Five years ago tragedy struck our local union and G4S at the University of Alberta’s HUB Mall. On June 15, 2012 Travis Baumgartner fatally shot three of his coworkers Eddie Rejano, Brian Ilesic and Michelle Shegelski. He also shot Matthew Schuman, rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.
Family, friends and our members were absolutely devastated. The impact of the shootings had an overwhelming effect on the mental health of those involved.
Now five years later, our local has worked tirelessly with advocates, members, family and friends of those effected of by the tragedy to create major change when it comes to mental health support in the workplace.
“What is unreal is that so many unions and agencies are all bringing mental health awareness and policies to the workplace. To think back five years ago, no one was doing this,” explained Teamsters Secretary – Treasurer & Principal Officer Rick Eichel. “When we sat down after raising money and said ‘how can we have a greater impact?’, I am happy to see all the work going on with this issue.”
Teamsters Local 362 initially wanted to know what could be done to prevent something like this from happening again. The problem was clear – there was not enough mental health support in the workplace for Canadians.
Not everyone with mental health issues is violent, but one in five Canadians experience mental health issues in their lives. What is troubling is that despite the significant number of people experiencing mental health issues, there is still stigma surrounding talking about it or seeking support at work.
In 2014 we launched the Make It Mandatory campaign that consisted of an eight-part docuseries on the topic of mental health in the workplace. Participating in the videos were Eddie’s family and Brian’s parents.
These videos led back to an ‘action engine’ where people were could easily tweet and email politicians and influencers to make mental health support mandatory across Canada.
The Ilesic family also invited us to attend the Victims of Homicide conference in 2015 and we were then honoured to be invited to attend again this year by the Ilesic family.
The campaign was a huge success and the Teamsters Canada Youth Committee eventually took the project on as well with our own Business Agent Jordan Madarash. They made another eight-part docuseries featuring interviews with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several MLA’s, Brian Burke and Sheldon Kennedy.
Overall, our videos reached over 3 million people across Canada and received over 1 million video views.
This past year we also continued to advocate for mental health support with our campaign You Are Not Alone, a docuseries that was created when we saw rising suicide rates in Alberta.
Our eight-part docuseries traveled around Alberta to hear from those who have been directly affected by suicide and advocates who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness. It also took a special focus on mental health in Fort McMurray after the fires.
One of the most important things that has come out of the campaigns is that we have been able to negotiate mental health support into collective bargaining agreements.
Teamsters Local 362 has partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association and is bargaining language into collective agreements requiring employers to participate in the “Safe and Sound” course during the term of the agreement. This is a course specifically designed to address the stigma of mental health related issues in the workplace. Our long term goal is to bargain this language into all of the locals agreements.
Five years after this tragedy, we have come a long way in terms of mental health support in the workplace but unfortunately there is still work to be done. People are still suffering in silence and are afraid of the stigma associated with coming out as suffering from a mental health issue.
No one should have to struggle alone, and our local union will continue to fight for mental health support for all Canadians.