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Winnipeg Free Press strikers jumped the queue for free pork

Striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press are at the apex of a massive cover-up into how government-subsidized food was funnelled into their union strike headquarters instead of being distributed to needy clients of Manitoba food banks.

David Northcott, executive co-ordinator for Winnipeg Harvest, confirmed Thursday to CJOB's morning show host Richard Cloutier that more than half a ton of minced pork received by the strikers' union was from a government program to provide food to the poor.

Northcott said the delivery to the union headquarters was "unauthorized" and that the striking FP employees "did jump the queue" ahead of the disadvantaged and the disabled for whom the food was intended.

In his interview he also made it clear that the strikers are peddling a false story on their strike website about how the food-for-the-poor came into their hands.

The pork was not "surplus", as the strikers claimed at first, nor was it rejected by Winnipeg Harvest because their freezers were full, as the strike website claimed later. Both versions of where the pork came from were attributed to an anonymous "man who delivers donations for the Winnipeg Harvest."

"Nobody at Winnipeg Harvest was driving the truck," said Northcott.

Cloutier was told that Winnipeg Harvest canvassed 3 soup kitchens and 40 hamper programs in Winnipeg which each received more than 1000 pounds of the government pork for their clients.

"No one's giving up the person," Northcott said.

And by "no one", he's including the striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press who certainly do know who delivered the pork they took home. But mum's the word. The conspiracy of silence stands firm. The union has been stricken with collective amnesia.

Northcott said that the picket pork was "not stolen." While he can say that definitively about Winnipeg Harvest, he's dancing on semantic ice when it comes to his "frontline agencies." The pork wasn't stolen from Harvest's freezers, but how it moved from Harvest to the picket line is a mystery.

Northcott says the distribution of the pork to the strikers was not authorized, which only means that none of the 40 frontline agencies or three soup kitchens that received pork from Winnipeg Harvest admitted to him they approved its delivery to the Free Press employees' union.

But that doesn't mean that someone didn't go into a freezer and help himself to half a ton of pork for his friends on the picket line. It only means that nobody has filed a complaint with police. And without a victim, there's officially no theft.

Except there are victims---the hundreds of people who went hungry because the food destined for them wound up at strike headquarters to be divvied up to the anonymous delivery driver's pals.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union that represents the Winnipeg Free Press strikers wouldn't make anyone's list of food bank recipients.

It boasts that it is the largest media union in Canada with more than 160,000 members.

The union can, without a doubt, afford to buy food for its members on strike.

And it should.

The Free Press strikers must pay for the pork they took from the mouths of the poor. Every cent. 1500 pounds at the going retail value for prime minced pork.

The strikers have a moral and ethical obligation to replace the food they weren't entitled to. And this bunch of moochers certainly knows a lot about ethics.

Columnist Dan Lett shared his vast expertise on ethics while writing about the Winnipeg police evidence before the Taman Inquiry:

"The band of police brothers and sisters who appeared before the Taman inquiry were just smart enough to avoid having to face criminal charges for their wilful dishonesty. Their inability to recall even the simplest of details from that fateful night protected them from punishment. … Recollections were conveniently murky."

Now we have the Free Press union band of brothers and sisters exhibiting their wilful dishonesty by refusing to tell the truth about how food intended for the poor wound up on their tables. They have an inability to recall even the simplest details of the driver who showed up with boxes of free chow. Recollections are conveniently murky, so murky that the strikers published two phony baloney versions of how the pork so conveniently appeared at union HQ.

But paying some charity back for the pork isn't enough.

The City of Winnipeg Health Department has to investigate where the pork came from.

You can't just hand out raw meat from the back of a truck. The food handling rules apply to the CEP union the same as to anyone else. We know the pork was in a Winnipeg Harvest freezer two weeks ago. After that, nothing.

Was it kept in the back of the volunteer's truck in his garage before he gave it away? We have no idea of the provenance of the pork. Does the health department have to wait until somebody gets sick before acting?

And the provincial Department of Agriculture must investigate the loosey-goosey rules of distribution being followed by Winnipeg Harvest. The government certainly wanted the credit when it announced that pork from a federal sow cull program would go to food banks to help the poor. Now we see how easy it is for anyone to snatch food from the food banks for themselves, their family and friends.

Will Roseanne Wowchuk insist on better tracking of food, at least food provided by the province, to ensure it can never again be stolen from the hungry?

And the picket pork scandal has created a big problem for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Once the strike ends, what credibility will the newspaper's reporters have after engaging in a cover-up of this magnitude? It turns out that the moral high horses the Free Press columnists and reporters have been riding lately are smaller than Shetland ponies.

They owe a lot of people a lot of apologies. If they can drag themselves away from the trough long enough.

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