionization by redistributing not just profits, but power.”

Alberta Views


“...a deeply interesting look at how unions and their members can work together to create much-needed change.”

THIS Magazine