This week we proudly present you the first of a three part series that detail a set of organizing actions by postal workers in Canada during 2011. It is written by fellow Recomposition editor Phineas Gage who expounds on the actions that led up to the CUPW strike, the predicaments that workers faced challenging management, and the indelible memory of seeing management flee an angry mob of strikers.
Enjoy, and check back next week for Part 2!
Turning up the Heat
by Phineas Gage
Craig stood inside the Mail Processing Plant doors, just about to punch in. His phone rang – the number for National.
The voice on his cell phone spoke excitedly. Craig nodded slowly.
“Almost ready, we have a couple depots that are slacking but this will light a fire under their ass,” he said.
The voice from the National Office spoke again.
“Okay, I’ll pass that on. So the strike could start tomorrow, it could be in a few weeks, you will keep us posted but we probably won’t hear much until you tell us to go”. Craig talked into the phone loudly enough that the other people standing near him could hear. Grand standing while no one is supposed to be paying attention is the oldest trick in the book.
“For all their talk about ‘direct action’ Depot 2 sure seems to not be interested in the big job action we have planned for a few weeks from now. You remember that one, right? The strike? That’s a pretty big job action, right?”
There was muffled chuckling from the voice on the phone.
“Yeah I heard about the workers at Air Canada, good to hear it’s not just us up against the Conservatives!”
The National Office voice laughed. Craig pushed open the plant doors. Time to start getting more phone numbers.
The doors closed behind him. A high-pitched shrieking filled the air all around him, setting his teeth on edge. A young sister flew past him on a forklift, a little orange whistle hanging out of her mouth. A tiny orange stick hung out of half the workers’ mouths in there.
A manager walked by covering his ears, his polished shoes taking him quickly behind a thick metal door that slammed behind him. Another worker, wearing a Shop Stewards pin, saw Craig covering his ears, handed him a set of earplugs and winked.
Craig smiled and put in the earplugs. The noise dimmed to just manageable chaos. Across the plant he could see workers going about their business sorting the mail but management had cleared the floor to regroup and discuss what to do in one of their boardrooms. The atmosphere was tense but the tension was definitely pulling in the workers favour, as the Supervisors got up from their desks to be briefed on the noise levels the workers would cheer as they plodded away to disappear behind to the door.
A few days later I was in the parking lot outside the Transportation Department where I work, reading the news on my cell phone. The headlines read: “CUPW Strikes Winnipeg First”. A co-worker tapped on the windshield of my car. Toni was sweating and she was fidgeting nervously. I gathered my things and walked with her into the Transportation Hub.
“They overloaded our trucks again.”
“Then take the parcels back at the end of the day, that’s the agreement” I said casually.
We had an agreement with management that any undelivered parcels would come back at the end of the day if the trucks weren’t loaded on time. That ”agreement” wasn’t written down anywhere, but it was real. We enforced it the same way we won it, by sticking together on the shop floor. For almost a year management tried to break this agreement. They’d always threaten discipline but never delivered it. It amounted to bullying. We always pushed back and visibly supported workers who took a stand. We had a few informal arrangements like that in our department.
“Sam is saying that isn’t the deal anymore. He says now that the contract expired all bets are off and they don’t have to follow the rules”. This was bullshit and I told Toni to tell everyone on the dock that all provisions from the old contract apply until the new one was signed and no one can make you work for free. I went into a side room to sign out my mail keys, pick up my manifest and grab my scanner.
Toni met me on the way out the door “Sam threatened me with a five day suspension if I told anyone else to bring their parcels back”.
I grabbed a mail tub on my way out, walked on to the middle of the floor, and dropped the tub. I then stepped on the tub to put me up above the crowd of workers milling about and cleared my throat.
I then shouted, as loud as I could: “We work an eight hour day here and there is no forced overtime, if your truck is late that time comes off their day not yours, if you are overloaded on your parcels bring them back!”
As I turned to step down from the mail tub I saw Sam springing toward me across the room, his eyes burning with rage. I’m a big guy, over six feet and broad in the shoulders but Sam was bigger than me. I took two steps back, tripped slightly and found my back against a wall and his face up against mine as he was raising his hands towards me. He stopped and probably realised if he hit me that would not go well for the Corporation. I took the moment he needed to collect himself to duck under his shoulders and walk towards my truck, saying as calmly as possible (which wasn’t very calm), “I’m going out and delivering my mail now”.
Most of us brought some parcels back that day.
Two days later Christine got a call from Craig about the last few names for the phone tree being prepared if we had to strike, “Yes I have the last sheet of numbers for the phone tree, I will fax them in tonight after work.” Over the phone Craig gave a sigh of relief and thanks.
Christine kept on sorting her mail. A letter carrier next to her asked when they were going to walk. “I don’t know but it sure is tense around here”.
“Why don’t you just tell us to walk? You’re the shop steward around here, you have the respect of everyone else on the floor, if you said the word most of us would go.”
Christine nodded, “This isn’t the kind of union I believe in, they may think they’re real smart in Ottawa but we know this fight best because we know the job. Besides this is all about bargaining chips to them, I’m a lot more interested in pushing for control over the work as much as any pay raise. So we’re asking 2% and they’re saying nothing, an arbitrator will put it somewhere in the middle”.
Her co-worker laughed, “Oh you don’t seriously think we’re getting a raise anyways do you? This is about showing them they need us so they don’t just walk all over us.”
Christine shook her head and started putting on her mail satchel.
Generals and Armies
A few days into the rotating strike several of us in the depot committees would do a round of calls every day. These calls rotated between about five other people in about five different stations around the city. Christine, Pete, me, Sheila and a few others would often talk for an hour or so while we delivered mail, touching base with each other, providing emotional support, and trying analyse (sometimes over-analyse) what was going on at our respective stations.
When Pete picked up the phone this time Christine launched into a rant about the effect the rotating strikes were having on the floor. “Everyone is just sitting around with their thumbs up their ass and they know it, we feel like pawns”.
Pete let her vent until she cooled off. She had done the same for him a hundred times or more. “I know. I see it on the floor in my station too, probably about a third of the workers just want to walk and throw down with the boss, and another third are scared. Waiting for National Office isn’t helping with that, the sense of powerlessness feeds into their fear”.
“Okay so we know what the problem is, and we know that part of it is just letting the union brass call the shots but what do we do? I mean we have a strong enough minority on the floor we could pull a strong depot or a shift at the plant and the rest of the city would just follow right?”
“The rest of the country would probably follow, Christine.”
“Right. But then it would be self-directed right? I mean the members would get the sense of power back wouldn’t they?”
“Except that it wouldn’t be self directed, we would just get a few key militants to stand in front of the gates and they would refuse to cross.” Pete really wanted to agree with Christine but he felt he had to say his piece now. “We have a very strong and influential network but the easy part is pulling the members out. Keeping them out for what could possibly go on for weeks is the harder part. We all want this to be over quickly but if a more radical group can pull the members out in the heat of the moment when the backlash comes a more moderate group will get them back in and under arbitration sooner, and keep them under arbitration for longer”.
When Pete paused, Christine pressed her point, “but maybe we can just kick start this, if we can get everyone moving maybe a little bit of leadership is what everyone needs right now”.
Pete laughed. “Man! You sound like Keith right now! That’s all that guy talks about is leadership and how we need to take it over.” He paused.. “Leadership is definitely what everyone is looking for, and we definitely need it right now, but it has to run deeper than just a single action. If one charismatic leader can come out of the woodwork and lead everyone out the door, then another one can come along and bring everyone right back in. When that happens everything will be back under control and through the official channels”.
“Damn,” Christine groaned. ”I hate when you’re right. I mean if this happens it can’t be a cavalier thing and it could do just as much to undermine what we have build as anyone could. It would have to either come through a militant group of workers in one installation or through a mass meeting. Getting all the radicals around the city to simply block the gates would just undermine what we wanted to do and probably just lead everyone back to a more conservative kind of unionism”.
People in the labour left have been saying for years that there is a crisis of leadership in the working class. It is hard to disagree, but the problem is different from what many in the labour left think it is. This crisis runs deeper than the brand of leaders. Any organisation makes political decisions as to what layer of leadership is to be the most politically important. In most unions the formal collective bargaining process favours the leaders at the top, so when something goes wrong it would follow that changes must be made at the top. The strategy coming from Ottawa was based on rigid discipline, pressure from the top, and heavily centred on the National Executive and what was happening around the bargaining table. The problem is that your strategy is partly a function of your structure and your structure is partly a function of your politics. In other words, how different levels of leadership relate to each other, and what is an appropriate action for the leadership to take is a political decision that determines the structure of your organisation.
“We need to work to rule”, Sheila was talking to a group of letter carriers a lot of them were rolling their eyes. Everyone always tells letter carriers to work to rule and the last thing any of them will ever do is slow down. “We need to show them we’re united”.
“Then why don’t we walk out the door?” An old guy shouted from the back of the room, his arms folded across his chest defiantly.
“Why don’t you? Who is stopping you?” Sheila shot back.
“Well you’re the shop steward!”
“Okay look if you’re that serious about this why don’t we put this to a vote in two days?” The crowd seemed to agree with Sheila and the old guy backed down.
If you look at leadership as a matter of politics at the top of an organisation you leave out the political questions related to structure and you leave out the political questions related to the politics that arise from the culture on the job. Unions and other mass organisations that are involved in heated struggles are complex organisms, with moderate groups, radical groups, groups with narrow self interested motives and groups with staggering amounts of self sacrifice and vision. Often workers’ organizations will be a completely mixed bag of all these traits. Within the organization, there will be back and forth as different groups trade positions as hegemonic versus oppositional in a matter of minutes. What determines whether the good qualities win out over the bad has a lot to do with confidence, mostly confidence in your power as a group but also sometimes confidence that your cause is just. Confidence is partly a matter of having a good analysis of where you have power, it is also partly the spirit of the group and the entire class. Some structures promote these things, others limit these things, but how your organisation relates to confidence, rank and file initiative and autonomy is a political commitment.
Sheila pulled her phone out of her pocket. The screen said it was the local President.
“Hey” she said flatly.
“Sheila, I hear your depot wants to take a vote on when to walk tomorrow”.
“That’s what the floor decided, yeah”.
“Look, I know it’s tense” the President paused, “but we need to be sensitive of the people who aren’t speaking up”.
“What do you mean?”
“These floor meetings, all of this talk of militancy, it’s well…it’s really macho. I think as a woman you can realise that this stuff can be really intimidating.” The President paused.
“I don’t know about that, I mean I’m in the room, and I don’t think I’m macho”
“Oh I’m definitely not saying that” The President interrupted.
“Look” the President continued, “there’s a plan with National. The stakes are really high right now. If you’re depot pulls everyone out it could destroy the whole plan. In fact I have a friend at National who is telling me it will. Do you want that on your conscience?”
“No I don’t”.
“Well think about it, won’t you?”
“Okay, I’ll think about it”.
They hung up without saying bye to each other. Sheila walked outside and smoked a cigarette faster than she had ever smoked one before.
Around the same time as Sheila, Pete turned on his headset and answered a call.
“Pete. It’s Craig”.
“Look, someone at your depot said you want to pull everyone off the floor outside the rotation set by the national office”.
“Well Craig, if my co-workers walk I’m going to walk too and national can deal with it”.
“Pete, we elected a National Executive Board to make these decisions, it isn’t democratic”.
Pete paused. “Who elected them?” Craig replied quickly, “the members”. Pete smiled and sighed, “then can’t the members decide to walk? I mean isn’t their authority higher than the board? They elected them, right?”
Craig felt himself getting frustrated. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that this call was going to be hard. He tried another approach. “Look this is war”, Craig knew a military metaphor would get somewhere with Pete. He thought of himself as a militant and Craig figured the macho thing might sink in with a younger radical man. “In a war you need discipline. You can’t have everyone running around the jungle shooting everything they see.”
Pete cut in, “I’m not sure it’s like that kind of war”.
“Sure it is, the Viet Cong needed discipline to win. They couldn’t have every unit doing as they pleased while they ran around the jungle”. Craig said this slowly hoping it would sink in.
Pete gave him a second before replying. “I don’t think you can compare a bunch of Postal Workers in Canada fighting a corporation to a struggle for independence in a French Colony, Craig. No one is shooting guns and what we are asking for, how we are fighting for it, and what is at stake are pretty different”.
Craig continued, “the goal is a negotiated contract, as long as we can drag this out the more time we have for a negotiated contract to come into place. As soon as we bring on too much heat the back to work legislation is going to come and then we are stuck with an arbitrator”.
Craig’s concern was that the recently elected Conservative Government would simply order us back to work by act of Parliament. The union’s plan was to use rotating strikes to pressure Canada Post into negotiating without a full-blown work disruption. A blanket work disruption, the reasoning went, would simply lead to the back to work legislation sooner. So the key to the strategy was to keep just enough pressure on the Corporation to keep them at the bargaining table but not so much pressure that we would just be put under repressive legislation.
“I’m not so sure the goal is a negotiated settlement Craig,” said Pete.
“Well what the hell else are we out here for?” Craig was losing his patience.
“I mean obviously we are fighting against the company and the concessions they want from us, but we’ve been fighting for a long time now, it didn’t start with negotiations and it won’t end with this contract. This isn’t just about the contract or even mostly about the contract. This is about building power and control over the economy for ourselves”.
Craig sighed. “I have to go, Pete.”
Blowing Off Steam
Christine answered her phone.
“Looks like it’s our turn to walk!,” Harjit sounded like he was smiling. “Don’t bother going in today. Show up in street clothes and the local office will have picket signs down to your depot right away”. Chrisine smiled, got in her car, and headed to her depot.
I was talking to Ike and Pete in front of the Edmonton Mail Processing Plant. It was a sunny spring day. “Did I tell you about the call I got from Craig?” My and Ike’s blank look told Pete we had no idea what he was talking about. “Well I got this nervous call from him a day and a half ago, I guess he heard a few people on the organising committee were talking about pulling the pin and pulling us out of rotation”. Ike cocked his head to the side.
“Yeah, he was really worked up, I told him it wasn’t just us, a lot of the floor was ready to start walking all over the city and if they did that the depot committees would obviously back them”.
“That makes sense” Ike was rubbing the back of his head with one hand. “I was talking to someone at National Office about some non strike related stuff, one of my weekly reports, and they said they heard Edmonton needed to ‘blow off some steam’, that must be what this is.” Pete walked back to his car to get his cigarettes.
My phone started buzzing. The rest of the committee was texting in reports on the turnout on the picket lines, overall pretty strong. I quickly hit forward on all of them to get the news out when I saw a commotion over at the front doors.
Three black dots were passing through a crowd of denim coloured dots. We heard a lot of shouting and jeering. Ike and I immediately dropped our signs and sprinted up to see what was going on. We had just arrived as one member from another union who came out to support us shoved a Canada Post labour relations guy through the line and into the parking lot towards the plant. “What the hell happened?” I was shocked but couldn’t help chuckle a bit. One sister shouted “those pricks think this is a big joke! They just walked through our line without even asking permission! So he tried to stop them!”
“Well, they got a little taste of a picket line then” said Ike, “lets hope that was enough for them to tell the higher ups to start bargaining”. The next day we all walked back in to work and the tension just kept building.
Christine met in the parking lot with everyone else. They gathered in a big circle and someone else from the committee, began to chair the meeting.
“Okay folks, we have a problem, Canada Post is saying that the temps all have to be laid off and that mail is down to three day delivery, putting us all on part time work. Problem is we have a depot full of mail right there…”
An old guy, a veteran of a few strikes put his hand up, the chair nodded, “I say we go in there and take over the depot!”
“Was that a motion?” she looked at Christine, and Christine smiled and said, “sure sounded like one to me.”
An older woman, one of the injured inside workers asked, “Can we get arrested?”
Christine said, “I don’t know, but do you see any cops around?” The older woman shrugged. The discussion went back and forth for five minutes. Overall the group wanted to take action but also wanted to weigh the risks. After a few minutes the chair called the question and almost all the hands shot up in favour. The group then gathered into a tighter crowd and barged into the depot only to see the Manager, Wylie standing in front of the door having just locked it behind him.
The crowded started shouting and jeering. Wylie shouted over them, “There’s nothing you can do about this, this is the future, you had best get it out of your system now because this is what it is going to be like!”
Someone from behind the door burst out and crammed it open. Wylie reached for the door. A scuffle ensued and the carriers pushed past them, entering the depot. The crowd immediately made for the mail cages and sat down on the floor. Wylie stood there, blinking, his face red. The letter carriers began chatting with each other. Anytime Wylie came near them they would shout at him, so he disappeared into his office. A small group from the committee sent out texts, the texts came in to my phone and I relayed the information across the city by forwarding the texts.
After a few hours the police showed up. The group voted to disperse so they simply filed past a few confused managers and left the building to get on with their day.
Across town Keith sat in his car reading a newspaper as he waited for the rally to start. The headlines read: “Canada Post and Union at Impasse”. The article described how Canada Post Corporation planned on only delivering mail three days a week, locking workers out for the two days they weren’t delivering. In addition, Canada Post announced that all temporary employees had been laid off effective immediately.
When he got out of his car, that news was all anyone could talk about at the Rally. The Rally was planned to march through a popular shopping district that had a depot inside it. As the crowd of letter carriers gathered the local President grabbed a bullhorn:
“I would like to thank all of you for coming today!” The crowd cheered.
“This is a great turnout and we need to keep ourselves mobilised and active if we are going to get through this. We have a lot stacked against us, we have the Conservative Party talking about back to work legislation, when we haven’t even really been on strike yet.” The crowd booed.
“We have the media saying we make $40 an hour, does anyone here make $40 an hour?” There were scattered shouts of “no!” and “I wish!” from the crowd.
“Canada Post is telling the public that they had to lay us off because there’s no mail to deliver, well let’s march down to the depot and show them how much mail there is!” The crowd cheered again.
“Most importantly though” The President continued “we’re here for a negotiated contract!” Most of the crowd cheered and clapped. Keith looked across the crowd at Ike who was also there from the local office and smiled. Ike shrugged. Then the march was off down the street.
It was a spirited march of about 300 letter carriers. All of them had been temporarily given a three-day workweek in order to pressure the union to accept concessions. The concessions included a two tier system where newer workers would start at 19$/hour, older workers would lose one week of vacation a year, the pension plan would be cut, and there would be no alterations to the new work methods that came in under the Modern Post, a management programme with an Orwellian name. The union came to the table with some minor changes to the work methods and a pay raise that would keep pace with inflation. In Edmonton though the opening created by the bargaining period created a chance for workers to try and assert greater control over their lives at work.
As the crowd wound its way into the parking lot of the depot, the President walked up and pulled on the door. Of course it was locked. She then smiled and punched in the pass-code from when she was a letter carrier at that depot. It opened. No one had changed the code. Before she had a chance to hesitate the crowd surged past her and into the depot. As the workers entered the main room with rows and rows of sorting cases they came upon several supervisors counting mail and keeping the aisles clear. The mail was piled to the ceiling.
At this moment half the crowd immediately began taking pictures of all the mail piled up and sending it everywhere they could. The other half chased the supervisors into their office. The frightened supervisors locked themselves in. Soon the floor took on a festive atmosphere as carriers started singing and dancing in the aisles where they usually worked. Dozens of them crowded around the bosses’ office as the Supervisors and Superintendent dropped the blinds on the windows that looked out from a slightly raised platform over the tops of the sorting cases. The carriers started pounding on the walls and the door to the office, soon the drywall started to lift off the studs in the wall and plaster fell from the ceiling.
Keith got into his car after the action, his heart racing. He turned on the radio to hear that the Government had just tabled back to work legislation for the workers at Air Canada. Declaring them an essential service.
I got home and put my feet up, it was a long stressful day in the middle of a long stressful month. My phone gave two short buzzes. A text message. I picked up my phone. It was from Calgary. It said: “We’re being locked out”. Then one came in from Vancouver saying the same thing. I immediately got in my car and started driving to the Plant, the only workplace with people on shift in the evenings. Halfway there I got a text saying they were being called into the break room for a meeting with management. By the time I pulled up everyone was filing out of the plant and starting to grab signs out of an old RV the union local rented for a picket headquarters.
Ike was standing on the line when I got there because the union office was closer than my house. “I guess this is where the fight really starts” he was beaming ear to ear. I nodded wearily thinking about how much we had been fighting already.
As people gathered into more orderly lines and picket captains grabbed their vests I read an article someone sent me on my phone. A quote from the Canada Post website said, “due to some troubling developments in some cities we have decided to lock workers out in the interests of the health and safety of all our staff”. What the hell did that mean?
I was interrupted from my pondering that phrase by a commotion at the front of the building. When I got there I saw line of about twenty middle-aged women, mostly from the Philipines, chanting at the front doors to the Edmonton Plant.
“We hope you brought your pyjamas!” and “Nothing In! Nothing Out!” filled the air as the crowd swelled. It turned out the sisters at the gates weren’t letting management leave. This was partly in retaliation for what happened a couple weeks ago and partly because they felt management should have left when everyone else was told to. As one sister from the crowd put it “how do we know they weren’t moving our mail in there?”
Management quickly panicked and called the Local President who just arrived on the line. She explained where the workers were coming from and Management stopped wasting their time and called the police. Soon a few patrol cars showed up and shortly after that two uniformed Labour Relations Officers from the Police Department arrived. The workers on the line refused to talk to them and refused to take their line down. This stalemate went on for about an hour.
Ike tapped me on the shoulder, “A bunch of the stewards in the plant are worried the Exec is going to cut a deal too quickly and want you to negotiate because they know you are kind of a hard ass”. I smiled, that was flattering.
“The problem is that we are taking control as the Exec, Ike. The workers should be leading this. Get everyone up at the front gate and let’s have an assembly.” Soon about two hundred people were standing in a giant circle in front of the front door with another fifty or so holding the picket lines.
The cops stood off in the distance, one of them talking to a hysterical member of Senior Management and the other looking on confused by the entire scene.
“Okay, so we’ve got them stuck in there and now the cops are here. What do we want?” One of the sisters shot her hand up immediately.
“We want an apology for crossing our line when the pickets were up last week”. Everyone cheered. Anything else? Everyone shrugged. “Well that was easy,” I thought.
“All in favour of asking for an apology?” the crowd voted unanimously in favour. I walked over to the Police and told them the demand.
They got on the phone and I went back to Ike. “I was expecting a bit more demands than that”.
Ike nodded, “management are proud, we’ll see what they say”.
The cop came back to me and said, “he says that’s unacceptable, got a compromise?”
“I’m not here as a representative, I’m just a mouthpiece for the group, I’ll take that back to the group and see what they say”.
The Cop nodded and turned away but stopped and turned back around to face me.
“That’s all fine and good, but you’re the senior executive member right now and that makes what happens your responsibility. We haven’t lost our patience yet and we can see you are being fairly reasonable but at some point all this could lead to you being arrested for unlawful confinement and that’s not a light charge”.
I shrugged and tried to play it cool as I walked away. Ike and I went back to the crowd, as we walked away and I pulled my collar to one side lightly. “Tough crowd”.
“Okay folks, management has said no and the Police want us to compromise. They’re putting some heat on me and threatening to arrest me if this takes too long, I’m fine with that and will abide by what this group decides but I want you all to know everything that is going on. So what is our reply?”
Ike and I worked out an approach that meant we could conduct negotiations by assembly. Demands and counter demands would be exchanged between the crowd and management through Ike and myself as delegates who met with the Police. The standoff went late into the night but participation remained high. The members were very engaged in the discussions as we stood in a large circle and debated what to do.
I walked back to the Police, “their offer is that they will let all the junior supervisors go if the Senior management apologises.” The Labour Relations Officer for the Police nodded and got back on the phone. He jerked the phone away from his ear suddenly. I could hear swearing.
The officer shook his head as I shrugged and walked back to the crowd. It was getting late.
The crowd came to the realisation very quickly that at some point a deal was going to have to be cut but the police were extremely uneasy about antagonising such a large crowd of ordinarily not very radical people. If this was a campus demonstration there would have been night sticks coming out after the first words were exchanged.
“We want them to leave their damn cars behind! Make ‘em get in cabs and go home without them!” One of the soccer moms was clearly trying to hold the line.
“That sounds like a motion” I said, my voice cracking slightly. “Any opposed?” No hands went up. “All in favour?” A brief pause followed. ”Damn near unanimous”.
I walked over to the police. It was half past midnight at this point and they were drinking coffee, their eyes looked red, my eyes probably looked red too.
“So here’s our offer.” They put down their coffee. “They go out the front door and meet the cabs in the parking lot, we will hold the cabs up briefly but let them through on the way in and let them leave without hassle. As long as they leave their personal vehicles behind.”
“We just have one request”, the police replied. “Everyone of your people stays on the grass, and every one of management stays on the pavement. That way no one can take a swing at each other.”
“I’ll ask the group”. I went back and no one had an issue with it. I told the police and they made a phone call. Five minutes later we had a deal, and half an hour later we saw four yellow cabs come rolling down the road. Everyone all around was relieved.
A Deal is a Deal
Slowly the people from management began to move towards the smoked glass doors at the front of the plant. Even their silhouettes appeared anxious. Suddenly the cabs stopped on the side of the parking lot near a gap in our lines left by the crowd gathering at the front of the Mail Processing Plant where they thought the cabs would stop.
Management suddenly burst out the doors and broke left towards the gap in the lines and onto the lawn. The Police gasped and reached for their radios. The crowd broke into a full on sprint, as the first supervisors foot touched the turf the workers stormed the parking lot. All bets were off.
“Why the hell did they do that?!” I heard myself shout.
I looked over and watched as the police called for backup and an angry crowd of hundreds of workers closed in on a handful of management people that were running for the line of cabs. Just as the workers closed in the managers, the crowd suddenly stopped and reached into their pockets.
One officer grabbed the other’s arm and pointed.
Then the crowd burst out started laughing as they pulled their cellphones out of their pockets and made videos of management fleeing in terror from their angry mob, disappearing into the cabs and watching the tires squeal as they sped away from the confrontation.
Within an hour the cops had left and I was home in bed. A skeleton crew agreed to hold the line at The Plant. With the line rosters sorted out for the night I walked in an exhausted daze back to my car. Sheila ran up behind me and offered me a cigarette. I let it hang off my lip, staring blankly at her rave about how amazing what just happened was. Then I could hear her voice, “wasn’t that amazing?”
I smiled and took the lighter from her hand.
“I’ll never forget this that’s for sure, but the fight is just getting started”.