Hartland — Unfortunately for the striking employees of Covered Bridge Potato Chips in Hartland, N.B., residents of the province are unwilling — and more notably, unable — to boycott chips of any description, regardless of the reason.
Citing unfair labour practices and low wages, Covered Bridge’s unionized employees have been in a legal strike position since June, and Wednesday morning several were picketing outside the factory, where The Manatee had the chance to speak with their leader.
“We just want fair wages. I haven’t had a raise in the 4 years I’ve worked here!” cried Delilah Peters, holding a sign reading: “What a rip! Boycott chips!” “We just ask that, for the time being, New Brunswickers stop buying only this particular brand of chips, so we can get our point across to the employer.”
Our reporter visited several Sobeys and Superstore locations across the province to see whether anyone had heeded the union’s message.
“Look, I support these workers getting paid above minimum wage,” said Wally Burton, 47, at a Sobeys in Saint John as he piled 4 bags of Lay’s, 3 of Humpty Dumpty, and about a dozen bags of Covered Bridge Storm Chips into his shopping cart. “They’ve got families to feed. But I have myself to feed! I can’t just not buy chips — are they crazy?”
Sharon Urquart of Minto agreed. “There has to be an easier way to help them out that still lets me have my chips,” said the frazzled woman as she packed groceries — mostly chips — into her Subaru outside the Superstore. “What if we just send them some money? Who do I make the cheque out to?”
Premier Brian Gallant said while he is unwilling to involve himself in this highly contentious issue, he does feel strongly about chips. “After a workout your body burns calories like crazy,” he said outside the Fredericton Y. “So that’s when I cheat a little. Let’s see… I think jalapeño is my favourite, but I’m a sucker for dill pickle and ketchup as well. Gotta have my chips! And Covered Bridge is the best… buy local!”
We spoke with UNB psychology professor Kurt Gregory, who specifically studies New Brunswickers’ fetish-level chip obsession. “In my book, New Bruns-Chip, I discuss in detail the origins of our love of chips and our chemical dependence on the fatty, salty treat,” he said, eating stale Storm Chips out of his desk drawer. “The gist of it is, most of the year this province is covered in snow and ice, and we get cold. Our bodies need the extra fat to survive brutal New Brunswick winters. Not only that, but they just taste so good! Oh my god, so good!” he raved, rabidly licking the salt from his porky fingers.
“We can want to stop, but in the end, we’re going to keep buying all the chips available to us,” Gregory went on. “We can’t quit — we just can’t do it.”