Anti-Union Thuggery

Can you smell that?

A slightly, sulphurous scent with just a hint of nutmeg, I believe. Nutmeg?  No. More like frangipane.

The unmistakable odor of anti-unionism.

Here we are, 2+ years into the biggest financial clusterfuck in nearly 8 decades, and the overwhelming conventional wisdom has it that it’s all because of those privileged, fat cat, parasitic unions. More specifically, public sector unions. All levels of government coffers have been sucked dry by the relentlessly rapacious demands of their unionized public servants. Enough is enough. It’s time that we decent, upstanding, put-upon non-unionists start pushing back. We don’t have job security. We don’t have pensions. We don’t get overtime pay. We’re not given two months off every summer… Man, wouldn’t that be sweet. Wonder how we could get us some of that? Maybe, a group of us get together, organized style. Go to our boss—No wait. Correct answer is: if I can’t have it neither can anyone else! Just like in grade school. You can chew gum in class as long as you’ve brought enough for everyone else.

The full frontal assault is now well under way south of the border as a host of state legislatures look to enact measures ranging from massive layoffs to outright de-certification of public sector unions. It’s a battle played out in real time over the holidays in New York City after it was buried under snow between Christmas and New Years. After serious problems clearing the snow and getting the city moving again, allegations arose in the Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post from “unnamed sources” that the city’s sanitation union, smarting from cutbacks, directed members to drag their heals in doing their jobs as sort of payback. Never mind the 300-400 less bodies in the department to do the actual snow removal. Never mind the mayor’s reticence in declaring an emergency situation; itself a possible product of a hesitancy brought on by a desire to keep costs down. Never mind that surrounding municipalities not subject to the alleged union order work slowdown but under similar financial duress had trouble contending with the storm as well. It was the union’s fault which a subsequent investigation will surely reveal.

Such anti-union rumblings resonate up here, too. Despite proclaiming himself a fiscal warrior, Mayor Rob Ford led the charge last month to get a vote passed in council to ask the province to declare the TTC an essential service which would take away its workers’ right to strike. Never mind that this could cost the city more down the road in terms of mediated settlements. It’s the opening salvo in what is increasingly looking like contentious upcoming union battles the mayor is preparing himself for.

Which is just good politics if not good governance. Everyone has a story to tell about just how corrupt/inept/diabolical unions are. All those workers hanging around, perched on their shovels, filling in one pothole. Physical intimidation of the poor, trembling public at picket lines. That sleeping TTC ticket taker! Could you believe that? Yeah, the union said he was sick or some bullshit like that… What? He died!? What was the union doing, forcing a sick man to work?! It’s the union’s fault!

And if you yourself don’t have a personal anti-union anecdote to contribute to the conversation, you need not look any further than the media to provide you with one.

Witness “Dragon” Kevin O’Leary. Making out just fine on not 1 but 2 shows on the publicly funded CBC, he cannot mask his contempt for unions, calling them ‘evil’ earlier this week on his O’Leary and That Other One Report. Evil? Why? Their labour and legacy costs have been the wrack and ruin of the North American car industry and given China a distinct advantage in the automobile market. Apparently it was because the companies had to keep paying the unions more and more that they were forced to keep building bigger and bigger cars and trucks.

Or how about “There’s Not A Right Wing Shibboleth I Couldn’t Write An Incomprehensible Screed About” Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun. Her piece from last week is a check list of heads that must roll and kneecaps that must be busted for City Hall to get its fiscal house in order because, as you know, the place doesn’t have a revenue problem, it’s got a spending problem. The main culprits? Hint: unions and their ‘mob bosses’. Ms. Levy hits that note twice so that even Sun readers couldn’t possible miss the implied innuendo. Mob = mobster = gangster = criminal = should be in jail. She throws in a ‘dictatorial’ descriptor as well to suggest that unions are anti-democratic.

This is nothing less than class warfare. More sadly, it’s class civil war with the middle and lower classes at each other’s throats over an ever decreasing slice of the economic pie brought on by 30 years of upward redistribution of wealth. The public purse has been ransacked by a frenzied rush to the bottom of tax cuts and the movement of our manufacturing base overseas in the name of unfettered, under-regulated, free market globalization. With the occasional bailout of industries deemed too big to fail. Yet somehow, it’s all the unions’ and our public sectors’ fault.

Such easy scapegoating is indicative of moral cowardice on our part. We know who’s to blame for the financial straits we are currently facing but engaging the real culprits is a much bigger, nastier battle than we’re willing to be a part of. So instead, we turn on easier targets, making ourselves feel better in the process but doing absolutely nothing to solve our problems.

submitted by Cityslikr

14 Responses to Anti-Union Thuggery

  1. penny says:

    Check out Krugman’s column in the Times today.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1&hp
    Illustartes how down there in Texas there are Texas-sized budget shortfalls and this in a state where less than 20% of public servamts are unionized. Hmmm….

  2. penny says:

    PS. Can you PLEASE chsnge the background colour for the new year? These eyes ain’t getting any younger and this white on black blog is driving me to early macular degeneration.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Penny,

      Damn you and your old eyes! Maybe you’re spending too much time out in the bright, bright, warm, oh so warm sunshine.

      Format/site redevelopment is on our new year’s To Do list here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Right after we bone up on our How to Format/site Redevelop Blog material.

  3. Sonny Yeung says:

    The first union up for negotiations is the Police that have hinted another jurisdiction north of TO got 3.5% that will set the tone… Ford still needs the Province to make TTC “essential” which would cost TO taxpayers an additional $12 million each year to remove the right to strike. The garbage workers contract ends in 2012 and may be privatized.
    O’Leary probably thinks greed is good. Amanda Lang is the feisty one!(smile)

  4. Walt says:

    I’m sure I’ll be told that I’m full of shit but I have to take offence with most of the commentary regarding the attacks on the unions. Of course the unions are not to blame for all of our financial woes, and are not a significant part of the problem, but, neither are they a part of any possible solution. Damn the reality, we didn’t cause this, fuck all of you taxpayers, give us what we want or find someone else to provide your services! Our way or the highway assholes!
    What is not talked about is that most union members are now in the middle class that is beating the lower class over the head so that they can maintain their middle class standard. There is no lower vs middle class battle, its a fucking annihilation, with lower class people not having any chance of moving up because every penny is being sucked out of their pockets so that the brothers and sisters can keep on giving their full 60%.
    The unionized middle class complains about the upper class giving them a beating but they are also puting the boots to the unwashed below them.
    The unions do suck, and have made themselves targets of anger, because every negotiation turns into a battle and every battle has to be won by the unions. If the employer tries to fight back then the cry is made that the employer is not willing to negotiate. What a bunch of fucking assholes.
    The middle class will continue to shrink as non-union workers get booted down to the bottom but at least this will give the remining unionized contingent more heads to stomp on.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Walt,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke wouldn’t say you’re ‘full of shit’ although we do think you might be prone to broad generalizations, i.e. ‘unions do suck’, ‘every negotiation turns into a battle…’

      If we understand your argument correctly, you’re suggesting the lower class is being beaten down by the middle (union) class as the middle class clutches on to its slice of the economic pie. It seems to us, in fact, that stats show both middle and lower classes being squeezed over the last 30 years. Real wages for the overwhelming majority of Canadians (union and non-union alike) have stagnated owing to a combination of factors such as a decline in government transfer payments, the loss of a stable manufacturing base in many parts of the country and (perhaps coincidentally) a precipitous drop in union rates especially in the private sector, all in the face of one of the biggest historical economic expansions from the mid-1990s until the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008. Money has been made, hand over fist in many cases, but the often touted trickle down effect has been largely absent. Both middle and lower classes have lost ground regardless of whether or not they belong to a union. If anyone’s been sucking pennies out of the pocket of lower income earners, the culprits lie higher up the wealth ladder. Look up, way up.

      That union members may’ve fared better during this upward redistribution of wealth than their non-union counterparts should hardly be held against them. Whatever success they have had, should be something to be emulated not ridiculed.

  5. Sonny Yeung says:

    Dear Walt; your full of it!(smile) The tone is set by the Media. Crapping all over Miller and the City Unions when Ford may do the same old. See police union negotiations. This year the focus will be on the Provincial workers and McGuinty while the Harper incumbency gets a free ride from the corporate media. The data shows the middle class will erode 2/3rds to the lower class and the educated will rise to the upper class. So the difference is compensation based on Education. Since the financial meltdown of various investments, people with diminished investments are blaming workers rather than the managers and CEOs who would have been riding the same business cycle as the others anyways. Whose gonna step on you again?(Happy Mondays)

  6. Peter MacQuarie says:

    ” The tone is set by the Media.”
    “people with diminished investments are blaming workers”

    I don’t know what you’re talking about? What “tone” are you referring to and who is blaming workers?

    I understood Walt’s post and see much I can agree with there. He’s keeping it real with his comments, not trying to impress anybody.

  7. Sonny Yeung says:

    Yo Peter, Walt was saying something about the workers… Had you read the article? it mentioned something about a financial meltdown… So some people loss money and felt it was necessary to blame workers for making money from a pool of taxes…

  8. Peter MacQuarie says:

    Sonny, yes I read it but it was your post I couldn’t understand.

    Who’s blaming workers for the financial meltdown?

    The only people who make money from a pool of taxes are politicians and civil servants.

    • thomas.owain says:

      Taxes provide great value to most taxpayers. We get a lot back compared to the size of our investment. The editor of Fraser Forum explained to his subscribers how crucial it is for right-wing economics that the majority of Canadians feel they get ripped off, when they actually don’t.

      I always think of his article when I see the right-wing press attack public-sector unions — the anti-union, anti-tax story serves a selfish and powerful interest, and the rest of us should be skeptical. The Sun is not on our side.

      • Peter MacQuarie says:

        Fear is the propeller of the right wing and that works well for thin election platforms such as RF employed. (gravy train, respect for tax payers etc)

        If only the left would learn from this. The benign neglect employed by DM and his cronies for 7 years worked for the pinko elites but it went right over the heads of most of TO voters.

        In municipal politics, if you’re not communicating at a Grade 10 level you’re speaking to the converted and a very small section of the electorate. Carping now about “broken election promises” might look good in type but it’s is a waste of time.

  9. thomas.owain says:

    Fear is handy, I agree. But to give up talking about hope and solidarity is too much of a self-sacrifice. I’d quickly get depressed if my only way of communicating was to scare people. (And not being very scary, I’d be bad at it anyway.) What draws me to the NDP is that they haven’t given up hope.

    DM got elected twice, and might well have won a third term if he hadn’t become discouraged the previous summer.

    • Peter MacQuarie says:

      I’m not suggesting giving up talking about hope. (Solidarity? I’m not sure what that’s about) There are ways for a Mayor to communicate other than talking up fear and hope. Honestly would be an excellent starting point is communicating with the electorate. The NDP members on the last Council didn’t do much of that either. They behaved as badly as some of the current Council are doing now.

      DM might well have lost the election too but in any event it was time for him to go, win or lose. When I saw him stumping for Trans City with Stintz I knew the culture on Council was morally bankrupt and corrupt. He cultivated that culture over 7 years and failed to clean up CH. He did not deserve to be re-elected.

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