I had my heart broken by the union back when I was in my mid-teens, schlepping books around at Cedarbrae Library. I was tough; I grew up on the gritty streets of Scabby Row. So did my sister. And our pets. And folks, of course. Come to think of it, it was a pretty nice neighbourhood.
But I was hard.
Then, just before Christmas one year, I was handed an envelope. On it, in scratchy writing was “Happy HoliDa ys, YOUR UniOn”. Hand-written; that couldn’t be good. It felt thick – was this a letter bomb? Had my antics finally pissed them off?
I tore into it. What in god’s name could it be? I flipped it over and shook the open end over my palm in front of everyone (that way we would all go together – including the bastard who delivered it).
With a yule tide jingle, out came exactly $2.47 in change.
I believe it was a dollar coin, four quarters, four dimes, a nickel, two well-worn pennies, and one face in absolute disbelief. I held the envelope up to the light to see if there was anything else in there.
And that’s how it ended. No goodbye. No thanks for the dinner. Nothing. Not even a hello.
That was, in fact, the first I’d heard that I was in a union and that I had been paying fees off every paycheck. I don’t recall signing anything or anyone welcoming me into the “brotherhood”. I felt so violated.
The stuff in the envelope were the crumbs distributed to part-time lackeys like me; a fair cut of whatever unwilling contribution I had made to their organization over the past year. For a kid who could clear two to four-hundred a paycheck, that was just a slap in the face. Ooh! I can buy a coffee! — Here, keep it. No seriously; buy yourself something frilly.
God, I was a petulant youth.
But that’s the impression unions left on me. So when I hear that CUPE 416/79 are ready to strike, I’m already a bit defensive. When I see the mess that the garbage crew (of that union) leave on the streets every week, I’m also not enthusiastic. And when I compare their demands to cushy private sector jobs like mine, I think they’re being pretty bold.
But that’s not so bad, not when you read the latest few items on CUPE 416’s own site. Their further demands are that “all concessions” (of which there are 118), that the city has tabled for discussion be cleared. In other words: “City, our members want to communicate just how much we don’t give a shit about any of what you want.” (Wow! Somebody got into the wrong cookie dough!)
I’m going to point out the blazingly obvious and say that this is the worst time for that kind of approach.
I’m sure the hammer swings both ways, but Monday’s the day when the city could be without trash pickup, and for what?
For the love of all that is good and holy, won’t someone please remember Chinatown!
Do you support the CUPE 416/79 strike action?
- What's a CUPE? (61%)
- No - CHINATOWN! (33%)
- Yes - I am definitely evil (6%)
Most readers say: What's a CUPE?.