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Amazon accused of using posters, text messages to interfere with Montreal union drive



MONTREAL — A major labour union in Quebec is calling recent action by the management of an Amazon warehouse in Montreal “tactics of intimidation and harassment” that interfere with a recently launched unionization campaign.

The Confédérations des syndicats nationaux said its legal department sent the company two lawyer’s letters — on May 20 and June 2 — over alleged breaches of labour rights. Federation vice-president David Bergeron-Cyr says Amazon’s anti-union messaging is “omnipresent” at the warehouse.

“It’s intimidation,” Bergeron-Cyr said in a recent interview. “This American company needs to respect Quebec labour laws.”

Photos viewed by The Canadian Press of the Montreal warehouse’s employee break room show posters plastered on each of the transparent walls that divide the dining tables.


“We encourage you to speak for yourself,” the posters say. “We do not believe that we need a third party between us.”

The company has sent text messages — also viewed by The Canadian Press — to employees’ personal phones, telling them they have the right to decide whether to sign a union card or an online petition. “It is your fundamental right to sign or to say, ‘No, thank you,’ or ‘I am not interested,’” the text messages say.

Under Quebec’s Labour Code, an employer has free speech rights but is not allowed to interfere with a unionization campaign, nor is it allowed to issue threats or promises. It cannot use its authority to induce employees to adopt its views. And employees must have the option of receiving or not receiving the employer’s messages about unions.

Frédéric Paré, a professor of labour rights at Université du Québec à Montreal, says Amazon’s strategy of posting notices in the break room and sending text messages “could be problematic” if it becomes overwhelming.

“It’s a question of balance,” Paré said in a recent interview. Amazon’s approach, he added, reflects an American mentality that won’t fly in Quebec.

“Amazon comes here … but they have an old American way of doing things where the employer has more leverage,” Paré said. “Here … with unionization, employers don’t have a say.”

Bergeron-Cyr said workers reached out to his labour federation earlier in April and launched an organizing drive, in part, for higher wages, which he said hover around $17 or $18 an hour. Unionized workers in comparable factory jobs in the province make between $26 and $30 an hour, he said.

“The workload and pace of it all are insane,” Bergeron-Cyr said. “People are under pressure .… A lot of them are immigrants who don’t know their rights, and Amazon uses that to its own advantage.”

If more than half of the 250 to 300 employees at the warehouse sign a membership card, the Quebec labour relations commission can certify the union.

Several workers, whom The Canadian Press agreed not to identify because they fear repercussions at work, described what they said are Amazon’s clear attempts to prevent unionization. All spoke of managers’ efforts to separate groups of workers talking about the union and of oral threats to close the warehouse if they unionize.

One worker said his life has become miserable since he uttered the word “union” at work. “Every co-worker who talks to me, after a few seconds, they are interrogated by the manager. When they do that, people don’t want to talk to you anymore. I’m being isolated,” he said.

Another worker said, “Most people you talk to think we deserve more. But they don’t want to sign the union card because they’re afraid that the company will know that they did and will fire them.”

Amazon Canada spokeswoman Ryma Boussoufa said in a statement that the company doesn’t think “unions are the best answer for our employees.” But she added: “No person in our organization will ever force, intimidate, threaten, make promises or unduly influence our employees’ decision to join a union, or not join a union, and any allegations of this nature are simply unfounded.”

Several groups of workers from Amazon warehouses across the world, including in Montreal, have reported difficult working conditions that include 10-hour shifts and the need to package products quickly, which they have said leads to injuries. They have also reported that managers overwork employees in order to get bonuses and that the warehouses are equipped with intrusive surveillance systems.

When asked about allegedly poor working conditions, Boussoufa said Amazon strives for a culture of safety, and she listed the benefits offered by the company, such as dental care and tuition subsidies.

Barry Eidlin, an associate professor of sociology at McGill University and author of the 2018 book “Labour and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada,” said the workers’ allegations aren’t surprising, adding that Amazon’s alleged workplace abuses and its anti-union stance have been well-documented.

“This is just the company culture: viciously opposed to any attempt at workers to have independent control in the workplace,” Eidlin said in a recent interview.

The pandemic, Eidlin said, exacerbated the problems in warehouses because of the explosion of online orders — but it also engendered a widespread unionization movement. “It’s an after-effect where people realized that Amazon prioritizes its products and profit over employees.”

In April, employees at one Amazon warehouse in New York City pulled off the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history. Workers at a second facility in the city, however, voted overwhelmingly against unionizing. Meanwhile, other unionization efforts are underway at Amazon sites in Alberta and Ontario.

“It’s going to be a tough fight,” Eidlin said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press


More TTC riders have full cellular service as Rogers allows BCE, Telus network access



TTC riders in Toronto’s downtown core now have access to 5G service.

In a Monday media release, representatives for Rogers said customers of all major Canadian wireless companies can connect to 5G to talk, text, and stream on Toronto’s subway system.

Service extends to all stations and tunnels in the downtown U (between Bloor-Yonge and Spadina, as well as Dupont Station), as well as in 13 stations between Keele and Castle Frank, plus the tunnels between St. George and Yonge stations.

The announcement comes a day earlier than anticipated, as the federal deadline given to Rogers to implement the extended service for all mobile customers was originally slated for Tuesday.


Rogers customers have had 5G connection in the aforementioned stations and tunnels since August, a decision that sparked ire in the telecommunications space, particularly from rivals Telus and Bell.

“Our dedicated team of technologists designed and introduced an immediate solution that added capacity, so Bell and Telus could join the network,” Ron McKenzie, chief technology and information officer for Rogers, said.

“For over 10 years, subway riders have been without mobile phone services and the Rogers team is pleased to step up and make 5G a reality for all riders today.”

In a statement shared with CP24, representatives for Telus said, “we are pleased to launch service for all our customers in connected TTC subway tunnels and stations. Now, TELUS customers can browse the Internet, talk and text, staying connected and safe on Toronto transit. We’ll be working hard to expand the number of stations and tunnels covered in the coming months.”

“We would like to thank Minister Champagne for his leadership in ensuring that all wireless carriers have the ability to serve their customers in Toronto’s subway system, and that Rogers can no longer delay the deployment of wireless service for all TTC riders regardless of their choice of carrier,” representatives for Bell shared in an afternoon statement.

“Bell looks forward to working collaboratively with our partners to build out the remainder of the TTC’s wireless network.”

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow responded to today’s news in a tweet.

“Happy to hear that all 3 major telecoms have unrolled service to downtown stations,” she wrote.

“The work continues to expand service to the rest of the TTC subway system. François-Philippe Champagne and I will work to make sure it happens quickly.”

CP24 and CTV News Toronto are owned by Bell Media.


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Laurentian Bank CEO ousted as systems crash sparks major shakeup



TORONTO — A week after a system crash blacked out much of the services offered by Laurentian Bank (TSX:LB), the financial institution announced on Monday the departures of president and CEO Rania Llewellyn and board of directors chair Michael Mueller.


The bank said Monday that Eric Provost, most recently head of personal and commercial banking, has moved into the role of president and chief executive with immediate effect.

Provost replaces Llewellyn, who became the first woman to lead a major Canadian bank when she took on the role three years ago.



Montreal-based Laurentian also said director Michael Boychuk has been appointed chair of its board of directors, replacing Mueller, who resigned from the board.


The bank said on Monday that it had restored most services, but that access might still be slow or intermittent because of the number of people trying to access services. It said it was also still working to restore some functions.


In a letter to customers, Provost said the bank would be reversing monthly service fees for September, and opening some branches on Monday despite the statutory federal holiday as the bank tries to resolve the issues.


“We understand how precious your trust is, and we recognize that we have not delivered on it,” said Provost in the letter.


“My sincerest apologies for the inconvenience this outage may have caused you, your family, and your company.”


The bank said it would also work with clients who may have missed payments because of the outage, including help if someone’s credit score was affected because they couldn’t access their money.


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Fraud trial for CEO of collapsed crypto exchange FTX set to begin on Tuesday



Sam Bankman Fried looks at the camera while being ushered out of court.
The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency brokerage FTX, is set to begin in New York City this week. And while testimony is likely to veer into complex and murky topics, prosecutors are expected to try to boil their case down into simple terms for the jury: he took billions from customers and used it in ways he wasn’t supposed to. (Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg)

For a while, Sam Bankman-Fried tried to convince politicians and the public that he was the next J.P. Morgan. Now, he has to convince a jury that he wasn’t, in reality, the next Bernie Madoff.

The trial of Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency brokerage FTX, will begin Tuesday with jury selection. Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are expected to lay out a case against Bankman-Fried that alleges he stole billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits and used the money to fund his hedge fund, buy real estate, and make millions of dollars of illegal campaign donations to Democrats and Republicans in an attempt to buy influence over cryptocurrency regulation in Washington.

While the case will involve the complicated world of cryptocurrencies, prosecutors are expected to try to boil it down to the simplest of terms for jurors: Bankman-Fried took money from customers and used it in ways he wasn’t supposed to.

“Prosecutors are going to say, ‘look at where the money went and how it was spent,'” said Michael Zweiback, co-founder of the law firm Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo LLP, and a former federal prosecutor. “This case is less about the complicated investments and all about garden-variety fraud.”


From humble beginnings to having billions on paper

Before FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy last November, Bankman-Fried was one of the most powerful people in the cryptocurrency industry. “SBF” had an estimated net worth of $32 billion US last year, at least on paper. He interacted with former presidents, politicians on both sides of the aisle, celebrities, and CEOs. When smaller crypto firms started imploding in early 2022, Bankman-Fried told the public he would help prop up the market, prompting the comparisons with J.P. Morgan.

The 31-year-old Bankman-Fried founded FTX in 2019, and it grew rapidly. The son of Stanford University professors, who was known to play the video game League of Legends during meetings, Bankman-Fried attracted investments from the highest echelons of Silicon Valley. FTX quickly became the second-largest crypto brokerage behind Binance.

Bankman-Fried and his inner circle of executives ran their then-growing crypto empire from The Bahamas, out of the luxury apartment complex Albany, where celebrities like Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake have vacation homes.

FTX had effectively two lines of business: a brokerage where customers could deposit, buy, and sell cryptocurrency assets on the FTX platform, and an affiliated hedge fund known as Alameda Research, which took highly speculative positions in various cryptocurrency investments.

As Alameda started to pile up losses during last year’s cryptocurrency market declines, prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried directed funds to be moved from FTX’s customer accounts to Alameda to plug holes in the hedge fund’s balance sheet.

FTX founder charged with multiple financial crimes

The U.S. government has charged Samuel Bankman-Fried, the founder of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with a host of financial crimes after being arrested in the Bahamas. He faces decades in prison if convicted.

The house of cards that Bankman and his lieutenants built came crashing down in early November, when reports surfaced about the condition of Alameda’s balance sheet. Spooked investors, who had already seen several crypto firms collapse during the year, quickly pulled their money out of FTX and within days the firm was bankrupt.

John Ray III, the restructuring expert who was tasked with cleaning up FTX in bankruptcy, described the conditions inside of FTX as worse than Enron, long considered the benchmark for corporate malfeasance in popular culture.
Bankman-Fried is expected come face-to-face with his former lieutenants at FTX for the first time since its collapse.

Several of them have agreed to plead guilty to lesser crimes in exchange for testifying against him. This includes Caroline Ellison, who was the CEO of Alameda and Bankman-Fried’s off-and-on girlfriend, as well as FTX co-founder Gary Wang.

Ryan Salame, another top executive at FTX, pleaded guilty on Sept. 7 to making illegal campaign contributions to Republicans on behalf of Bankman-Fried, who was publicly making contributions to Democrats. It is not known whether Salame will testify against Bankman-Fried.

Ellison is expected to be the prosecution’s central witness. Prosecutors are likely to count on her to demonstrate that the collapse of FTX was not due to a few mistakes, as Bankman-Fried alleges, but to fraud. She has previously said in a statement through her lawyers that she knew funnelling FTX customers’ money into Alameda was wrong.

A grey-haired man wearing a blue pin-striped suit and red tie crosses his arms and leans toward a microphone set up in front of a place marker reading 'Mr. Ray.'
John J. Ray III was named CEO of FTX last year and has been tasked with recovering client funds at the collapsed firm. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

“I expect the government is going to be able to show that Bankman-Fried knew what he was doing was wrong, and here are the people in the room who can corroborate that story,” said Christine Adams, a former federal prosecutor and a partner at Adams, Duerk & Kamenstein.

The defence is expected to argue that while Bankman-Fried made some mistakes, the mistakes do not amount to fraud and FTX was just the latest casualty in the broad collapse of the cryptocurrency market last year. Until he had his computer privileges taken away by the presiding judge in the case, Bankman-Fried himself spent months reaching out to reporters and posting on social media to explain his actions.

“Look, I screwed up,” he said in a remote interview with The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin late last year.
Bankman-Fried was extradited from The Bahamas to New York in December.

Before his bail was revoked, Bankman-Fried had been permitted to live with his parents in their Palo Alto, Calif., home with strict rules limiting his access to electronic devices. Bankman-Fried was ordered to be jailed after Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said there was probable cause to believe he was trying to tamper with potential witnesses, including Ellison, in the case.

Crypto winter underway

Broadly, the crypto industry has still not recovered since FTX’s collapse. The prices of Ethereum and Bitcoin, the two most widely used cryptocurrencies, are still down two-thirds from where they were a year ago and the volume of trading in crypto is half what it was. The market for NFTs, artificially scarce digital objects meant to create unique digital versions of memorabilia or photographs, has all but evaporated. Roughly 3,000 NFTs trade hands daily now, compared to more than 40,000 a day a year ago, according to

Even Bankman-Fried’s former competitors are facing their own legal scrutiny. This summer the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao similar to the allegations against FTX, including commingling of customer funds with the firm’s investments. Coinbase, the publicly traded crypto exchange, has also been charged by the SEC with securities violations.


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