This entry is 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. In the course of the strike, union workers had to figure out how to relate to contractors and where scabbing starts and solidarity ends. The experience of life under capitalism can reveal both the potential divisions that destroy struggles and the commonalities that can overcome them. These next two pieces can help us understand and try to go beyond the barriers class throws at us.
Abraham looked down the row at everyone else sorting mail. Their heads were bowed, occasionally rubbing their eyes they worked slowly but steadily- the only way you can when you work fourteen hours every day. He reached over to the letter that was left on his desk for him by a Canada Post Supervisor, he was in late because his daughter was up all night with a cough. The letterhead was from Reynolds Diaz, the private contractor that hired him on behalf of Canada Post.
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.