REGINA, SASK: January 13, 2020 – Kalpesh Patel, co-owner of Birmingham, says he was reported in error in a video of “Meet the Scabs” presented by Unifor. He is threatened to sue if Unifor does not clear his name. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post
On Friday morning, Kalpesh Patel’s phone started ringing. It sounded so much that he stopped answering calls.
He said people called him a scab and asked why he is taking other people’s jobs.
Patel saw a video posted by Unifor in the middle of a bitter labor dispute with the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC). It was called “Meet the Scabs”. He saw his name and similarity, along with the words “Scab in the cooperative refinery.”
It left him “confused.”
Then he began to worry. Patel, co-owner of Vodka & Ale House in Birmingham, stands firm that he has never worked as a replacement worker at the Cooperative Refinery Complex.
“I have nothing to do with the union or the cooperative refinery,” he said. “I want to clear my name. I don’t want to damage my name and my business anymore. “
Patel was clear during a press conference he held at his business on Monday: he has never been to the refinery. He told the assembled media that he had never worked there, that he had no business relationship with him, no contract, no association.
Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the national president of Unifor, said the union is still investigating the matter. But as of Monday I was still standing next to the “Meet the Scabs” video released last week.
“We have no information that changed our position,” Doherty said at noon on Monday.
But CRC spokesman Brad DeLorey said Monday that he ran the name Kalpesh Patel through the company’s employment database. He initially assured the Leader-Post that no one with that name has worked for the company.
He said the name would have appeared even if Patel was working under contract as a replacement worker.
On Tuesday, DeLorey informed the Leader-Post that, in fact, there is someone with that name on his system, but it is not the same Kalpesh Patel that appears in the video.
Patel thinks it must simply be a case of mistaken identity. You can’t understand why Unifor won’t give in.
“There are many Kalpesh Patels, but I don’t know why they chose me,” he said. “There are so many Kalpesh Patels.”
His lawyer, William Howe, sent a letter alerting Local Unifor 594 on the subject. He demanded that Unifor delete the video and issue an apology. He said he was instructed to proceed with a libel claim if they did not do so before Friday night.
The video remains on Twitter, where it has now received more than 132,000 views. Patel and his face are still there for any Twitter user to see.
But Howe said he hadn’t submitted any paperwork until noon on Monday. He said it would take some time to proceed.
Patel did not commit to the threatened claim on Monday.
Chad Zipchian was one of the people who called Patel for the video. He is the other co-owner of Birmingham. Like Patel, he worried that history could escape them and turn people against their businesses.
“We are not in favor of the union and we are not against the union,” Zipchian said. “We are totally neutral.”
He argued that there is simply no way Patel can be working in the refinery as a replacement worker.
“If he did, he did a very good job of having a second moonlight job,” Zipchian joked. Because I’m sending it to Saskatoon and Moose Jaw all the time.
“It would be very difficult for him to do that without me knowing.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story included information from the Cooperative Refinery Complex that claimed that a Kalpesh Patel had never worked for the company. The CRC corrected this Tuesday, saying that name is in the system, but that it is not the same as Patel appears in the video.