Last week we brought you the first in a series of articles by Phineas Gage about a strike at Canada Post. This week as the strike rolled on the workers faced a common challenge of workplace battles. The government, employers, and national union began making moves to diffuse the situation and try to control the actions of the workers. Viewed from inside the strike at one local we see the decisions workers were wrestling with to try and combat the cut backs, austerity, and attacks being leveled against them on the job, and at the same time responding to the real possibilities of further losses, repression, and possible sabotage from above.
I had only slept a few hours when I returned to the Mail Processing Plant the morning after they locked us out. As I parked my car I watched a crowd of Postal Workers gathered around a Lexus with the doors open, the trunk open and a bunch of chanting. I saw Sheila hauling a tire out of the trunk of the Lexus and bounce it a few times on the ground. I guess a few workers had this done to their vehicles when they took road trips across the border to the USA, the guards were seeing if there were drugs inside it, and thought that was how a proper search was done. The man in the suit got into his car and Sheila slammed the door hard behind him. He pulled out of the crowd safely but when at the edge of the mob he squealed his tires.
The mob covered their ears and a few plastic bottles were thrown at the car as he sped away.
This entry is the second part in a two-part story from contributor Phineas Gage about a wildcat strike by contractors at the Canadian postal service, and continues our coverage of struggles within Canada Post.
The phone rang irritatingly early, early enough I ignored it the first time. Apparently Lise-Anne called several other executive members after she left a message for me. I later found out the message she left me said: “they’re cutting our pay by 30%, we had a coffee break meeting and we vote unanimously to walk out in response, what do we do now?”
The phone rang again, this time I picked up. “We just walked out, we’re sitting across the street in the Tim Horton’s”. Eight months prior I had talked to the workers at this depot about racial discrimination and harassment one co-worker was facing. They marched on the boss with eight people that sent a strong enough message it put an end to that issue. Even if the racist supervisor was still around he was a lot quieter. The workers became more assertive, and very strong on the floor. A series of small actions built the solidarity among the rural workers to the point where they felt strong enough to fight a change to the work measurement system that was going to cut their pay by almost a third.
“Did you make any demands?” I asked groggily, sometimes folks are so angry they forget to say what they want.
“Yeah, we wanted a repeal of the policy and he told us that the union was going to be upset we did this”.
“What did you say to that?”
“I said we didn’t need their permission to do this, but the local President and Sharon are coming down to talk to us and see what they can do to help”.
By P. Gage
The first permanent job I got at Canada Post was in the early weeks of the spring of 2007.
It was an ‘inside job’ processing and splitting up flyers between one hundred or so letter carriers. I had been working for Canada Post as a Term (read temp) for a year before getting a permanent position. Because of the labour shortages in Alberta I moved up in seniority quickly.
Being the flyer guy in the depot made me far from the most popular person. Letter carriers like delivering flyers even less than their customers like getting them, they see them as a waste of time and not worth the $0.15 piece rate they get paid to deliver them. It did mean that I got to talk to almost everyone in the depot and hear their opinions on everything. Sometimes those opinions were not just about how much they hated seeing me every morning.
The Building Trades Wildcat in Alberta
Alberta labour laws are not only some of the most repressive in Canada, they may be some of the most repressive in North America. For decades the labour movement tried to change the laws in Alberta, demanding the right for all workers to strike between contracts, to collectively bargain, and anti-scab legislation. Their main weapon was lobbying a government that was hostile to their very existence, and making alliances with marginalized left-wing politicians who were shut out of the corridors of power. For a long time more and more workers were robbed of the right to strike either directly, like farm workers, university teaching assistants, and nurses, or indirectly by tying them up in so much red tape that a strike was almost impossible.
It Takes Two to Tango
by P. Gage
As I pulled the gearshift into drive my cell phone was flashing telling me that I had a voicemail. When I got to my next stop I saw I had three messages on my phone now and my voicemail was full. I rubbed my hands together over the vent trying to forget about December in Edmonton. I got curious so I opened my voicemail box as I listened to each message my heart sank further.
“Hello, this message is for Phinneas, my name is Steve and I’m a driver in the same department as you. I understand management has cancelled all of the Christmas overtime for the rest of the month because of the fight you had with them this morning over paying the correct overtime hours.