Following the fires in Fort McMurray, UA Local 488 in Edmonton, Alberta opened a bank account and began taking donations for the Canadian Red Cross from UA Locals across Canada and the United States. To date, UA members have helped raise over $1.3 million for aid and relief.
The outpouring of support for those who live and work in Fort McMurray has been particularly strong because of the longstanding relationship UA Canada has with the region. Back in the 1960s, the union helped build the Great Canadian Oil Sands, now Suncor, the first oil project in Fort McMurray.
“For over 50 years UA Canada has been building and maintaining the oil plants in the region,” says Larry Matychuk, Business Manager of UA Local 488. “Our members helped build the Fort McMurray community and there are up to three generations of UA members living there. Every other local in Canada has had people working up there. I myself have lived there twice and worked there many, many times.”
“This is something that has particularly touched the lives of our members,” says Ross Tius, Business Manager for Local 663 in Sarnia, Ontario. “As a petro-chemical based industry, our town identifies closely with the people living in Fort McMurray and many of our members have moved out there to build a life.”
In Sarnia, Local 663 teamed up with the Sarnia Construction Association (SCA) and together they raised $55,000 for Fort McMurray. Tius even reached out to the mayor to support this initiative through the city’s efforts and that was done as well.
“The SCA and Local 663 always try to collaborate to support these kinds of efforts. We hold each other up,” says Tius. “Local 488 always keeps its door open to everyone. Now it is our turn to help them out.”
All the money donated to the Red Cross will go towards helping those in Fort McMurray begin to rebuild their lives. One of the main reasons Local 488 partnered with the Red Cross is because the non-profit organization prioritizes the needs of the community and supports other charitable initiatives, such as the Food Bank and the Salvation Army.
While residents were allowed to go back and visit their homes early this month, a significant amount of clean up and rebuilding is required before the city is livable once again. At least three contractors from Local 488 have already been hired to help get the city back on track, though it will likely take years.
“UA guys are the first to step up,” says Matychuk about all the support and donations that have come in. “And we are still accepting donations.”
“The UA is a family,” says John Telford, UA Director of Canadian Affairs. “We always look after each other and the communities we live in.”
Click here to find out more about who has donated or to make a donation.