Eeeexcellent, Smithers!

CUPE threatens disruption if TTC declared an essential service.

This is just pure gold:

Sid Ryan, the head of CUPE, Ontario’s largest union, said he won’t sit idly by and watch people’s right to strike be taken away.

“The right to strike is a fundamental right in any democracy,” Ryan said in a news release issued late Monday. “If you take that right away, workers are little more than indentured servants. We are not prepared to allow that to happen to any workers in Ontario’s public or private sectors.

Ryan promised the special designation would result in province-wide labour unrest.

— CTV Toronto, “CUPE promises labour unrest if TTC deemed essential“, April 29th, 2008.

First let me play against type by stating that I support the proletariat’s right to strike.  I recognise that even in our modern age, there may be certain situations in which the labour pool needs to express its dissatisfaction by hitting management where it hurts.  Fine.  Conversely, I believe that management also may need to stress its point of view via lockout, termination, or the like.  And finally that consumers can also express their displeasure for either (or both) by refusing to purchase the goods or service, and impoverishing management and labour alike.  And of course any of these parties may be subject to entirely justifiable public ridicule as a consequence of their actions.

That said, ATU 113’s weekend strike was legal but incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid.  After promising 48 hours forewarning and giving only 2, they stranded a few thousand people all across the city at 10pm last Friday evening.  Note to strikers: failing to keep your word rapidly drains the public’s reservoir of goodwill.  Who relies on weekend transit?  Shift workers, students, the elderly, people who can’t afford cars (or the routine use of cabs).  Note to strikers: disproportionately affecting the young, the old and the poor rapidly drains the public’s reservoir of goodwill.

After that stunning display of good judgment and shrewd public relations skill, CUPE has decided to back up their transit brethren by threatening labour unrest should Toronto City Council move to declare the TTC an essential service.  Well-played, CUPE.  Backing the strikers who have disproportionately affected the young, the old, and the poor is a marvellous public relations stunt.  Threatening the public’s duly elected representatives (and its citizens) with more labour disruption is frankly hilarious when one considers how thoroughly the strike antagonised transit supporters in Toronto.  If a vast right-wing conspiracy were formed to brand public-sector unions as greedy, overprotective and out-of-touch with the common man, they could hardly have crafted a better response.  If such a conspiracy existed, I would be a charter member of it; instead, I’m trying to do you a favour here.

So here’s a hint, CUPE.  ATU 113 lost the PR war, and it lost badly.  Transit staff may have had the legal right to strike, but they ceded the moral high ground completely by breaching their word and subsequently stranding people all over town.  Whether or not the TTC ought to be considered an essentual service is, quite properly, within the purview of our elected officials.  Trying to strong-arm them on behalf of the ATU makes you the bad guys in the story, too.  Think twice.

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