Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Deification Of Senior

You may find this BLOG absolutely unbelievable. Brian Masse won't! He already suspects I am right. I have read his several veiled attacks on the Mayor already.

I think we have been warned, especially after the latest strike talks broke down. If the CUPE strike is not over soon, it will last a very long time. I know this is so because this comment came buried right at the end of an unrelated story dealing with buying Red Bull tickets:
  • "Get your Red Bull tickets early

    Francis says he hopes the strike by CUPE workers won't disrupt the festivities. “Let's hope the strike is not going on," he says. "But if it is not resolved, I hope there will be an understanding that this is a time for us to showcase the best of the region to the rest of the world, and I hope that the picketers will recognize that."

That is the middle of June already!

I also heard a story that the City's new security people have told strikers that they are booked until August. Who knows if this is true or not.

I read this odd comment in Chris Vander Doelen's column:

  • "How critical is the CUPE cost issue to Windsor's municipal survival? A few days ago, I'm told, people from the upper reaches of the city's CAW leadership intervened in an attempt to convince their counterparts at CUPE's national headquarters that things really are different in 2009.

    The world has changed so much, even the much-maligned CAW gets it: it's about protecting jobs now, long-term. Sustainability."

Wow those CAW guys are sooooo helpful aren't they? I know that CUPE has run a poor strike down here so far to be honest from a PR perspective at least. I guess the CUPE union people are so dumb that they cannot understand anything about what is going on in the world and need Senior and his friends to help them out.

You have to admit that this is sooooo nice of the CAW. Here they are in the midst of a life and death struggle for their members with the auto companies and Big Government and they still have the ability to make time to help out CUPE in Windsor by teaching them the facts of life.

What a strange comment "How critical is the CUPE cost issue to Windsor's municipal survival?" Why it is very similar to how Eddie reacted to the CAW strikers turning down a contract that the CAW leaders negotiated with the Casino. Why should the CUPE members be worried about "investments in the City" if the CAW members did not. They are worried about their own personal issues.

This got me to thinking some more.

While Councillor Alan Halberstadt slams CUPE's Sid Ryan in a BLOG, his canoeing buddy Gord Henderson praises Senior to high heaven:

  • "Could the contrast between Kenny and Sid be any greater? Ken Lewenza gets it. He understands what it means to have an employer on death's doorstep. It took guts and integrity, not to mention impressive survival instincts, to hammer out a deal that cost Chrysler workers a staggering $19 an hour in benefits.

    Lewenza, the hometown boy, didn't just save thousands of Windsor jobs this week. He pulled this community back from the brink of a Flint-sized disaster.

    What a contrast. Chrysler is in bankruptcy protection. Its plants are closed. Its workers are surviving on partial pay. And the feds and province are forking over taxpayer billions to grease the arrival of a designated saviour, Fiat.

    Meanwhile, Sid and his disciples, unmindful of the carnage around them, fight for gold-plated retirement benefits for clerks and gardeners not yet born.

    How bizarre."

How about these remarks about Senior from Anne Jarvis:

  • "We had to make the necessary compromises to live to fight another day," he concluded.

    As difficult as it was -- Lewenza described it as "torturous" -- he knew when to fold 'em.

    Loud, a table-pounder, he'd been called a dinosaur and dismissed as a clone of former president Buzz Hargrove, hardline and militant.

    But could Hargrove, who retired only weeks before the hammer fell on the global economy and auto industry, have got a deal? It was Hargrove who divorced the union's longtime ally, the NDP -- and ended up with the Mike Harris government.

    Hargrove and his ego came to revel in the national stage and pictures of himself with prime ministers.

    Could Hargrove have reopened his contract, given up his gains? Or would he and his principles and pride have gone down swinging -- taking his members with him?

    "I don't believe Buzz could have done what Ken did, with all due respect to Buzz," said Gary Parent, longtime Local 444 executive and friend and mentor to Lewenza...

    But, said Parent, Lewenza knew the companies and the governments weren't bluffing. If he hadn't fought every step, the union would have lost more. Still, he knew he had to be flexible. He knew he had to both meet the demands and protect his members.

    "Put yourselves in the homes of the 9,000 members we represent and the 60,000 people in spinoff jobs," Lewenza told his bargaining committee.

    "This bargaining touched the heart and soul of what the union stands for -- protecting its members," he said in an interview this week.

    That's the approach that sets Lewenza apart from his predecessor, said Parent."

Wow, that almost brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

Then there was that nice letter Senior sent requesting the Mayor to talk to CUPE again and endorsing Eddie's canal project for the good of Windsor that I Blogged about. Again, he had the time to write even though he has all of these auto problems. What a guy!

And Senior was at the May Day rally too saying:

  • "How do you stimulate the economy?" asked CAW president Ken Lewenza. "The city has the power to solve things by putting people back to work."

One of the CUPE people told me there was even a "group hug" between Senior and a number of CUPE members after a rally because they enjoyed his speech so much.

Are you starting to understand what may be going on as well?

I suspect that part of our Mayor's thinking is to really hammer CUPE primarily on post retirement benefits for S&P purposes. Now it is job security too. I thought that CUPE's latest offer wasn't a bad one, certainly one that should have led to a lot more negotiating as a basis for a settlement:

  • "We agreed that post retirement benefits for new employees could end at age 65 and we offered to cost share an optional benefits plan for them. The City refused," said Jim Wood, president of CUPE 82."

Moreover, no binding arbitration either and the talks were called off by the Mayor since unbelievably he said:

  • "What happened was the talks reached a point that there was very little movement. Instead of sitting in a room and staring at each other, we understood the talks reached an impasse."

The Mayor is obviously aware of the pressure this puts on the CUPE workers and soon more drastic steps will be taken to allow Art in the Park and Red Bull to go forward and the garbage picked up. The tactic is to force the union back to work on poor terms while at the same time splitting up the membership so they fight each other too.

Poor Jim Wood is in a quandry:

  • "I thought we'd get an agreement, we tackled post-retirement benefits head on.... I don't know where we go from here," Wood said."

I know where this is all going. You should by now too.

At exactly the right time, guess who will step in and ask the Mayor again to resume the talks with CUPE. Why he might even act as a facilitator since he is so good at negotiating with the auto companies and the Government.

Eddie cannot refuse Kennie Senior. After all, the CAW helped him in the past:

  • Hargrove, who is to meet today with Martin at the CAW 444-200 hall on Turner Road, said he plans to hammer home the need for the feds to move forward with the Schwartz report.

    "We're going to be tough on him on that," said Ken Lewenza, president of CAW Local 444.

  • With Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello digging trenches in defence of DRIC's third-rate border fix, it appears it will take shrewder minds, like those of CAW president Buzz Hargrove and Local 444 czar Ken Lewenza Sr., to find out what's going on in the premier's head and begin sniffing out a possible compromise between DRIC and GreenLink.

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis welcomed the CAW's offer to act as an intermediary in finding common ground. "We're looking for anybody who can bring them back to the table. We need those guys at the table ... and I think Buzz would be great," said Francis.

What choice would Jim have since Sid Ryan is persona non grata down here.

I would bet that the strike would end very soon thereafter with the City winning most of the points even if the Union declared a victory. But everyone would be sooooooo grateful to Senior for helping out.

In fact, on the big deal re the unfunded post retirement benefits, Senior would be the expert on this. Why just the other day I saw this:

  • "GM Canada, CAW to set up health-care trust for staff
    Retirees protected

    General Motors of Canada Ltd. will follow Chrysler Canada Ltd.'s lead and help create an independent health-care trust for current auto workers and retirees as part of the automaker's tentative restructuring agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers.

    The new trust, which would help preserve and manage retiree health benefits not covered by the country's public health-care system, was unveiled yesterday, the same day GM Canada union employees began voting for the new restructuring package that was approved late last week...

    "Establishing these new health-care trusts is totally new and I would say it is a brand new innovation of social policy in Canada," says Jim Stanford, CAW's economist. "Companies now have the ability to pre-fund health benefits for their retirees and that is an important step forward."

    Due to accounting rules, the trust will be applied to a closed membership group.

    New hires will not be part of the HCT."

I am sure that Eddie would bend a bit on the new hires issue since so few are going to be hired now anyway in order to get rid of S&P's concerns, at least for this contract.

In fact, CUPE members may be soooooo grateful to Senior that some might ask to switch unions from CUPE to CAW. What a riot that would be. That would not bother Senior one little bit either since he needs new members and new membership fees.

Don't you worry, with his fantastic personal relations with the Mayor and with his son on Council, things would look up for the new CAW recruits.

And with all of those extra people loyal to Senior, if he asked them to help out a candidate running for Federal office, even a Conservative one who was a Mayor of Windsor, why I bet the new CAW members would go along since Senior knows best.

No wonder Brian should be worried.