Small Canadian Mennonite Business Shuts Down Production After Employee’s Vote to Go Union

Mennonite owned business, Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. of Devlin Ontario, shut its doors on August 17, 2015 after a majority of its 25 employees voted to join Unifor according to Fort Frances Times.

The company action was taken based on an interest in “living peaceably” as explained in an email sent to customers:

“As Christian business owners, our personal beliefs will not allow our conscience the freedom to work with a labor union, as we are required by Scripture to ‘live peaceably with all men,’ and not to use force to gain what we want or for what is required to succeed.

we are required by Scripture to ‘live peaceably with all men,’ and not to use force to gain what we want or for what is required to succeed.

“Our decision in view of developments to date was to stop production of wood products at Dev­lin, Ont., effective Aug. 17, 2015. All production employment was terminated.”

According CBCNews [1], Unifor representatives have noted that the company was cooperative with the union during voting process. Unifor’s view is that shutting down operations “is against the law”.

Mennonites have historically not participated in labor unions from an employee perspective because of the possibility of coercive measures, but this situation is unique in that it is the employer who does not feel they can move forward peaceably with the union involved in the business. While there has been less Mennonite attention given to the employer side of union relations, Mennonite Weekly Review  [2] notes that a member of the Mennonite Brethren church refused to work with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters in 1996, but it does not clarify what the primary motivations were.

According to an article on Labor Unions by Guy F. Hershberger [3], Mennonites in the past have given “special attention to the responsibility of Mennonite industrial managers and their employees for mutual cooperation in the development of management-labor relations on the basis of Christian brotherhood, rather than by means of power in which management and labor were pitted against each other.”

Mennonites in the past have given special attention to…mutual cooperation…rather than by means of power in which management and labor were pitted against each other

While the ultra conservative Mennonite group [4] Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. owner Leon Gingrich is affiliated with may not have been involved in the conference mentioned by Hershberger, the sentiments of the last sentence would apply to conservative Mennonites. Various commenters on news articles have asked “How is shutting down a business an attempt at bringing peace to the situation?” A possible key to understanding how closing the business is seen as a way to bring peace is that all other alternatives are seen as merely continuing in an unavoidable and ongoing adversarial situation where “management and labor were pitted against each other.”

[Image Source] http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/Gingrich
[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/fort-frances-area-gingrich-woodcraft-cites-faith-for-closure-after-workers-vote-to-join-union-1.3197723
[2] http://mennoworld.org/2015/08/31/news/ontario-business-closes-after-workers-vote-to-unionize/
[3] http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Labor_Unions
[4] http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mine_Centre_Conservative_Mennonite_Church_(Mine_Centre%2C_Ontario%2C_Canada)

Other Links
http://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/gingrich

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