Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Extraordinary Week

Photo from a local newspaper.*

There are really no other words for it.

Last Wednesday or Thursday the members of my husband's Union voted to reject their company's contract offer. It took everyone by surprise. It was against the recommendation of the Union brass, in fact. Voter turn out was low: nonetheless, a radical bunch of yahoos forced themselves and their fellow workers to the picket lines on Labour Day Monday. Between the time the strike notice was served and the strike (and turn around lock out) began, the company begged individuals to work over-time. So, my husband put in 12 hour days a few days before the strike.

The first few days of the strike were cold. The Union distributed toques. The local McD's got upset at the Union guys about something: so the strikers boycotted McD's. There was a bit of unpleasantness: but there was more support and encouragement than my husband ever dreamed there could be. There was a gas station nearby--folks bought the strikers coffee cards so they could get something warm to drink. People dropped off doughnuts. Delivery drivers waited patiently as the strikers enforced their legally defended delay time of five minutes. Some even got out of line when they reached the front and drove around to the back again to demonstrate their reluctance to cross the picket line.

But the company did not make another offer. They hired temporary workers to replace the strikers. The company even went so far as to say they would close down the warehouse if the strike went on "too long." No one doubted it. My husband was one of very few who circulated a petition for a re-vote. He took some flak for it from the yahoos--the ones who didn't ask, "Hey, where's the new offer from the company?"

We discovered that my husband could work 60 hours on the picket line (at $8.00/hour, less than half his usual wage). So, that is what he did. He would get up at 5:30 in the morning, come home at 3:30 (or later), talk to me about everything for about an hour or so, look for a job after dinner on-line, and collapse.

On Friday, he came home and told me the company had asked for a re-vote. The company! The last time a company did that here, it backfired: the Union members got their back up and voted to stay on strike. Both of us were desperately worried. It was supposed to happen early this week. The Union wisely decided to hold its own re-vote on Saturday. That way there could be a meeting first (at a vote called by the Labour Board there is no meeting), misunderstandings cleared up, the yahoos could make their final blustering arguments, and cooler heads could help keep things on a rational and prudent course.

And that is what happened. The first vote had less than 1/2 the membership participate. At the second vote, more than three quarters were there.

At the first vote, 71% of the warehouse employees who voted, voted to strike. At the second, 71% voted to accept the contract.

Today, my husband actually said he's glad it happened. He said the yahoos have probably learned something, and everyone is never going to take a vote for granted again. He said he'll be attending more union meetings from now on.

Stranger than strange, my ultra-conservative guy has become a union man.

*He kept himself well out of the line of sight of the media.

1 comment :

Anne (in Reno) said...

Wow, well I'm glad it sounds like everything worked out well in the end. I hope they get everything resolved to their satisfaction, or as close as they can possibly come.

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