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Author Topic: CLC Staff on Strike!
NNKN
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posted 13 February 2004 02:19 AM      Profile for NNKN     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, you read it right. CEP CULR 1 and OPEIU 225 are officially in strike position as of midnight feb 12th. Talks broke down tonight and the first picket line will be up at 7am on Fi feb 13th at 2841 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON.


From: Ottawa, ON | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 03:30 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Unions and central labour organizations are also employers, and at times act like any other employer does.

So from time to time this kind of thing happens.

Understand pickets will be going up at CLC regional offices across Canada. In Toronto, the CLC has its regional office in the Ontario Federation of Labour building.

The strike will close the entire building down as the various union staff and members refuse to cross the picket line.

So...solidarity with my CEP and OPEIU brothers and sisters!


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Polunatic
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posted 13 February 2004 03:49 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Unions and central labour organizations are also employers, and at times act like any other employer does.
You mean like when they pay people every two weeks? Or do you mean they're mean and nasty? Are you also trying to imply that at times union staff don't act like any other alienated employees? Isn't a strike a reflection of free collective bargaining? Are you saying that a union or central shouldn't bargain according to the rules they try so hard to enforce for their own constituents? If that was the case, then the staff wouldn't feel they needed a union. What are the strike issues? Or am I not supposed to question how my dues are being spent and just say "give them what they want"?

From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 13 February 2004 11:24 AM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Non-partisan partisan:
You mean like when they pay people every two weeks? Or do you mean they're mean and nasty? Are you also trying to imply that at times union staff don't act like any other alienated employees? Isn't a strike a reflection of free collective bargaining? Are you saying that a union or central shouldn't bargain according to the rules they try so hard to enforce for their own constituents? If that was the case, then the staff wouldn't feel they needed a union. What are the strike issues? Or am I not supposed to question how my dues are being spent and just say "give them what they want"?
Yes. Sometimes. Yes. Not necesarily. I dunno. No.

I think every working person has a right to a union but I have to say I get a little anxious when people working for a trade union act like they're working for GM. That being said, a lot of union leaders act like they're the President of GM so one can hardly be surprised.

Sadly, it's a sign of the times. In the 40s when the modern labour movement was being built activists with the CIO gave themselves over to what they believed was a movement. They did it for little or no pay because they believed in what they were doing.

Now we have a bureaucracy and everyone's fighting for a piece.


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Polunatic
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posted 13 February 2004 12:17 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I get a little anxious when people working for a trade union act like they're working for GM
Sad but true which is not to say that there aren't lots of good people working for the labour movement or issues of injustice.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


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robbie_dee
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posted 13 February 2004 01:02 PM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The broader question is whether you believe that an employer and a union should be able to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment in their workplace rationally and fairly, without threats, other hardball tactics or resort to the strike/lockout weapon.

If you see contract negotiations as fundamentally about industrial warfare between diametrically opposed classes, then yeah - it makes sense that the union organization's staff would organize and strike too.

But if you think these sort of conflicts really ought to be resolvable in other ways, then you have to ask yourself where either or both parties have gone wrong here.

I like to think of an analogy - I hope it doesn't seem in poor taste. But when you look at families with histories of abuse or just bad inter-generational relationships, you often see children reproduce the same dysfunctional behavior of their parents when they grow up and have families of their own.

I often wonder if the same pattern of behavior holds true in the labor field. Unions deal with all sorts of hostile, dysfunctional, even abusive behaviors on the part of the companies they negotiate with, and they rebel against that misconduct by management. But then the union reproduces a lot of the same dysfunctional behavior within its own organization, particularly in its own "labor-management" relations.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: robbie_dee ]


From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 01:29 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
You mean like when they pay people every two weeks? Or do you mean they're mean and nasty? Are you also trying to imply that at times union staff don't act like any other alienated employees? Isn't a strike a reflection of free collective bargaining? Are you saying that a union or central shouldn't bargain according to the rules they try so hard to enforce for their own constituents? If that was the case, then the staff wouldn't feel they needed a union. What are the strike issues? Or am I not supposed to question how my dues are being spent and just say "give them what they want"?

Yes and no

I honestly don't know the specifics of what's in dispute, but I understand its mainly pension related issues.

The guiding philosophy that labour "employers" are supposed to follow is that they should be "model employers". Most labour organizations do follow this philosophy most of the time.

However, sometimes they don't and there have even been cases where labour organizations (and other progressive organizations for that matter) have treated employees quite shabbily.

Sometimes labour organizations face financial pressures of course and like other employers sometimes attempt to deal with issues in an arbitrary way.

Its the arbitrariness that tends to piss people off usually more than the actual financial issues.

In any case NPP, you're quite correct that since most union staff people are union members themselves covered by collective agreements, the occasional strike is inevitable.


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spindoctor
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posted 13 February 2004 01:54 PM      Profile for spindoctor   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This thing happened in Alberta a while ago when the staff of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees struck their employer. It went on for MONTHS.
From: Kingston, Jamaica.....oh alright....Kingston, Ontario | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 13 February 2004 02:27 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by robbie_dee:
if you think these sort of conflicts really ought to be resolvable in other ways, then you have to ask yourself where either or both parties have gone wrong here.
I think the labour movement has gone wrong here. The fact that it has morphed into this bureaucratic monstrosity that fights over the divvy of the spoils is the prime reason why most workers are saying, "No thanks" to organizing.
quote:
Originally posted by radiorahim:
The guiding philosophy that labour "employers" are supposed to follow is that they should be "model employers". Most labour organizations do follow this philosophy most of the time.
This has always struck me as a bullshit philosophy. I met trade unionists from Colombia who feel lucky to get through a day alive. They call it struggle for a reason. Of course, union presidents who act like CEOs inevitably produce union employees who expect to be treated like any other staff.

Gomperism is alive and kicking - even though union leaders occasionally call themselves socialists.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 13 February 2004 02:43 PM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Holy Holy Holy:
This has always struck me as a bullshit philosophy.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


I don't really understand you saying this is bullshit philosophy. If you are saying it doesn't happen enough-yeah, I agree with you. I think in far too many cases, unions are crappy employers. A lot of the respect I had for Buzz Hargrove (sp?) was lost after reading his autobiography and his comments when his staff went on strike. He sounded exactly like Conrad Black and others-whining about lack of commitment, that he felt betrayed, and his belief that this group of workers were asking for way too much-made me puke.

The point is I really do feel unions should set the model for how to treat workers. In this case, one of the outstanding issues is, I understand, the workers wanting joint trusteeship of their pension plan. This is something the labour movement is demanding, quite rightly, from employers all over the country, and I was very amazed and disappointed to hear the central labour body in Canada doesn't want its employees to have control over their pension. Can anyone spell hypocrite?


From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 03:01 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
This has always struck me as a bullshit philosophy. I met trade unionists from Colombia who feel lucky to get through a day alive. They call it struggle for a reason. Of course, union presidents who act like CEOs inevitably produce union employees who expect to be treated like any other staff.

Gomperism is alive and kicking - even though union leaders occasionally call themselves socialists.


I've met lots of trade unionists over the years from third world countries who engage in a daily struggle to stay alive and have worked to promote solidarity with those struggles. And often times had to deal with the "why should we care about what happens X number of thousand miles away" attitude.

But does that mean that employees of unions in developed countries where the resources do exist should not be treated fairly?

One can use the "eat your dinner because people are starving in Africa" argument forever.

When you have organizations that have large memberships with multi-million dollar budgets that employ dozens and sometimes hundred of employees you're going to have some kind of bureaucracy.

And if you have bureaucracy, you're going to have employees who from time to time feel alienated from the folks who are on the top of the bureaucracy.

Shit happens. Life isn't perfect. Until then we have unions...and yes employees of unions who belong to unions themselves.


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Rufus Polson
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posted 13 February 2004 03:08 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Holy Holy Holy:
I think the labour movement has gone wrong here. The fact that it has morphed into this bureaucratic monstrosity that fights over the divvy of the spoils is the prime reason why most workers are saying, "No thanks" to organizing.

Well, if you've got a big union there's stuff that's gonna need doing. Someone's gonna have to do it. Given that it's not a union of independently wealthy socialites, someone's probably gonna have to get paid to do it. If someone's gonna get paid to do it, I don't see why they shouldn't expect decent pay and working conditions.
OK, so you could only have small unions and no big ones. But then there's two possibilities--either they're atomized and powerless, or they group together in associations. And the associations will need as much or more bureaucratic glue than large unions. So stuff's gonna need doing, and someone's gonna have to get paid.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
uniondude
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posted 13 February 2004 03:28 PM      Profile for uniondude     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Holy Holy Holy:
This has always struck me as a bullshit philosophy. I met trade unionists from Colombia who feel lucky to get through a day alive. They call it struggle for a reason. [ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]

So your life has to be at risk in order to be a legitimate trade unionist? What are you saying?

The staff of the congress - the majority of them come from affiliate unions, most of whom came from locals originally. They do excellent work, are paid fairly for it, but are sick and tired of the hypocrisy at the CLC.

The issues here are joint pension trusteeship, which ironically enough, Georgetti is a big proponent of. In fact, pension issues are just about the only thing he'll talk about in public.

Other issues are Duty to Accomodate - the staff unions don't feel the employer is accomodating workers with disabilities as well as they could.

The CLC as an employer is demanding concessions which amount to wage cuts, which no union in their right mind would accept.

And it should be pointed out that both CEP CULR1 and OPEIU 225 requested a mediator to settle the dispute - a request that was turned down by the CLC.

Anyway, I work for a union myself and see day to day the hard work, stress and frustration people put into their jobs. It's demeaning, hypocritical and outright disgusting what the CLC is doing to it's staff. I say power to them. I hope they win and I hope Georgetti never lives this one down.

uniondude.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: ]


From: Ottawa | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 03:29 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Well, if you've got a big union there's stuff that's gonna need doing. Someone's gonna have to do it. Given that it's not a union of independently wealthy socialites, someone's probably gonna have to get paid to do it.

Exactly.

Someone's got to stuff those 100,000 envelopes, write that press release (including the one promoting solidarity with that trade unionist who was killed by a death squad in Colombia), write that brief on "x" issue, run the website, represent that worker in an arbitration hearing, conduct training and education programmes for union activists etc.

In any case this is only the first day of this strike...so relax folks its not the end of the world. Its very rare that a strike against a labour organization would last as long as the one against AUPE. Its just too embarassing.

In most cases, union employee collective agreements are settled strike free, without even going to a concilliator. If they do go to a strike they don't usually last very long.


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Holy Holy Holy
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posted 13 February 2004 04:01 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Looks like I struck a nerve.

One - No one, to my knowledge, has ever changed the world working eight-hour days with a one hour break for lunch and nine weeks of vacation. Sorry, but it won't happen. The people who built the labour movement worked a lot harder then that and the people who will rebuild the labour movement will have to work a lot harder then that.

Two - I never, anywhere, implied that people should work for free but let's give ourselves a shake. There are a lot of staff reps - not to mention union presidents - who live much much better then the average worker they represent. They don't work harder then the average worker, in fact, quite the opposite and if you think that engenders solidarity you've never worked the line. Period.

Unless staff get four months of vacation the labour movement will be run by wealthy socilaites? Puh-fucking-lease.

Three - This isn't really a slag of the staff most of whom get driven out to strike by arrogant union leaders who are incapable of being fair or polite. It is, however, a slag on anyone (staff or leadership) who somehow feels they have a right to travel in first-class, make six figures, stay in the Hilton and spend their winters in Cuba - and spend my dues doing it. This sort of largesse is what makes the labour movement uninspiring and ineffective.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Holy Holy Holy ]


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 08:22 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Looks like I struck a nerve.

You will strike a nerve if you slam groups of workers unfairly. Your comments aren't much different than Mel Lastman's comments about members of CUPE who work for the City of Toronto wanting "jobs for life".

I don't know of any union staff who get nine weeks of vacation per year. Please show me this collective agreement.

And even if this mysterious collective agreement exists, you'd have to have worked probably 25 or 30 years for the organization to get it.

I don't know any union staff collective agreement which gives a staff rep the "right" to travel in "first class" or stay in the most expensive hotels or vacation in Cuba the whole winter. And by the way there is no "Hilton" in Cuba...it was nationalized after the revolution and is the "Havana Libre".


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Polunatic
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posted 13 February 2004 09:07 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't think the issue of bureaucracy really explains this. I think it's an issue of politics. Once people leave their "real" job to become permanent union staffers, there is a divide that's been crossed. Suddenly there are competing interests - is the union primarilly a workplace for the select few or does it belong to its members? Unions with a political (as opposed to service) orientation are in a better position to cope with these dynamics but none are invulnerable to the phenonmenon.

I really do resent seeing union staff get paid overtime while I'm collecting strike pay because strike support has become "bargaining unit work". I resent self-interest being elevated to the level of "principle". And while I'm sympathetic to the "model" employer position, that also gets twisted into some kind of utopian view of non-accountability used to silence anyone who might ask questions.

I much prefer the CUPW or OSSTF (ontario secondary school teachers) models where most of the professional staff are elected. Elected staff become directly accountable to the members and much closer to the ground. They also earn pretty much the salary of their regular jobs. In an ideal world there would also be term limits to give as many people as possible the opportunity to serve the union and the members.

Having said that, it is incumbent on unions and centrals to treat their staff fairly but it should not be automatically assumed that the union is ALWAYS wrong and the staff are ALWAYS right. I think it's quite legitimate to examine the issues and avoid becoming cheerleaders. Sometimes I think that Joe Hill is rolling round in his grave.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 13 February 2004 09:53 PM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
my oh my. I hope I never have to staff your grievance arbitration.

Even unions that are not "business" or "service" unions need professional staff. Some of us do come out of bargaining units but even if we do that doesn't mean we can continue being treated like volunteers once we make the leap. If making the leap to union organizing means you have sacrificed your career (like me when I made the switch from academia), why should we not want a little job security? Why shouldn't we get paid overtime or time in lieu when we work 16 hour days trying to make sure you get a fair collective agreement? Or get your unit certified? Or organize your picket lines? You can negotiate these things into your contract, but we can't? We help union members resist concessions in bargaining every day. Why should we not be expected to do the same when it comes to our own collective agreements? Why, because we provide our labour for the greater good? Well, we are doing it for the greater good but we are WORKING when we do it. We have a lot of passion for the labour movement and for social justice, and that's why we work where we work. It's also why many of us spend our off hours doing community and political organizing, coalition-building, and so on. You think I get paid for all the stuff I do for the NDP, or other community campaigns I've worked on? Hardly.

And it's not just the professional staff on strike right now. The administrative staff are out as well. Do you apply the same discriminatory principles to them?


I'm not a CLC staffer but you can bet your boots I walked the picket line with them today. And I'll be there Monday as well, if that's what it takes.


From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 13 February 2004 10:24 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I much prefer the CUPW or OSSTF (ontario secondary school teachers) models where most of the professional staff are elected. Elected staff become directly accountable to the members and much closer to the ground. They also earn pretty much the salary of their regular jobs. In an ideal world there would also be term limits to give as many people as possible the opportunity to serve the union and the members.

Therein lies the difference between union staff and elected union officials.

Union staff are employees who have little say in what goes on in their workplace. Elected officials do have some say.

If you've been elected by the membership you can easily tell the rest of the union executive "screw you".

If you are union staff, you are in an "employer/employee" relationship which is very different indeed. You do what you're told to do.

A different "model" might be worth looking at but
I don't think the labour movement will ever get to the point where we hold elections for the mail room clerk.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: radiorahim ]


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Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 February 2004 10:31 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Non-partisan partisan:
Or am I not supposed to question how my dues are being spent and just say "give them what they want"?

I don't want to be unnecessarily provocative, but if you replace the word 'dues' with 'taxes', then you might get an insight as to why public sector unions' bargaining positions don't always enjoy a great deal of public support.


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Polunatic
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posted 13 February 2004 10:35 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I guess I've now touched a raw nerve. First, I never suggested that admin staff should be elected or not have job security or a decent contract. And I didn't say ALL professional positions should be elected. Nor did I suggest that people who currently work for unions don't deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and earn a decent living. And I haven't taken any position on the current CLC strike either since I'm not sure what the issues are. And nobody's forcing anyone to give up their careers.

quote:
Or organize your picket lines?
But why is it that organizing my picket line is your bargaining unit work? Strikes belong to the members - not to the staff and not even to the activists. How did that happen? That's where I've got the problem. It's the attitude that the staff's role supercedes that of local activists. Often implicit in this is an arrogant and elitist view that members and activists are a bunch of idiots who can't organize anything of importance on our own and that if they do they're somehow stepping on the staff's turf. Rather than supporting the members, some staff see themselves as substituting for the activists because local structures are often weak. This is extremely disempowering (which of course then makes staff indispensible) and deepens what has become a vicious circle in many unions.

Anyway, this is dangerous turf to be making sweeping generalizations because every union has it's own history and culture. I'm speaking mainly from my own experience in a public sector union.

[ 13 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
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posted 14 February 2004 12:59 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Anyway, this is dangerous turf to be making sweeping generalizations because every union has it's own history and culture. I'm speaking mainly from my own experience in a public sector union.

True, every union and central labour organization is different.

quote:
But why is it that organizing my picket line is your bargaining unit work? Strikes belong to the members - not to the staff and not even to the activists. How did that happen? That's where I've got the problem. It's the attitude that the staff's role supercedes that of local activists. Often implicit in this is an arrogant and elitist view that members and activists are a bunch of idiots who can't organize anything of importance on our own and that if they do they're somehow stepping on the staff's turf. Rather than supporting the members, some staff see themselves as substituting for the activists because local structures are often weak. This is extremely disempowering (which of course then makes staff indispensible) and deepens what has become a vicious circle in many unions.

Part of the development of union bureaucracy is the result of the legalization of unions and the establishment of grievance/arbitration procedures and very complicated collective bargaining legislation.

On the one hand labour relations legislation has given rights to workers, on the other hand its put those rights into legal straitjackets.

Strikes in Canada (and elsewhere) are illegal except in very narrow circumstances. You can only legally strike after the collective agreement has expired ...and only do that after going through various mediation and conciliation processes.

You can't for example go on strike because the employer has violated the collective agreement. You've got to go through a grievance/arbitration process that can take a year or two before there's some kind of resolution...and by then, its often "justice delayed, justice denied".

So, the only time members are mobilized is at contract time, which may only come up every two or three years.

If the contract is settled strike free, there's no mobilization till the next time around. If a bargaining unit has gone for a number of contracts strike-free, it often is that much more difficult to mobilize folks.

So, labour legislation has in effect bureaucratized the class struggle. Corporations have their bureaucrats, governments have theirs and unions have their own bureaucrats.

Often unfortunately, members look upon their union the way they look at an insurance company. They pay "premiums" so that the union will protect them from their employer. The system is very much designed to demobilize the working class.

So yes staff have an important role to play in helping to mobilize the members and to make sure that things are in place if there's a strike or major campaign.

Some locals have a good organization on the ground, while others don't.

A union staff member's "loyalty" is to the employer, which is the union executive. So if there is a political dispute between local union activists and the union's leadership, staff can get caught in the middle. They may know that the local leadership is correct, but they are required to follow the instructions of the union's leadership. I'm also not saying that local activists/members are always right either.

Needless to say, this is one of the sources of job stress when you work in the labour movement...dancing around all of the internal politics while trying to get a job done.

To tell you the truth, when you look at it, public employees are often put in the same situation. They have to administer programmes or legislation that they didn't design and folks often take out their frustrations on "the messenger" as opposed to the decision-maker.

I don't know of any group of workers that goes on strike on a whim. So my "knee-jerk" reaction is always going to be to support those who are on strike unless someone can make a very compelling case that the strikers are wrong.

As I find out more details about this dispute, I find my instincts to be correct.


From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 14 February 2004 01:51 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Actually, I misspoke. It is indeed not my "bargaining unit work" to organize picket lines, or do anything that our member activists would normally do. Our job - at least in my unit - is to provide members with tools and resources so they can organize themselves. If a local has never been on strike before, or if they haven't been doing a good job at mobilizing their members, then they need assistance with identifying the things that need to be done to become strike ready and get their members mobilized. Some locals need more support than others, though, and believe me in my shop we wish it was not the case. Hence the long days, considerable stresses and pressures.

When you work for a central body, or a federation, the dancing-around-political-minefields that radiorahim describes gets even more tricky.

It seems to me, though, NPP, that you are making some pretty sweeping generalizations about union staff and their motivations. Feel free to walk a mile in my steel-toed boots, anytime.


(ok, ok, I don't wear steeltoed boots. But I do have some lovely sorels for winter picketing)

ps anyone read Suzan Erem's Labor Pains?
pps I don't mean to imply the only thing we do is strike prep - we maybe have one or two strikes a year and most collective agreements are settled before a strike is necessary. Most of my work is organizing. Much more positive, but no less stressful.

[ 14 February 2004: Message edited by: vickyinottawa ]


From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 14 February 2004 03:37 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Please don't take my comments personally vickyinottawa. They're not directed at anyone in particular but at the overall picture. I acknowledged in my first post that there are a lot of good people working for unions. But talking about these issues is not part of the usual discourse. You won't see these debates in Our Times. But since you've challenged me to walk in your shoes for a day, which I'm prepared to do(figuratively at least) I'd like to know if you've ever led a local or been on strike? Have you ever had to work day in and day out with co-worker scabs?

As others have noted, the evolution of professional unions, the role of staff and their subsequent unionization (and alienation) and the contradictions and tensions inherent in the labour movement are issues of great concern for many activists who face roadblocks of all kinds (the boss, divisions within the workplace, the union and yes, sometimes the union staff) when trying to organize.

To re-iterate my main point - it's important to get all the facts because gut reactions cut both ways - we support our union and we support striking workers. When the unionized staff of a union go on strike these gut reactions clash. Rhetoric and knee-jerk reactions are not the answer.


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 14 February 2004 01:10 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Canadian Labour Congress hit by picket lines as 110 staff members strike 12:05 PM EST Feb 14
OTTAWA (CP) - Offices of the Canadian Labour Congress were behind picket lines Friday after contract talks between the central labour organization and its two staff unions broke down.

About 110 workers hit the bricks over issues including pensions, job security and contract concessions sought by the CLC. "We want to negotiate an agreement without concessions and are firm in our resolve to reach a settlement that respects the principles of the labour movement," stated Bob Huget, a vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents 60 professionals at the labour congress.

Also on strike were 50 clerical workers represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union.
Canadian Press, 2004


I am totally opposed to concession bargaining no matter who's asking. If this is true (and not spin), the CLC should be ashamed of itself. How can unions credibly fight concessions if the CLC is seeking the same? Anyone have details on what the concessions are? (Bargaining often involves tradeoffs which I wouldn't categorize as concessions.) Also, the staff have been without contracts for 8 - 12 months according to CEP's news release. No news from the CLC website. But I assume the webmaster is also on strike.

[ 14 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 14 February 2004 02:10 PM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, NPP, I was president of my union local for 3 years. We never went on strike but we came close a couple of times - had to mobilize members for a strike vote, get HQ, develop picket line protocol, and so on.

I take it personally because it IS personal. Whether you intended to or not, the implication of your posts above was that union staff should not have access to the same rights as any other kind of union member. I've experienced the same kind of vibe working in voluntary organizations... elected people somtimes forget the distinction between staff and volunteers, and often place unreasonable expectations on staff as a result. Just because we're working for you does not mean you're not working.


Maybe I'm just in a bad mood today. I'll shut up now.

[ 14 February 2004: Message edited by: vickyinottawa ]


From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tommy_Paine
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posted 14 February 2004 02:55 PM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've seen no evidence in all my years that the CLC is capable of shame.

I suppose if there's been a downturn in rank and file disposable income, and it has resulted in less dues money being available, then a case for "consessions" might be made. I dunno. I doubt that's the case here.

I tend to think concessions are just a fashion that the International Unions have become accustomed to.


It's the ultimate tempest in the ultimate teapot.

The CLC could be brought to a complete standstill by this strike for years, and aside from labour wonks, very few union members would even notice.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 14 February 2004 06:45 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
the implication of your posts above was that union staff should not have access to the same rights as any other kind of union member
Other than my comment about overtime during strikes which you contrued as discriminatory, I think I've been more than "fair" in my comments. Why is it that every time this issue gets raised, the immediate reaction is that union staff are unappreciated victims and that anyone who doesn't agree is some kind of reactionary ingrate? It's just another way of shutting down the discussion so I'll shut up for now too before my house gets picketed.

[ 14 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


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radiorahim
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posted 15 February 2004 12:42 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Other than my comment about overtime during strikes which you contrued as discriminatory, I think I've been more than "fair" in my comments. Why is it that every time this issue gets raised, the immediate reaction is that union staff are unappreciated victims

Union staff should get overtime during strikes because they're performing work for their employer. I might see some merit in this line of argument for full-time paid elected union officers. Elected officials have some decision making power.

Even though union staff may be entitled to overtime, in many instances they don't necessarily claim this time...nor necessarily claim every expense they've forked out of their own pocket.

I've locked horns myself with union staffers over various issues over the years. But usually, months after the argument was "over", over a beer the staffer would usually quietly tell me "I was just doing my job" and I'd find that in reality they had a lot of sympathy for whatever I was trying to do. Then we'd be friends again and go on our merry way.


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Polunatic
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posted 15 February 2004 03:40 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I might see some merit in this line of argument for full-time paid elected union officers.
Full-time elected officers should only receive strike pay if their bargaining unit is on strike. As far as I know there's no such thing as overtime for striking members who go beyond the call of duty.

From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 16 February 2004 12:59 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry rr but any union staffer who wants a "normal job" with all the benefits and expectations should get a job somewhere else. These paid positions were created so that activists wouldn't have to work a second job to make ends meet not to provide a comfortable 9 to 5 existence. And, no, I don't believe that every person working for a union is a lazy ass but there's a fair chunk kicking around. I worked for years with a union president who had put in full-time hours and did his union work - all of it - on the side. Staff deserve respect and dignity, absolutely, but frankly the labour movement is dying and I don't think it's a coincidence that the bloated bureaucratic monstrosity that our labour movement has become is completely ill-equipped to respond.

I've traveled on a plane in which the entire first class section was filled with CAW staffers so don't tell me it doesn't happen. I've seen staffer contracts that would make the most protected Ford worker in the country blush with envy so don't tell me it doesn't happen. I've never had a staff rep who doesn't spend at least a month a year in Cuba so don't tell me it doesn't happen (and PLEASE don't tell me it's revolutionary).


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Holy Holy Holy
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posted 16 February 2004 01:40 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
By the way, this ranting of mine was not intended as a comment on this particular strike. I don't know the issues. I'm wary of any request for "concessions" but, to be fair, the CLC has been suffering a slow and steady attrition for over a decade now. They probably can't continue as they have before.
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radiorahim
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posted 17 February 2004 03:48 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Getting back to the issue at hand, has anyone heard anything further on the CLC strike? I haven't heard anything since Friday...and haven't seen anything official other than the CEP's Friday press release.

Are there talks going on? Or have they completely broken down?


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Polunatic
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posted 17 February 2004 03:54 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I have a google "news alert" on the issue but it hasn't flagged since Saturday.
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vickyinottawa
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posted 17 February 2004 03:55 PM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Got this today:

quote:
Help end the strike at the CLC!

A message from the Canadian Labour Congress staff,

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers' Union, CULR-1 and

Office and Professional Employees' International Union, Local 225

Union principles guide our work at the Canadian Labour Congress - each and every day as we support union leaders, union activists and union members in their campaigns for fairness. In this round of bargaining, these same union principles were our guide and are also why we are out on strike now, in spite of all our efforts to settle this dispute.


A pension plan managed jointly

Workers have a right to a say in their pension plans. We have a jointly funded pension plan. The employer is the sole administrator. The union is seeking joint management of our pension money. This is CLC policy. CLC Officers publicly say that workers should bargain jointly administered, jointly controlled pension funds - but when workers at the CLC asked for the same in bargaining, the CLC Officers said no.

You may hear CLC management say they have agreed to joint trusteeship of the pension plan. However, the employer has left out of its proposal the key ingredient of a joint trusteeship - shared decision-making in the management of the pension fund.

Equal treatment for all workers in the workplace

Workers have the right to equal protection within the Collective Agreement. At the bargaining table, the employer wants to single out members for special treatment or punitive measures. As a union, we have a duty to provide fair representation to each of our members - supporting them whether it's an issue of temporary work or early retirement. The union must be able to protect its members from being singled out, exploited or divided.

Protecting our collective agreement from concessions

Workers have a right to maintain long-standing benefits. It is CLC policy to oppose concessionary bargaining. For this reason, the Sisters and Brothers of OPEIU 225 have advised the employer that there will be no divid-and-conquer strategy among workers at the CLC. If the Employer insists on forcing CEP to accept concessions, there will be no agreement with either Union. The employer has proposed concessions on self-funded leave staffing requirements and a cap on gas card usage for some of our workers. For some, the wage increase offered by the employer would barely cover the loss of money from a gas cap.

Attempting to get an agreement

The members of CEP CULR - 1 and OPEIU 225 do not want to be on strike. After the employer declined the assistance of a new mediator assigned by the Ministry of Labour, both unions approached the employer together and requested they reconsider this position. The employer refused. Without a mediator, bargaining reached an impasse.
A time for leadership

Our movement is a progressive voice for working people...Labour's agenda is too urgent to divert our attention to disagreements within.

We should be working to make sure workers' issues have a high priority in the upcoming Federal election.

We should be working to build the capacity of union activists and leadership around the country through education, organizing and other activities.

We should be addressing pressing social and economic issues important to workers in Canada and around the world.

We should be working with our partners in community organizations, supporting the important work they do to end poverty and inequality, protect the environment and promote peace.


Help end the strike

We are determined to hold firm for improvements that are reasonable, affordable and consistent with principles we work to promote every day. The Union's Bargaining Committee is prepared to meet with CLC management at any time to reach an agreement and end this strike.

You can help to end the strike at the Canadian Labour Congress.

Contact the CLC Officers. Tell them they are jeopardizing the credibility of the entire labour movement, not only in Canada but with our partners around the world.

Call your National Union President. Express your concern about the CLC management's forcing its workers to go on strike and your support for our issues. Ask them to pass on your concerns to the CLC Officers.

Visit us on a picket line in your community. Expressions of solidarity mean so much to our members. It tells us we are not alone, and bolsters our strength and determination. It also shows the employer that their actions are not going unnoticed. Remember - the longer the line, the shorter the strike!

If you cannot visit us, send us an email message of solidarity at [email protected]



From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 17 February 2004 03:56 PM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
here is the OPEIU 225 site

[ 17 February 2004: Message edited by: vickyinottawa ]


From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Pimji
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posted 17 February 2004 09:52 PM      Profile for Pimji   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I drive by the strike every day on my way to work. I'll try to stop by and ask how its going and report back. I probably won't have time until Friday however.
From: South of Ottawa | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 17 February 2004 09:57 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Bring some timbits for them on your way.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 18 February 2004 12:17 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I hope you're honking, at least, Pimji!
From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Pimji
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posted 19 February 2004 12:09 AM      Profile for Pimji   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You betcha.
From: South of Ottawa | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 19 February 2004 02:08 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The employer has proposed concessions on self-funded leave staffing requirements and a cap on gas card usage for some of our workers. For some, the wage increase offered by the employer would barely cover the loss of money from a gas cap.
Any details on what this means? What was the wage offer?

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vickyinottawa
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posted 19 February 2004 10:15 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
if you're interested in following the strike, check out the "Picket Times" on their website. Yesterday's issue even mentions this thread...

click!


From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 19 February 2004 11:50 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks.
From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Pimji
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posted 22 February 2004 11:38 PM      Profile for Pimji   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I went over to the picket line at lunch on Friday, with Tim Bits for the people. Their spirits are up and they were more than willing to talk. I had the feeling that at first they were expecting that I was some kind of union bashing a hole stopping by to lecture them however this quickly changed as soon as we stuck up conversation.

The CLC building is certainly shut down. I parked next door and had not dared entertain the thought of even using the CLC parking lot. This is a truly dedicated staff and is in a tough position. They had only praise for the CLC and Georgetti and pointed out to me that the CLC is an employer and that its a real drag to have to go this far in a labour dispute.

It was a very educational lunch hour being that my exposure to unions is very limited. One of my co workers , as it turns out, is a retired negotiator for Canada Post management so I decided to run by my visit with him to get his perspective. He explained that the strikers are in a difficult position being that their pension fund is funded by union dues from people who are trying to negotiate their own pensions. He also made a point to say that they did have a legitimate claim and recommended I read Bob White's book see how difficult it is to unionize workers, such as the workers where my wife works or where I work.

[ 22 February 2004: Message edited by: Pimji ]


From: South of Ottawa | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 22 February 2004 11:53 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The strike was described at a meeting I attended today by someone I really respect as indicative of the sad state of the labour movement and a reflection of the stubborness and patriarchal nature of the CLC leadership. I hope it's settled soon.
From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
interalia
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posted 23 February 2004 12:35 PM      Profile for interalia     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I agree with Vicky. The work that organizers do is important and these workers deserve to be treated in a fair fashion. They would not be doing this work if they weren't dedicated to the labour movement. Unfortunately some who support labour ideology or for that matter the NDP seem to believe that employees of these organizations should be so thrilled to be supporting good causes that they should settle for less. These workers also have families to support and mortgages to pay and job security issues to deal with and deserve a decent collective agreement. Labour organizations and the NDP have their share of lousy bosses yet some consider it treasonous to criticize them. A thread posted by Busy Bee in late 2003 raised the issue of labour relations in the NDP caucus and he/she got dumped on. The fact is that the party is the only one that supports labour (and rightly so) and so labour (OPSEU and OPEIU in this case) are reluctant to take them on in a public way. This puts those workers at a distinct disadvantage.
From: Toronto | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Holy Holy Holy
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posted 23 February 2004 02:52 PM      Profile for Holy Holy Holy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry but NDP staff at Queen's Park made roughly double what the average Ontarian makes, have a full pension, full medical and full dental - and they're getting peanuts compared to most union staff. It's tough that they got laid off but the NDP lost party status. What will piss me off, as a party activist and a trade unionist, is if the party spends their limited resources on anything other then hiring dedicated individuals who want to help the NDP get back into power.

I unequivocally support the right of political and union staff to have a collective agreement and a strong organization to back it up. If bosses are being mean, spiteful and arbitrary they should be held to account. If hiring and firing isn't clear and transparent they should be held to account.

But I am well fucking tired of being told, for instance, that NDP staff at Queen's Park are opressed or hard done by. I worked making ten bucks an hour hauling boxes with no pension plan for a psychopath asshole who threatened to beat people up when they filed a grievance. We had to fight management to get anything at all. That's a crappy job. My old friends there would regard somebody who doesn't spend their day lifting boxes as being quite lucky. Somebody who doesn't spend their day lifting boxes and making twice as much as they do is quite lucky indeed. And they had union jobs!

I'm constantly struck by how little understanding union and NDP bureaucrats have of the working lives of most ordinary people. It's not healthy. While the "professionalization" of the labour movement and the NDP has had some positive affect it has also created a labour leadership that acts like CEOs and a labour bureaucracy that thinks of itself as upper middle class.

And, as a consequence, the average union member thinks of their union the way they think of McDonald's - as a service provider.


From: Holy | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 23 February 2004 05:40 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
These comments are general and have nothing to do with the CLC dispute.
quote:
They would not be doing this work if they weren't dedicated to the labour movement.
I don't believe this is universally true. Lots of people kiss ass and get rewarded for political loyalty with memberships in the club.
quote:
Unfortunately some who support labour ideology or for that matter the NDP seem to believe that employees of these organizations should be so thrilled to be supporting good causes that they should settle for less.
Less than whom? Nobody has said that. They're compensated a lot better for "helping out the cause" than those who volunteer on their own time and do it for gas money and a slice of pizza. To be brutally blunt, I don't see more than 5 or 6 union staff (out of at least 100 in Toronto) from my union on Labour Day.
quote:
These workers also have families to support and mortgages to pay and job security issues to deal with and deserve a decent collective agreement.
Nobody has said they don't deserve a decent collective agreement. Have you ever read a staff union collective agreement? If not, please stop the lectures.
quote:
Labour organizations and the NDP have their share of lousy bosses yet some consider it treasonous to criticize them.
That argument cuts both ways.

[ 23 February 2004: Message edited by: Non-partisan partisan ]


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
interalia
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posted 23 February 2004 08:32 PM      Profile for interalia     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I was a union steward for a CUPE social services local for 13 years and sat on their negotiating team and negotiated a number of collective agreements.
From: Toronto | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 24 February 2004 12:00 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
And how did your collective agreement compare to that of your staff rep's?
From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 02 March 2004 11:35 AM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yesterday afternoon, a tentative agreement was reached. The sides got together very quietly, and have hammered something out. Not official, but the unions will be voting on it soonish. About time.
From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
vickyinottawa
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posted 02 March 2004 11:43 AM      Profile for vickyinottawa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
that is great news.
From: lost in the supermarket | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
robbie_dee
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posted 02 March 2004 11:45 AM      Profile for robbie_dee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Indeed. I am very glad to hear this is (hopefully) about to be over.
From: Iron City | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 03 March 2004 12:21 PM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yes, it's over! The membership had a vote yesterday, and over 90% voted for the deal. I guess some back to work protocols have to be discussed, but work will finally continue.
From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mycroft_
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posted 03 March 2004 01:53 PM      Profile for Mycroft_     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Has the CLC office reopened?
From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Nam
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posted 03 March 2004 02:06 PM      Profile for Nam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't know, but I doubt it. Maybe tomorrow, but probably for sure on Friday. Always some loose ends to tie up after a strike, and difficult to simply go to work next day.
From: Calgary-Land of corporate towers | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 03 March 2004 02:27 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Free collective bargaining works again!
From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged

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