Mennonite-owned business closed when asked to unionize

September 10, 2015

DEVLIN, Ont. -- Leon Gingrich, president of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. and a member of the Mine Centre (Ont.) Mennonite Church, informed his 25 employees he is closing the business after a majority of them (69 per cent) voted in favour of joining Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union on Aug. 12, according to the Fort Frances Times. Gingrich cited his Christian business principles in an email to customers as an explanation for closing. “As Christian business owners, our personal beliefs will not allow our conscience the freedom to work with a labour union, as we are required by Scripture to ‘live peaceably with all men.’” Union national representative Stephen Boon told the Times the union is exploring legal options for the workers.  Boon said Gingrich abruptly called the employees to a meeting and fired them without notice.  “It is almost inconceivable that in a country like Canada in 2015, we are dealing with an employer that is willing to take the position that the constitution and Ontario labour laws somehow do not apply to employees of Mennonite-operated businesses in [Rainy River District],” said Boon. “Despite the fact that several Mennonite operations across Canada are already unionized, Gingrich management has taken the shocking stance that their ‘faith’ requires employees either remain non-union, and therefore underpaid and exploited, or instead be fired,” he noted. “We often read about bully companies in Third World countries willing to crush union organizing drives to eliminate dissent and keep wages low,” Boon said. “But these type of actions are almost unheard of in a modern, democratic country like Canada.” Gingrich Woodcraft was started by Leon’s father, Aden, in Elmira, Ont., and was moved to Parry Sound in 1973, then to Mine Centre and finally to Devlin, a small town near the U.S. border. A relative, who does not want to be named, speculated that the small company, which had developed a niche market in making high-quality cabinet drawers, was targeted by the union because of its success. The Mine Centre Mennonite Church is part of the worldwide Nationwide Fellowship churches which represent a small Mennonite break-off denomination that as of 2010 comprised 114 congregations with 4,607 members.  –Canadian Mennonite staff reports

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