Dozens of residents came out to show their support for SC Johnson (SCJ) during a Special Committee of the Whole meeting held on Tuesday, October 17, 2023.
While the many people were simply there to show their support with their presence, 14 people made up of local organizations, representatives, fellow industrial companies, SCJ employees and retirees expressed their support and gratitude for the company.
Shawn MacLeod, a previous employee of SCJ of 17 years, spoke about the company’s core values and their Community Enrichment Committee.
He brought councillors and those present through “an imaginary walking tour” of Brantford to highlight the many buildings and places that have been positively affected by SCJ including the Sanderson Centre of Performing Arts, Wilfrid Laurier University, the YMCA, the Community Resource Centre, St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre and Stedman Community Hospice, the Brantford General Hospital and its SCJ Department, as well as the SCJ Dialysis Clinic, W. Ross Macdonald School, Brant United Way, Grand River Conservation Authority and Habitat for Humanity.
Jeanne Smitiuch, Regional Director of the Dollywood Foundation, later spoke about SCJ’s “unwavering support of literacy” and its contributions to the Dollywood Foundation of Canada. The foundation sends around 3000 books a month to children under five who live in Brantford and County of Brant.
Dan Rankin, Executive Director of Brant United Way, said that SCJ has continuously shown up to support the organization.
“They not only contribute generously through their gifts, but they are the core driving force behind the Warehouse Sale. It’s one of the largest, most anticipated events in this community welcoming over 2000 shoppers a year and bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars that have gone directly to services,” said Rankin. “SCJ alone, probably contributes about $20 out of every $100 we raise.”
Rankin noted that without SCJ, Brant United Way will be able fund 20 per cent less services in the community. He noted that would be a loss of around $140,000.
“The United Way is the largest non-governmental funder of services in our community,” he said. “Many of those organizations will also see a direct loss of fundraising that comes directly from SC Johnson itself. It will have an impact on the hundreds and thousands of people in this community who sometimes need a little extra help.”
Councillors also heard about personal stories from employees like Jesse Robitaille, a current SCJ employee who will soon be celebrating 20 years at the company.
“Twenty years ago, SCJ completely changed my life. My wife and I had just gotten engaged, and we’re looking to start our lives together when I found out that I was losing my job at a local restaurant,” said Robitaille. “I was caught off guard and devastated thinking that I may never find a job again. I am blind with very little vision, and at the time, I didn’t have very much experience and had just a high school education.”
Robitaille had then applied to many jobs and attended several interviews but with no luck.
“I believe the employees were overwhelmed and weren’t sure how to accommodate me, at least, that’s how it felt at the time,” he said. “I was terrified, frustrated, and incredibly depressed. …I think that period of time was the lowest I felt in my entire life. I felt worthless, extremely embarrassed, and so badly needed someone to believe in me.”
It was through previous work with the Brant United Way that Robitaille had built up connections with various people including the then-General Manager at SCJ and was later given a job.
Ethan Brooks, a fourth-generation employee of SCJ spoke about how the company has been a part of his family since his great-great-grandfather began working there after serving in the second World War.
“Defining moments of my youth were partially made possible due to the benefits that SCJ offered my family including Christmas parties, summers at the company cottages, community events, canoe trips down the Grand and I’m sure many more opportunities I didn’t even realize were available to me due to my father’s employment with SCJ,” said Brooks.
Brooks is a veteran of Afghanistan and told councillors how upon his return from service, he was denied financial assistance for school from Veteran Affairs.
“It was SCJ that employed me through their sons and daughters’ program while I finished college, giving me the opportunity to seek higher education without taking on student debt,” said Books. “When I couldn’t find worthwhile full-time employment as a veteran, it was SCJ who reached out with an opportunity to work full time and make a living I didn’t think was attainable post military life.”
Brooks also noted that the company gives him full pay and benefits to attend the City’s Remembrance Day ceremony every year on November 11.
“These are just a few examples of the values that a corporate citizen like SCJ brings to our community,” he said. “I’m truly disappointed that the City of Brantford could be losing a company that puts its workers and community at the forefront.”
Tracy Heys, a retiree who worked at SCJ for 33 years, spoke about how when he lost his wife to cancer 23 years ago, the company’s president and CEO, personally gave him as much time as he needed.
“I had a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, and the President of the company came down and explained to me that I could take all the time off I needed with full pay and benefits – I was off for eight months. When I went back, he said if ‘you need more time, have it,’” said Heys. “This is the kind of company that you folks are looking at here. This isn’t some fly by night company where people are in and people are out – people stay there.”
Samantha Rossi was hired internally after her time as a manpower contracted employee, and spoke on behalf of her fellow colleagues working on the off-shift.
The 25-year-old spoke about how her and her fiancé recently bought their house in Homedale in 2021 and that she is now facing uncertainty with the state of her job.
“Personally, it’s very difficult for me to comprehend the benefit of 140 additional homes down there and when we call it “affordable housing,” I have to laugh at that because as a 25-year-old, affordable housing doesn’t exist. We’re going to sell these houses for $800,000 to $900,000,” she said. “Who has the job for that? How are we supposed to do that? We can’t. I’m telling you right now, from a generational perspective, my generation cannot. This is not affordable, and this is not beneficial to our community. Losing jobs is not beneficial, creating jobs is beneficial.”
After hearing from those who expressed their support, Councillor Gino Caputo introduced a resolution that would see the City retain an external lawyer and external planner to represent the City at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) appeal and that the fees for external services be funded from the Corporate Contingency Reserve.
Mayor Kevin Davis later introduced an amendment to the resolution that would communicate to Paul Calandra, the new Municipal Affairs Minister, that it wasn’t just him requesting a facilitator to help mediate the issue between SCJ and the Rosart Bucci Group, but the entire Council
The vote for the resolution as amended was carried 11-0.