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A Labour of love

July 21, 2023

4 MIN READ

Art Coulter Award recipient represents community care and support for brothers, sisters, and friends

Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Scott Arniel, United Way Winnipeg Board Chair Donna Miller, and United Way Winnipeg President & CEO Michael Richardson visit Main Street Project with Executive Director Jamil Mahmood.

Sandy Forcier first began forging a lifelong relationship with Labour when he very young. 

“My dad was actually a unionized worker,” Forcier recalled. “He worked in the steel industry, manufacturing steel fire doors and things like that. He had a Labour dispute when I was very young. I remember it being a bit of a struggle … there were obviously issues in the workplace.”

Years later, when the Winnipegger got his own first job at a unionized workplace, Forcier wanted to learn more about the world he remembered from his father’s work history long ago.

So, he accepted an invite to attend his first union meeting.

“Now I’m paying union dues, (I thought), ‘I want to learn more about this,’” said Forcier, adding he was amazed “the union was reaching out to us to hear our feedback about what our issues were in our workplace.

“I learned very quickly that it was a voice—someone was representing me and my co-workers,” he recalled.

“I still carry that with me today in my role as a union representative.”

Today, Forcier is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832 Representative, serving members in the garment, retail, service, and industrial sectors.

He’s also the recipient of this year’s United Way Winnipeg Art Coulter Labour Community Service Award—an honour named after one of United Way Winnipeg’s founding members and given to a Winnipeg union member for exceptional commitment to community.

Sandy Forcier stands with United Way Winnipeg team members and Labour leaders. Photo courtesy of UFCW 832.

“Sandy’s continued effort and advocacy to give back to our community through the labour movement and United Way Winnipeg has made an incredible impact on the lives of Winnipeg workers.”

United Way Winnipeg Labour Director Evan Krosney said Forcier was an ideal candidate for the recognition—not only for his dedication to the Labour movement, but for his commitment to supporting United Way Winnipeg for the sake of our city’s brothers, sisters, and friends. 

“Art Coulter represented the values of fairness, community service, and working together through a united approach to improve the lives of all Winnipeg workers. Today, those same core principles are embodied in brother Sandy Forcier,” Krosney said.

“A dedicated trade unionist, labour activist, and constant United Way Winnipeg champion, Sandy truly represents the spirit of what the Art Coulter Award is all about. Whether it’s through his work as Campaign Chair at UFCW 832, an eager volunteer on United Way Winnipeg committees, or his steadfast support for our network of agency partners—Sandy is always the first person in the room to put his hand up and offer to help.

“Sandy’s continued effort and advocacy to give back to our community through the labour movement and United Way Winnipeg has made an incredible impact on the lives of Winnipeg workers.”

For Forcier, the award is the culmination of that long relationship with Labour he began to value all those years ago as a boy.

For 15 years, he was a member of UFCW Local 832 at Jack Forgan Meats, J.M. Schneiders, and Maple Leaf Meats. He was very active in the union, most notably in 1997, when he served as a picket captain during an 11-week strike at Jack Forgan.

Forcier helped members as assistant chief shop steward at J.M. Schneiders and at Maple Leaf Meats after the company purchased the Schneiders’ plant. He was active on union negotiating committees at both Schneiders and Maple Leaf, as well as the joint labour and job evaluation committees.

Forcier first worked as a relieving union representative for UFCW Local 832 in 2003 and became a full-time representative in March 2004.

He was named the annual United Way Winnipeg Art Coulter Labour Community Service Award recipient earlier this year.

“It’s a great honour and a privilege to be the recipient of the Art Coulter Award,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with who is Art Coulter is and was. His background in being a strong union activist and his development and passion for fundraising to help others … that means a lot to me.”

Forcier’s relationship with United Way Winnipeg runs almost as deep as his love of Labour, in large part because of the shared values of improving lives and advocating for the well-being of neighbours.

He said it’s deeply meaningful to be able to “make a difference in people’s lives” by contributing to United Way Winnipeg.

“These are lives that I will never see or know, but (my donation) has an impact on their children, their spouses, brothers, sisters … it has an impact that you don’t even realize,” he said.

“Once you experience that, being involved, you can make a difference in someone’s life and have an impact on the outcome of their lives and how they and their families live their lives—it’s important. It can be very, very gratifying on a personal level.

“Good times are wonderful. It’s the hard times that make individuals who they are and what they’ll become. We all have to go through those—it’s best to go those times with others rather than alone.”

For Forcier, among many positive outcomes, supporting United Way Winnipeg means helping to provide a stable foundation for agencies that offer job training and skills development programs, which are critical for people to successfully enter the workforce

“What’s more full-circle that that?” Forcier said. “It’s all linked.”

“You don’t stop once you’re involved. You just keep going—because what’s good enough today is not good enough tomorrow.”

Though Forcier has maintained a long relationship with Labour and United Way Winnipeg, he said he doesn’t plan on moving away from either anytime soon because the work is never done.

“You don’t stop once you’re involved,” he said. “You just keep going—because what’s good enough today is not good enough tomorrow. The person that you help today, there’s going to be two more in need tomorrow. You have to keep going, and hopefully along the way, the things that you’re doing have some influence on others that have been recipients and they grow and they pass that along, too.

“That’s how we continue.”

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