An Alberta union is backtracking after using the term “Kung Flu” in recent correspondence to its members around the coronavirus.
A joint note to members dated March 19, from the International Union of Elevator Constructors, Locals 122 (Edmonton) and Local 130 (Calgary), responded to a “deluge of calls” from the membership regarding COVID-19 and supports that are in place.
The second question on the message was this: “I am not sick, and I have not been exposed, but if I bring the Kung Flu home, my wife/parent/roommate might die. Can I collect a benefit?”
Since the end January, Calgary’s Chinese community has been speaking out about racism and xenophobia around the coronavirus, with it being centred on the Wuhan province in China.
“We urge Calgarians to remain calm and not direct misplaced concern towards Chinese-Canadian Calgarians,” wrote Calgary Chinese Community Service Association Co-Chairs, Dr. Thomas Cheuk and Norman Poon, in a media statement Jan. 31.
“We must avoid demonizing the entire Calgary Chinese community, while remaining vigilant and careful.”
‘Common nomenclature’ among members said McLean
Mike McLean, business representative with Local 122 of the IUEC, said they didn’t mean any disrespect and had put that out in the letter “trying to be funny,” in a fake Q and A format.
“It might have been, perhaps, a lapse in judgement,” McLean told LiveWire Calgary, adding that’s what some of the union members had been calling COVID-19 for a while.
“So, I threw it in (the letter); it’s kind of a common nomenclature for it here.”
McLean said some of the members in Calgary had raised concerns about the content of the note. When asked what kind of measures they’re taking now to address it, McLean was apologetic.
“The intention wasn’t to be to be discriminatory or to exclude anyone, and just be more careful about that in the future,” he said.
“This thing’s really kind of taken on a life of its own. I’ve never seen like it, it’s kind of treading new territory here.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had also previously spoken out about the potential racism associated with the coronavirus, noting that people from a certain area do not possess any additional risk of being infected.