Being on strike with five young children to support is certainly far from an ideal situation.
But Saltair’s Wendel Nash, who works as a trim line operator at the Western Forest Products Chemainus sawmill, and his wife Rachel are grateful for the support of the United Steelworkers union and the community through food and toy drives, as the strike drags on beyond six months.
The Nash family just grew by two with the addition of twins Gracelynn and Quinton on Oct. 25. Carter, 11, Aria, 6, and Ryker, 3, are the couple’s other children.
“It’s had its ups and downs,” conceded Wendel of the labour dispute. “The plus side is I’ve been home here to help with the babies.
“The union is giving us a very substantial strike cheque bi-weekly,” he added. “We’ve been able to survive. The union’s taken very good care of us financially.”
“The community really came together for Christmas with food and gifts,” praised Rachel.
“It makes me proud to have my family grow up in the Cowichan Valley,” Wendel indicated.
The timing of everything has still been a bit tumultuous for the family, including Rachel leaving her job at the Willow Street Cafe in anticipation of the twins’ arrival.
“I got put on medical leave a week and a half before they went on strike,” she explained.
She’ll be off now till next October to look after the kids in their first year.
“Financially, there’s been a bit of pressure, but we’ve been able to adjust,” said Wendel.
“It’s been nice to stick up for workers’ rights. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Many of the workers at the Chemainus sawmill are in the 50-60+ age group. Wendel’s situation at 30 is much different and wife Rachel is 31.
Wendel grew up in the area, but formerly worked in the Alberta oil patch before starting at the Chemainus sawmill. Rachel was born in Comox, but is originally from Nanaimo and lived all over the Island.
After Wendel and Rachel met, they briefly moved to Chemainus for a year before spending two years in Nanaimo and then relocating to their current residence in Saltair. The family started to grow along the way.
“We did want a big family,” said Rachel. “I love it.”
Rachel’s sister has twins with Wendel’s cousin so it was always thought at one time Rachel might have twins as well.
“I was at work,” recalled Wendel about the pending news of Rachel’s latest pregnancy. “I turned to my best friend Matt and I said, ‘it’s going to be twins.’”