My Life, My Union
Name: Jenny Jiang
Occupation: Food Clerk
Union: United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1518
When Jenny Jiang emigrated with her husband and baby girl to Burnaby from Shanghai in 2004, they were looking for a better life.
“We left Shanghai behind seeking a better environment and a better life for us and our child,” says Jenny. “Of course, we knew there would be challenges too.”
Although she spoke little English, Jenny learned the language after being hired to work in a fast-food sandwich franchise.
Jenny also learned what it meant to have a boss who did not care about his staff.
“I started at minimum wage and the owner didn’t treat the employees very well,” says Jenny. “In 5 years, I got a raise of $1 just once, and there was no respect for the employees, and no opportunity.”
With the arrival of a 2nd daughter, Jenny began looking for other work, and was hired at the PriceSmart store on Grandview Highway in Vancouver. All PriceSmart employees are members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1518 (UFCW), one of the largest unions in BC.
The change for Jenny was amazing.
“I knew nothing about unions when I began work at PriceSmart,” she said. “There was a staff of 150 people, but it really felt like a family, and I felt welcomed. There was a good feeling among my co-workers, the managers were nice and polite, and there was a contract with the union so everything is fair.”
“The union contract creates a better workplace,” says Jenny. “This was a good relationship, and it was fair because you were able to gradually build hours of work by seniority and get pay raises.”
At one point, says Jenny, she had a supervisor who was disrespectful and very difficult to work for. “People were scared, and some people quit, and this felt like losing family members,” says Jenny.
“One day we decided to contact the Union Representative, and I was so impressed that I decided to become a Shop Steward in my store for the union,” she says.
“This gave me more knowledge of the rights employees have with a contract,” says Jenny. “I learned how to use those rights to make the workplace better, and at the same time educate my co-workers to know about their rights.”
In January, Jenny began assisting her union by helping Chinese-speaking members, and they were thrilled to be able to relate to Jenny. They started to email her, write her letters, and share their concerns, allowing the union to become effective advocates on their behalf.
“Helping my colleagues through the union has been very rewarding,” she says. “The union people are devoted to assisting members, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to help others with the help of the union.”