Where in the World is the NDP?

Is this referring to the NDP?

Unionized workers are locked in battle with the government of Canada’s largest city. The trash is piling up, nerves are getting frayed and the mood, already pretty ugly in the summertime (when the people’s thoughts are consumed with heat and anger…and cottaging), is becoming truly frightening. If this strike goes on longer than a month, I expect people to start using the garbage mountains as fortifications and a civic war to break out. One one side, CUPE. On the other, every working person and tax payer that thinks we should all get paid the same and if someone DOES have a better wage or more perks they should apologize for it regularly.

But what’s really interesting about this isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong. Because clearly everyone is wrong. No, what’s really interesting is that the dispute seems to be happening in a vacuum. The Provincial government is staying out of it and will until it becomes politically nonviable (around the time the aforementioned war starts…about another month) and the Feds…well this is so far out of their jurisdiction that they haven’t a single reason to interrupt the golf or waterskiing to get involved. But wait…isn’t there one party that usually makes this kind of thing their business? Isn’t there one party that should, by all rights, be seizing onto this strike with both hands and riding directly onto the front page? Shouldn’t the NDP and their Torontonian leader have something to say about all this??

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You’re mourning the wrong person.

For all the people out there writing your teary missives on Facebook or Twitter about the death of Michael Jackson, can I remind you of something?

Michael Jackson was a child molester. And even on the very outside chance that he was not a sexual deviant, he was without a doubt a child interferer who’s illness led to the emotional damage of untold children. Untold only because he had the resources to ensure we’d never know the extent of his shame. So we could always keep a tiny doubt; or rather the tiny hope that he really was a good guy. I couldn’t give a shit if he wrote pop tunes, arias, symphonies, blockbuster movies or the Bible. He was a pederast and a predator. If he were anyone else, anyone that had done the things he’d done, we’d be having a fuckin’ party right now. But because he wrote some snappy tunes, was a celebrity and had a tragic public life we mourn him? You’re got this all wrong.

Any person that could do something so henious as interfere emotionally, sexually or in ANY way in the life of a child deserves nothing from us; give him the millstone and toss him in the ocean. But we’ve danced around him for years, so comfortable making jokes about his predilictions but never having the balls to come out and say “HEY! We ought to burn this motherfucker, not worship him!” And now that he’s gone, his death will shield him forever more. We can go on assuming whatever we want about him, trusting to blind faith that he really was OK and all those children were just after his money. It’s pathetic and you’re one of his apologists, you should be ashamed.

I’m not glad he’s dead. I would have much rather gotten a confession from him than have him gone. People who do terrible things should have to live with their guilt, assuming they have any.

Let’s use the moment of his passing to shed a tear for his victims; for they are his terrible legacy. Let’s hope they’re getting the help, love and support they need. Focusing on those children is the only decent way to mark the death of Michael Jackson.

Father Knows Best

Today I have my first guest writer…my Dad! He was a union man for 35 years and spent 25 of them as a Local President for the CAW. Enjoy! – Joshua


Knowing little beyond what has appeared in the media there seems to be a focus on the garbage side of the dispute. But as I recall you said the garbage workers, (Local 416 I think) seem to have fallen into management’s trap. The issue of ‘sick days’ is not one you want out there for the public that, by their taxes, pay your wages. Everyone works for wages, hopes for a safe workplace, gets some vacation time, legislated overtime compensation and maybe some will have employer paid benefits but it is unlikely many will have employer paid pensions. It’s very doubtful any would get paid for being off work when sick and they’re sure not getting paid for sick days they did not use.

Considering all that…it’s one point to the employer.

Then there are the piles of garbage collecting along city streets and in parks; parks where children play…do you hear me?!?…CHILDREN! And where there is garbage there will be RATS… Rats that will bite the children and spread disease. And let’s get some pictures of garbage piles (on day 2) in the heat, covered with flies and oh yes in +30C…STINKING. Too damn bad they couldn’t get a shot of a rat. That’d look great on page 1.

Add to the bad imagery the line ups at the few drop-off locations; poor old folks and mothers with small children in hot stinky cars. Why are there so few drop-off spots? All you need is a couple of garbage trucks at more sites and pretty soon it’s not so inconvenient and the union has spread itself further to picket them, disbursing their human resources. But pissing off the taxpayers at the unions expense is a great plan and after all, these “greedy bastards just want to get paid for not working or not even being sick”. The union should have seen that one coming.

Sorry picketers, but that’s two points to the employer.

As a quick tangent, there does not seem, at least from my remote site of Rondeau Park, to be a bitter response from the daycare users. Could that be that the moms and dads who drop off the kiddies have more personal contact with the day-care workers. Thus they understand that if you want quality, qualified people looking after your kids you’re willing to pay for that? I have not heard the sick-day pay attached to this group?

More importantly I hear that the LCBO and the union have a tentative agreement and even if there had been a strike the LCBO sold out most of their retail stock in two days, probably made enough in those 2 days to offset the cost of the new agreement. So the picketers won’t have any picketing buddies and it allows people to say “Well the LCBO got it done…”

Employer 3 – Union 0

So there are a few ramblings from an old union hack and that plus a twonie will get you a cup of Timmy’s…

It’s public opinion, stupid

My Dad, a CAW local president for 25 years, told me that few things are as different as private sector and public sector unions. The former typically provides products while the latter almost always provides services. When a private sector union, like the CAW, goes on strike the effects are rarely immediate. Unless you really wanted to buy a car that week, you might not even notice. But when garbage piles up, daycares are closed, mail doesn’t show up or the buses don’t run…people notice and people react. Trends show us that in a public sector strike, the people side against the union and the city worker’s strike is no different.

An Angus Reid poll released today shows 76% of Torontonians are opposed to the strike. A more telling statistic is that 53% of citizens blame the union for causing the strike. This is great news for the city. As public pressure mounts against the union the city suddenly has new negotiating options, like back-to-work legislation; which 81% of those polled support.

The poll didn’t probe respondents understanding of the issues on the table and I think that’s telling as well. When the citizenry is inconvenienced, they aren’t particularly interested in the issues; they just want the inconvenience to end. To date, when in the grips of a labour action, public sector unions (and I’m pointing a finger directly at the TTC workers here) have fallen back on their oldest tactic…righteous indignation? A ridiculous notion that the average citizen would, without proper education or encouragement, sympathize with the union position solely because the union represents workers and workers fight the “man”. What this fails to recognize is that the overwhelming majority of working people are not represented by a union and as such their ability for empathize with unionized workers is virtually nonexistent. It gets worse when unions are seen to be fighting for perks, as opposed to jobs.

To turn this around, I think the union has to do the following things…and do them fast:

  1. First and foremost, they must stop preventing people from getting into the garbage transfer points. A strike is about withholding services, not about withholding services and then attempting to prevent the public from using the crappy alternative. How does the union expect to get people on their side when they’re being dicks?
  2. Second, abandon the time bank. It’s the perkiest of perks, a reward for simply coming to work. There’s no sympathy to be had in fighting for that, nor should there be.
  3. They must focus on the treatment of older workers as their main agenda. When the Local president wrote about that issue in the Star this morning, it was the first time I’d heard anything about it. Seniors are active lobbyists (i.e. they write angry letters to the editor) and they tend to look out for their own. Get them on your side, right away.
  4. They need to turn the public’s anger back on itself by recruiting a 3rd party to go on an anti-garbage campaign. People don’t like being faced with their own mess and this is a great time to divert attention away from striking workers by putting it on real environmental issues. Sure, it may sound like a cheap trick…but at least it recognizes that public opinion is fluid and can be diverted, if addressed properly.

Finally, and it’s too late in this case, but unions have to be willing to take one for the team every once in a while. That doesn’t mean giving in entirely, but it does mean making potential concessions public as soon as possible. Telling the public that you are going into a situation as the reasonable side and doing so before the city can put their position forward puts you in the power position. Allowing the city to cry poor first and use the economic crisis as their evidence has put the union so far behind the 8-ball that unless they dramatically chance their approach, they really haven’t a chance.

Step 1…accept that public opinion matters.

It’s been 36 hours…we’re screwed!

Let’s talk about how soft and weak we are as a citizenry. It’s been a day and a half since the strike started and a city full of people that are used to waiting 7 days between pickups are losing their shit. Add to that the fact that Monday isn’t a collection day anywhere in Toronto, so at worst a small portion of households missed this mornings collection.

We’ve all had weeks where we didn’t get the bin out in time and surprise, the world did not end. Yeah it stunk a bit, but the world did not end. 36 hours into a garbage strike one might think we were on the edge of a cliff. The Star, Globe and Sun all have headlines on their main page about overflowing transfer stations and eagle-eyed bylaw enforcers. But why are the transfer stations already “overflowing”? Because Torontonians are freaking the fuck out! I’m sure the city knows that they easiest thing for the first week or so would be to ask people to keep their trash at home, but they know that would just lead to more impatient halfwits dumping their trash into a locl splash-pad.

Here’s another thought. It might be a good thing that every once in a while we get a long, hard look at how much trash we create. If a family had to keep all it’s trash for a month and experience the volume of mess and stink they create, perhaps it would encourage a more sustainable lifestyle. People who favour that sort of thing should be running all across the city this week. They may never get a better chance to show the city it’s own consumption.

As if having a garbage strike isn’t bad enough, we may not even be able to block out the stink of waste with the blessed relief of liquor’s sweet embrace. LCBO employees are set to strike tonight in a contract dispute over wages and work status. The Beer Store, a private conglomerate of Labatt’s, Molson and Sleeman, will still be open (as will some LCBOs, as managers assume the till) so all is not lost for the hapless lush. But one can only assume that this is merely the beginning of an era of labour unrest. Who knows what luxury might disappear. With garbage and liquor gone, clearly nothing’s sacred.

In the city strike, already the overreactions have started. The hospitalization of a striker hit outside the City Hall parking garage will surely lead to sanctimony from both sides. Of course no person should be struck with a car when engaged in a legal strike…BUT…if you block the entrance to a parking garage on a very busy street, you have to expect that eventually a car is going to hit something and in choosing to put people in that position, the union leadership assumes a risk. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of interests secretly hoping this strike will drag on. Miller’s enemies get to skewer him, anti-unionists get to fly their flag, unionists will try to put the focus back on the evil “Man” and the media get to throw gloom and doom on everything.

This strike will end, eventually. The government is unlikely to introduce legislation to put city workers back on the job as they haven’t done it yet in Windsor and that strike has been going on since April. Thus, It’ll be a long, stinky summer…at least until we figure out how to live with the strike. Maybe it’s a good thing the LCBO’s gonna close, we could use a few more clear heads.

The Shit Cycle

In response to this drivel: http://www.thestar.com/news/columnist/article/655045

With apologies to Mr. Lahey…


Am I the only one that reaches coma-like states of boredom whenever I read a “mad as hell” article like Vinay Menon’s leaden turd of a diatribe?

“My shed got broken into, the garbage bins are too big, oh poor me. Things used to be so much better!”

No they didn’t. Never. Ever. In the entire history of cities, something has always been shitty. It’s the cycle of a city…the shit cycle. Sometimes crime is bad, sometimes crime is low. Sometimes city workers are happy lambs, sometimes their pissed off. Sometimes we have a perfect summer, sometimes we have to work for it. This year we’re at the bottom of the shit cycle. So pull up your socks, put on a smile and get over it.

There are no solutions in nostalgia…at best you get a refuge. But hiding from reality also blinds you to it and convinces you of serious untruths, like Toronto being a bad place to live. It isn’t. It needs work, but I’ve seen a lot places in my young life; some beautiful, some terrible. I didn’t want to live in any of them (well, maybe Montreal)…Toronto is a brilliant city and getting better. The shit cycle always rotates back to the top. Hold Fast.

Gimme Sympathy

The heart-wrenching stories of minor inconveniences are already pouring in from across Toronto and it’s only been 16 hours. According to the Toronto Star, a guy had to wait a whole 12 minutes to get a parking spot at City Hall.

But who I am riffing on here, the guy or the Star? It’s bullshit to say “a bit of both” so I’ll say that when even the lefty paper (can we really still call it that? Royson James still works there, after all) is spending a disproportionate amount of words on pissed off citizens vs. pissed off city workers, it’s easy to see where the dice are stacked.

But who can blame the media? Momma’s have to stay home with their kids, Bay Streeters can’t get parking and the gay communitee must suffer the double indignity of a possible Pride cancellation and losing access to Hanlan’s Point. In the Globe, a Ms. Shiner (who can’t “chase men” to “stay alive” at the Community Centre) gets 5 lines of text before the union prez gets one; and then it’s to play Mr. Obvious and say that he’s managing an “unpopular” strike. Hey, mad people make better press than negotiations. So if this strike drags on, the cover of the Sun will get more vitriolic (Bastards!, How Dare They?, Stinks!, etc.) and people, suckers for anger as they are, will get all rowdy right along with it.

But what about the workers themselves. Again in the Globe, a Ms. Godard asserts that “times are hard and their benefits are more than most people have”. Well, so what? If Ms. Godard wants to live in a country where everyone gets the same pay and same benefits regardless of what they do…a perfectly fair society…then perhaps Soviet-era Russia is more your speed than Canada. In Canada, as in most of the Western world, people are free (to an extent) to make as much as they can as long as they play within the rules. Local 416 played within the rules, earning what they’ve got over years and years of collective agreements. And now their supposed to give it back? If the City does get a concession, does Ms. Godard expect to see a cheque. All that will really happen is the city worker will have less, which is bound to have a real effect on their life; and Ms. Godard will have a feeling of moral superiority, which can’t buy shit.

It must be tough to run a union today. Unions typically fight for a guy/gal that works with their hands trying to make something; people who used to be the backbone of our economy; people worth rewarding. But that was in a time when people didn’t weigh their self-worth against the whole world as they do now. A guy who spent 5 years and $50,000 on a degree gets pretty pissed when he’s out-earned by a garbage worker. Money equals self-worth and how the hell can a garbage man be worth more than a university graduate? It’s ridiculous and mean. But there’s nothing the unions can do about it. We are gradually slinking towards a class system and the unions find themselves representing workers who’ve been classified as “the little people”.

As long as you can find members of the public who really thinks it’s “unfair” that someone makes a decent wage with benefits by working with our trash (or our ferries, pools, whatever), then the union must exist. And if they exist, they must work for the benefit of their workers. And finally, let’s remember that contracts don’t sign themselves. The other name on there is Mr. Mayor. A Mr. Mayor agreed to the time bank, for example, and another Mr. Mayor agreed to it again in the last contract. Why does he get off easy?

The Garbage Strike…my post from www.spacing.ca/wire

Why should the union take it on the chin for everyone else? I don’t understand these arguments about “fairness” and call for magnanimity on the part of “organized labour”. In 2009 the great unwashed see the unionized worker as an overpaid burden while at the same time bemoaning the death of manufacturing and by extension, the middle class. As if a regular Joe/Jane can be blamed for getting a good job and wanting to make it better. When all unionized workers get today is scorn, what’s their motivation to sacrifice for the rest of us?

Look at auto sector for a moment…

Who used to top off the United Way every year? Auto sector unions. Who ran toy drives at Christmas? Auto sector unions. Who were the major proponents for boycotts against the social crimes of South Africa in the 1980’s? Auto sector unions. Decades of good works and our reward to them is to put the burden of solving the auto crisis on their wallets. If the unions didn’t eventually concede, we would have pinned the failure of industry on the working man/woman.

The guys in Local 416 have seen the writing on the wall. If they don’t fight for themselves, no one is going to fight for them. What incentive do they have to compromise? The example of self-sacrifice the rest of us are making?? Anyone think we’re going to throw the union a thank you parade if they cave? No, we’ll rub it in their f’n face. In tough times people have to hold on to their jobs with both hands. If you’re a small businessperson fighting through the recession you’re a hero, if you’re a union man/woman trying to do a little better than just “food on the table” you’re a villain. It’s sad and wrong.

One more thing…

Can it with the “they’re so lazy” shit, which is always followed with “in the private sector, those guys wouldn’t last a week”. Open your eyes and look around your workplace, how many morons can you count on one hand that have been there for 20 years and don’t do a goddamn thing? There are always people that fly under the radar…at least 1 day a week, it’s probably you.