The overwhelming majority of workers at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto voted to unionize this week, rejecting the scare tactics of the company owned by billionaire Jim Pattison.

On Friday morning, Unifor confirmed about 70 per cent of voting aquarium workers opted in favor of unionizing. That overwhelming mandate comes after months of layoffs, pay cuts, hazardous working conditions and rising COVID-19 infections.

Worker-organizers with Fightback employed by Ripley’s played a central role in the organizing drive from the start. United, workers don’t have to accept conditions that put profits before safety.

The mandate also comes despite a significant anti-union effort by the company, a division of Pattison’s business empire. Between Dec. 20 and Jan. 7, Ripley’s sent out three anti-union emails and a stream of phone calls attempting to scare the workers out of exercising their democratic rights.

In its fourth email, relating to the union drive, the company acknowledged its defeat, writing: “This is not the outcome that we had hoped for.”

While the next step is to elect a bargaining committee, this is a significant accomplishment. The employer talked tough—but in the face of working-class unity, the bosses were defeated.

This is a model for the labour movement more broadly, which has neglected largely younger workers, especially those in the service sector, for too long.

Fightback enthusiastically supports the vote to unionize. Now, the mobilization must continue to defend against new attacks by Ripley’s management and to win back the pay and job security they stole.

Victory to the aquarium workers!