Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, June 29, 2009

CUPE Strike Crisis

I know it may sound dramatic but this is what I believe.

There is no doubt but that matters are going to come to a head shortly and what happens will determine if someone may get hurt badly or wind up in jail! Cooler heads must intervene soon or else the Police Chief may see the drama he talked about in Star headlines flaring up.

Someone was doing serious polling again this weekend in Windsor about the CUPE strike. Someone wants to know the mood of Windsorites before the next big step is taken. That step is legislating the end of the strike and forcing arbitration. Or not. That is correct, OR NOT!

Does CUPE want to know if they have a chance or should knuckle under? Is it the City trying to determine if their strong anti-CUPE action will help the Mayor and Councillors get re-elected notwithstanding that they achieved little otherwise? Or is it the Liberals trying to figure out if Sandra and Dwight ought to support back-to-work legislation for Windsor if that happens in Toronto?

This has been a strike of gross miscalculations:
  • Eddie believing that CUPE would fold immediately since he went after the union with the most women in it and the lowest paid workers first so he could then use their precedent to go after the strong unions, Fire and Police
  • CUPE underestimating Eddie's resolve and his multi-year planning campaign and that beaten up workers in other industries who have been forced to take concessions would support them.

This strike has shown a lack of leadership by our elected officials who, if Councillor Postma is correct, should be censured for failing to bargain in good faith and CUPE leaders who have run just about the most ridiculous strike I have ever seen, making mistake after mistake.

This strike has also been one of opportunity allowing our Mayor to enhance his stature especially in Toronto by "talking trash" and giving CAW the chance to gain thousands of new members. As Gord could gush:

  • "Who could have foreseen

    Eddie Francis -- "the sick puppy" as Ryan calls him -- becoming the guy who took on Canada's biggest union in Canada's toughest union town and not only lived to tell the tale, but saw his popularity soar in a city where most purses and wallets hold a union card?"

Why the strike has even made blue-collar Windsor the best place for investment in Canada according to Gord:

  • "In going to war against the taxpayers of Windsor at the worst possible time, Ryan handed this city a gift, an unprecedented opportunity to vaporize its reputation as Canada's most militant union city, a city where table-pounding labour bosses have historically ruled like demi-gods.

    Week by week, garbage bag by garbage bag, defiant and resourceful Windsorites are punching holes in that decades-old image of Windsor as a blue-collar community in which big labour calls the shots and management either grovels or flees.

    It has long been a given in corporate board rooms that Windsor is hostile territory best avoided in favour of places like Cambridge and Alliston where an anachronistic union mentality hasn't been entrenched, along with a deep sense of entitlement, for generations.

    But that's changing fast, courtesy of CUPE's strategic miscalculation that it could bank on Windsor's rapid capitulation."

Even Minister Sandra Pupatello has been given the oppotunity to make a complete fool of herself. And the Premier gives her added responsibilities:

  • "Toronto is getting an apology from Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello, who suggested the city's residents weren't handling a garbage strike as well people in her Windsor riding...

    Pupatello suggested earlier in the day people Windsor were coping better with their 10-week-old garbage strike than those in Toronto after just three days.

    In an off-the-cuff remark, she jokingly referred to Toronto residents as "babies."

    She has since issued a statement apologizing for the comment, saying people in both communities are being inconvenienced and urging both sides -- in Windsor and Toronto -- to keep working at the negotiating table to resolve their issues.

    Pupatello also says she hasn't been approached by either the City of Windsor or the union to impose back-to-work legislation.

    Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello has apologized for calling Torontonians a "bunch of babies" in their response to the garbage strike...

    At a news conference promoting a cabinet shuffle yesterday morning, Pupatello, who hails from Windsor, was asked what she thinks about the reaction of Toronto resident to the city's strike.

    "I apologize for my comment," Pupatello said. "In both communities, people and businesses are being inconvenienced. I urge both sides, in Windsor and Toronto, to keep working at the negotiating table to resolve their issues quickly."

Henderson, Pupatello and Francis, these are the macho characters who may be responsible for this City gaining a notoriety that Councillor Halberstadt's son can live through and not just read in his University school books:

  • "Now that the CUPE strike has entered its 70th day, there can be little doubt that this labour dispute will take its place beside other doosies in the city's history.

    My son is taking a course in local history at the U this summer, and is working off a book chronologizing the 99-day Ford strike in 1945. The 1919 SW&A bus driver strike is also part of the course. Things were much different in those days. Andrew tells me that the bus strike was settled when the government sent in the militia to drive the street cars.

    In 1945. the Ford plant was located hard upon the Detroit River, and there were rumblings about bringing in the Navy to settle that dispute, which thankfully didn't happen."

You see, dear reader, the strike has gone on much longer than anyone has expected. Everyone is waiting for the stench of garbage to get so strong in Toronto in the next week or so that Queen's Park will be recalled and legislate CUPE Toronto back to work. Windsor will follow along, right.

I am not so sure. What if Windsor is not legislated back to work?

What happens to the CUPE members who are desperate financially and who expected to get some money soon as they are told to get back to work? What happens when some workers cross the picket lines or face losing their homes when others won't as the strike carries on? What about those who believe that CUPE has given in too much and not closed down the City? What happens with the hotheads who see no way out?

CUPE members have been kept quiet and restrained this long since they expected to be legislated back. It would show that their strike was not for nothing given the sacrifices they are making, at least in their own minds.

The consequences can be horrific if they are not. Remember this:

  • "CUPE leaders said Friday that Windsorites could expect to see an escalation in picket line activity by striking municipal workers and that the atmosphere had become "too poisonous" for talks to resume anytime soon with the employer.

    Many of those who spoke out at a CUPE membership meeting at the Caboto Club "were adamant that we've been too soft," said Local 82 president Jim Wood, representing outside workers.

    He said that, while "other strikes around the world, they get violent," in Windsor, "it's been a pretty good strike so far."

The Mayor has no incentive for asking for this legislation. The strike has been manna from heaven for him since he is the new media darling with support growing for whatever he may choose to do in his career whether here or in Toronto or Ottawa. He must believe that Windsorites support him. Yet, has he painted himself into a corner now and he cannot get out?

Why would the Star be restrained? They have not been so far. Its parent has its own financial problems for which it is seeking union concessions. Why would it suddenly change its position when its Saturday columnist can tell us:

  • "Now, with the days growing shorter and autumn mere weeks away, there's little inclination to wave a white flag. Winter? Snowplow season? Bring it on."

As for our Provincial politicians, what did Eddie and Dwight talk about in their secret meeting, if there was one? Sandra remembers how she got hammered at Queen's Park when she dared defy. They both know that their election comes a year after the municipal one in Windsor, a year that could be hell for them both if Eddie is still Mayor and the Star still loves him!

Notwithstanding that CUPE has been asking for arbitration for eons since it cannot be seen as backing down, Sandra and Dwight and the Premier can shirk their responsibilities by saying:

  • "I think what's really important is that we give the sides the opportunity to speak," McGuinty told reporters this morning following a minor cabinet shuffle.

    "They're not going to pick up my garbage this week – so it looks at this point in time. I will be inconvenienced, as will many here in the city of Toronto," the premier said.

    "But I think it's important that we just hold our fire and allow the two sides to do what needs doing," he said...

    The political calculus in back-to-work legislation is "tricky" for McGuinty, said Prof. Cheryl Collier of the University of Windsor, because two of his most prominent cabinet members are from Windsor: Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Economic Development; and International Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello.

    That could put Duncan and Pupatello, who this morning said there's been no request from either side in the Motor City dispute for legislation, in tough spots because both favour a bargained resolution in the Windsor strike. "

CUPE better start lobbying Sandra and Dwight locally and Sid better talk to Dalton to get them to understand what is going on. I am not certain that this will accomplish much however.

In the end, it all comes down to a couple of Councillors to understand how terrible this could be for the City and to do something finally to end this circus by either demanding that there be binding arbitration or to ask Queen's Park to act. All they need to do is switch their vote and it is over. Everyone needs a way out to save face and we need it now.

Do I see any hope? Not really. I had hopes for Councillor Halberstadt as being a leader until his BLOG error which will make him run for cover.

What I fear is that we may see the biggest miscalculation of all now.

You see, dear reader, it has stopped being a fight over finances but has become all political now. As Margaret Thatcher's speechwriter said:

  • "The decisions that really matter to political leaders are those to do with the getting and holding of power. Other decisions may turn out well or ill. They may cost billions of pounds or hundreds of lives, but for enlisted politicians those decisions are secondary. What matters to them is: will I still be here after this?"