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Blog Reeve Ralph Groening

Christmas and Unions

    merry christmasChristmas.

 A very special time for almost all of us. Gifts, family, friends, and a few days free of work responsibilities.

Unions—I will talk about them in just a minute.

Christmas in a safe Mennonite community was a very different experience than our young people experience today. Lots of church events, school concerts, (Christmas Concerts- none of that Winter Festival stuff). Gifts on December 25 were not wrapped. No Christmas tree- that came later with worldly secular influence. No Santa Claus either. I kind of remember pictures of an overweight guy in a red suit. Smoking a pipe. Very bad. Probably would not be going to heaven. Santa played no role in my formative years. I seem to have managed OK.

And family gatherings. December 25 for certain. Followed by December 26 and almost always December 27—you did not want to miss the second holiday, or was it the third holiday? I just remember not enough time at home to play with new toys. Family gatherings at our farm house were special. 60-70 people in a modest farm house. No indoor plumbing. Let me tell you about my responsibility as a young teenager dealing with the realities of the “cash and carry system”. I carried, and my younger brother was the “look out” – you know just in case someone missed the obvious. Such fun. My children are still amused at the very unique role their dad played in these Christmas events.

But I digress. Final comment:  No liquor, no wine, no fights, and probably very few arguments during these unforgettable family events. Lots of theology discussion. Except for my Social Credit uncle. Who remembers Social Credit? Anyhow most of my uncles were ordained ministers so the discussions were on a Higher level as these fine gentlemen tried to work out the details of biblical truth.

Did I say no liquor? Not quite true. My preacher grandfather kept a bottle of Canadian Club in his closet. Literally and figuratively. Medicinal I believe. Who knew about this?

Unions—So I grew up and found a good job in Winnipeg. That was one of 2 options available to young men in Southern Manitoba. Go to University or get a job. University came later. My job was unionized. International Association of Machinists. I was shop steward for a time. Let me tell you about the grievance process! Perhaps when we have more time.

The Machinists were in my opinion a good Union.  They cared for their workers. Of course this was a time before pensions or dental and health care were major considerations. The situation is different today. Fortunately.

One union story. We had an employee we called the ‘Compensation Kid’. We had to order additional Green Injury Cards because of Frank. That was his name. Seriously.

Frank was often away from work. Injured of course. Many different problems. Mostly the workers thought he was lazy. Everyone was unhappy- both union and management. Finally the manager approached the union about Frank. He had a question for us. Would the Union grievance Franks permanent release from the job if management used a somewhat ambiguous clause in that all important contract? The Union said no.

Frank was fired.

Unions and Christmas—Christmas was a ‘Stat’ day. That meant you were paid 8 hours even if you did not work. But if you worked you received double pay. So Christmas was in fact a triple pay day if you worked. Pretty good deal for a single guy. Big money. Thank you Machinists. Good contract.

Of course my mother thought it was more important to come home for Christmas. She didn’t care about my triple time opportunity. Major dilemma. Such were the challenges of growing up.

In conclusion—I think Christmas is a special event that should focus on family And Unions do have some value.

Merry Christmas.