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Strike! Scratch a Liberal, Find a Fascist - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Strike! Scratch a Liberal, Find a Fascist [Apr. 10th, 2005|03:02 pm]
Young Geoffrey
With the deadline less than 12 hours away, there is a good chance Toronto's transit workers will strike in the early hours of Monday morning, leaving a half-million people to find alternate ways to get to work and school.

I can't say that my friends' list has been flooded with howls of outrage, but a few people are very miffed.

- "TTC strike... sucks ass. i really don't think they should be allowed to strike, because a-they're an essential service. b- they're partially funded by our tax dollars. c-they JUST fucking raised the prices.

"... them striking is akin to a 3 year old throwing a temper tantrum. eventually they'll get what they want, just because everyone is sick of dealing with them. they need to find some kind of better tactic to deal with their issues, rather than finding one that alienates the entire city..."

- "I don't live in a nice area, and I work far far away, so I am left FUCKED ... I am stuck either walking an hour and a half at around midnight through the seedy Lansdowne and Bloor area, or I stay at home and not work and not write my exams and not pay my rent this month, or I am to ride my bike through the heavily trafficked streets of Toronto...

"And for what? So that the transit unions can raise their average pay of $25 per hour and get rid of the penalties for being late or early to stops?"

It's not the half-truths that strike me (though I note the current top wage is under $25.00 per hour, and that the TTC makes this city vastly more liveable and so should be "partially funded by our taxes dollars" (a lot more than it is, in my opinion) or that the fact the TTC management just raised prices, not the union - but all that is beside my point), so much as it is the this evidence that principle sometimes means so little to people, when they are personally inconvenienced.

The TTC is an important service - indeed, it is arguably an essential service over the long run; taking a half-million cars off our roads is a Good Thing, for All of Us - but it is not an essential service in the way that ambulances or doctors and nurses are essential.

In a capitalist society, the only power workers have is the ability to withdraw their labour. Without the right to strike, employees would be at the mercy of their employers - in terms of wages, in terms of job security, in terms - essentially - of their very lives. In a capitalist society, the right to strike makes the difference between freedom and (de facto) slavery.

And for those I've heard describe driving a bus or streetcar as a "cushy" job, give me a break. Fighting traffic, dealing with drunks and crazies all day long is not cushy. It is hard, stressful work that requires constant attention both the road and to the passengers one is ferrying about the city. TTC drivers are reasonably well-paid, I suppose, but 50K a year is not going to make anyone in Toronto rich.

All right, fire away ...
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: stolen_identity
2005-04-10 08:36 pm (UTC)
LOL, hey, two of those comments belonged to me!!! :P

actually, i'm not really personally inconvenienced at all by this strike. school's all done, i've got nowhere i've gotta be that i can't get to. but that doesn't stop me from thinking that it's not fair for them to strike. i'm not a very big fan of unions in general. i think they were necessary back in the day, but not so much anymore.
i think people need to learn better ways of resolving their problems than saying "fuckit, i'm on strike" ... seriously. throughout school, all they ever teach you is to find different ways to resolve problems/differences.
but then talks break down, and they resort to this.
i would much rather have no such thing as a "strike deadline" and have an unbiased mediator in there. lock them in a room, don't let anyone out until they've reached something that makes both sides happy.

i'm not saying that they shouldn't get or don't deserve what they've asked for. but i absolutely do not agree with them hurting the people that rely on them, in order to get the attention of the bigwigs.

what's that phrase, you catch more flies with sugar than umm... salt? a lemon? LOL, i can't remember. but anyway. they should think about that, because in doing stuff like this, they aren't going to build a very big fanbase.

personally, i'd probably just suck it up and learn to drive downtown, if i had a job down there and worked up here, even after the strike was over. i'm not all that attatched to the service, simply because of things like this.


flame ahead! :D
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-10 09:30 pm (UTC)
God bless your sense of humour, KT.

...it's not fair for them to strike. i'm not a very big fan of unions in general. i think they were necessary back in the day, but not so much anymore.

I think the reason they seem to be unnecessary now is because they still exist. Walmart doesn't go around closing stores that decide to unionize because unions aren't necessary, but because they are.

i think people need to learn better ways of resolving their problems than saying "fuckit, i'm on strike" ... seriously. throughout school, all they ever teach you is to find different ways to resolve problems/differences. but then talks break down, and they resort to this.

What is the alternative, if management isn't negotiating in good faith, as has been known to happen? If you can't withdraw your labour, you have no power whatsoever. Without unions, individual workers are not in a position to bargain as equal parties to management.

i would much rather have no such thing as a "strike deadline" and have an unbiased mediator in there. lock them in a room, don't let anyone out until they've reached something that makes both sides happy.

And if "until" takes years? The only alternative I am aware of, at least under our existing system, is binding arbitration, which is the route those public servants deemed "essential" have to take.

i'm not saying that they shouldn't get or don't deserve what they've asked for. but i absolutely do not agree with them hurting the people that rely on them, in order to get the attention of the bigwigs.

I haven't been paying enough attention to have an opinion about the specific issues of this strike (or possible strike). But again: withdrawing their labour is their only weapon.
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[User Picture]From: miyyu
2005-04-10 09:22 pm (UTC)
I agree with you. I am in my local teachers union and we currently do not have a contract and have been working without one for over a year and a half. As teachers and public servants, we are not supposed to strike, and even the mention of it makes the public furious. Many of the people in the town do not want us to make more money in spite of how little we make comparitively considering both our education level and our pay scale compared to the rest of the area (lowest in the county by a LOT). (Side Note: how people can think that they want poorly paid and therefore poorly qualified people teaching their children is beyond me) And while we are not going on strike YET, we may very well have to, because at some point we will have no other means at our disposal and would otherwise be at the mercy of the school board.

I find that these contractual negotiations are often much more complex than the public thinks and there is a lot more at stake. I have learned a great deal being on the receiving end of it.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-10 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks - not for agreeing, but for lending your intimate perspective on this kind of a situation.

I believe Ontario school-teachers are reasonably well-paid, but your comment reminds me of the situation of daycare workers here. Those who are unionized (I believe) earn something along the lines of $12 to $15 per hour. I've long thought that an interesting commentary on the value this society places on its children.
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[User Picture]From: sck5000
2005-04-10 09:31 pm (UTC)
What a tragically poor analysis.

The reason they need unions is not because we live in a capitalist society, it's because we *don't live* in a capitalist society. The TTC is a subsidized, state-controlled monopoly - precisely the opposite of capitalism. The TTC is exactly the kind of transit system that would be offered in a Marxist utopia: a state-run, non-profit, single-option mass transit system mired in bureaucracy.

The strike is the inevitable result of no competition for the labor pool in mass-transit, the workers are held hostage by a single, monopolistic employer: the state. They have to form a union because with a single employer it is the only way to increase bargaining power in an economic model that does not have competition.

None of that is capitalism dude; so naturally I find it amusing that in your analysis you not only misidentified our best local example of Marxism as capitalism, but then went on to blame the failings of a Marxist structure as proof of the failures of capitalism. Young Geoff, this depressing misanalysis is precisely why I have trouble taking you leftists seriously; and why so many leftists are good artists but bad logicians.

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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-10 10:06 pm (UTC)
Ha! I knew this would rouse you from your Entertainment Tonight-watching slumber.

The reason they need unions is not because we live in a capitalist society, it's because we *don't live* in a capitalist society.

I was talking about the need for unions in general; we do live in what is predominantly a capitalist society and no amount of romantic pining for some Never-Neverland of "pure capitalism" can change that.

You're right, however, that the TTC is a monopoly (of sorts: it does compete with bicycles, taxis and private cars). However, it is barely subsidized (though it should be, and much more than it is, but that's another argument entirely) and to the best of my knowledge it is anything than top-heavy with beaurocrats; considering that the average age of its bus fleet is approaching 20 years due to Harris governments removal of all provincial subsidies, the TTC strikes me as a minor miracle of good management.

The strike is the inevitable result of no competition for the labor pool in mass-transit, the workers are held hostage by a single, monopolistic employer: the state. They have to form a union because with a single employer it is the only way to increase bargaining power in an economic model that does not have competition.

Are you saying that employees of private enterprise don't need unions? Maybe if every bus and streetcar was privately-owned, but I doubt that would provide much in the way of efficiency (no economies of scale) and those not living near profitable routes would find themselves quite screwed.

Essentially, a large city needs a transit system that is run as a public service, like police and ambulances. A good public transit system is vital to the health of any large city (ask a New Yorker).

None of that is capitalism dude; so naturally I find it amusing that in your analysis you not only misidentified our best local example of Marxism as capitalism, but then went on to blame the failings of a Marxist structure as proof of the failures of capitalism.

Dude, if you're going to throw terms like "Marxist" around, at least have the integrity to do it correctly. Call publicly-owned services "statist" if you wish, but to suggest that Toronto (let alone New York City) is run by Marxists throws all of your analysis into doubt.</i>
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2005-04-11 02:10 am (UTC)
I have the bias of being, at worst, slightly inconvenienced if the strike happens. I mean, I can walk to work (it's about an hour), get a lift from my boss, or work from home. I might not be able to get down to the pub as easily, but that's it.

Anyway; bottom line is, they have the right to strike. I hope it's over quickly because I'm incredibly TTC-reliant, but I support them even if it's fucking annoying.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-12 12:16 am (UTC)
I should have mentioned I share that bias, though I suppose most of my Gentle Readers no me for a cyclist.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2005-04-11 03:03 am (UTC)
I think people that have never belonged to a UNION don't appreciate the history of organized labour and how it's actually made their own jobs better.

I saw a bumper sticker once that summed it up nicely "Unions - The People that Brought You The Weekend"

Hard fought concessions that we take for granted today, like a 5 day work week and statutorary holidays were due in large to UNIONIZED workers forcing employers and gov't to provide them.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-12 12:16 am (UTC)
Nicely put - and I like the bumper sticker, too.
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[User Picture]From: amaaanda
2005-04-11 03:46 am (UTC)
I recognize those!


Now then, I was misinformed of the pay rate of TTC workers, who actually earn from $17 to $24.32 an hour, so I will give you that. BUT - that is still a fair amount for someone who doesn't do really hard labour. True, their jobs might involve fighting off homeless people and paying constant atention, but so does mine, and I do it while on my feet and for a pitiful $7.70 per hour. Working at a grocery store isn't really comparable to driving a subway, but theirs is definitely cushier than mine. 50 K a year is not going to make anyone rich, nor should it, being given to someone who hasn't had to receive higher learning or a specific degree to work that job. Hell, I'm going into journalism, and am getting a degree for it, and I'll still be lucky to make that much.

Unions are a necessity, but you have to admit that some unions promote slacking off because it is so difficult to get fired. I've seen the paperwork involved with the unions at my work, and it's ridiculous sometimes. The thing is, what the TTC workers are fighting against isn't all that serious. If they were being grossly mistreated, then I would fully support their right to strike and gladly walk to work. But that isn't the case. Not one bit.

And the TTC is essential in this city, because with the 1.4 million or whatever people in their cars on the roads, traffic would be so that ambulances, firetrucks, and police cars couldn't function to do their jobs. Add to that the amount of pedestrian homicides, and occurences of road rage, blablabla. I wasn't here in 1999, but I have seen it when there was a power outage for a half hour at Yonge and Dundas, and that in itself was chaos. The "neccessary" services can't function without the TTC in proper functioning order.

In short, let's agree to disagree, and if I made no sense, ask me to clarify, because I have had to pee really bad for the past 20 minutes and don't care enough to look this over...
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-12 12:27 am (UTC)
...Now then, I was misinformed of the pay rate of TTC workers, who actually earn from $17 to $24.32 an hour, so I will give you that. BUT - that is still a fair amount for someone who doesn't do really hard labour. True, their jobs might involve fighting off homeless people and paying constant atention, but so does mine, and I do it while on my feet and for a pitiful $7.70 per hour.

Granted. But why tear down those who are doing (reasonably) well, because you are not? I'm reminded of a cousin of mine, a most entrepreneurial type, who used to bitch about "welfare bums". My response was, "Well, if their lot is so cushy, why don't you join them?" (This was back in the day when welfare actually provided a - barely - subsistence income.)

Of course, he wanted a lot more than welfare would provide, so it wasn't an option for him.

Working at a grocery store isn't really comparable to driving a subway, but theirs is definitely cushier than mine. 50 K a year is not going to make anyone rich, nor should it, being given to someone who hasn't had to receive higher learning or a specific degree to work that job. Hell, I'm going into journalism, and am getting a degree for it, and I'll still be lucky to make that much.

Then obviously you're not going into journalism for the money, you're going into it because you have a passion - or at least a strong interest - in it. If you just want to earn 50K at a "cushy" job, you should become a bus driver.

Unions are a necessity, but you have to admit that some unions promote slacking off because it is so difficult to get fired...

Absolutely. It seems (sadly) to be a human given that any group will look towards its own, short-term interest, ahead of the general, long-term, greater good.

But I don't see that excesses are reason to do away with unions, any more than the Sponsorship scandal is readon to do away with democracy.

I've seen the paperwork involved with the unions at my work, and it's ridiculous sometimes...

In my experience (which is limited to only a few unionized workplaces, granted), the fault is largely management's. First, they agreed to ridiculously onerous procedures for firing an incompetent employee and, second, the line-managers didn't do their job and follow those procedures.

The thing is, what the TTC workers are fighting against isn't all that serious. If they were being grossly mistreated, then I would fully support their right to strike and gladly walk to work...

It sounds like you're saying that the "right" to strike should only be a right if you think the union (meaning the membership) is taking a sensible position. Otherwise, the "right" should be withdrawn.

To which wise mind will you grant that judgement call?

And the TTC is essential in this city, because with the 1.4 million or whatever people in their cars on the roads, traffic would be so that ambulances, firetrucks, and police cars couldn't function to do their jobs. Add to that the amount of pedestrian homicides, and occurences of road rage, blablabla. I wasn't here in 1999, but I have seen it when there was a power outage for a half hour at Yonge and Dundas, and that in itself was chaos. The "neccessary" services can't function without the TTC in proper functioning order.

I was here during that strike and - amazingly enough - the city didn't fall apart during it. ("Pedestrian homicides?")

In short, let's agree to disagree, and if I made no sense, ask me to clarify, because I have had to pee really bad for the past 20 minutes and don't care enough to look this over...

Consider my responses just that request for clarification.
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[User Picture]From: vienneau
2005-04-12 02:54 am (UTC)

Working at a grocery store isn't really comparable to driving a subway, but theirs is definitely cushier than mine.

Having worked at neither I can only offer an outsider's opinion...

Driving a subway seems to be to be one of the most tedious jobs possible, a premium needs to be paid. And I presume it involves some sort of training and reliability not to mention handling situations and emergencies - grocery staff rarely cut a suicidal person in half in the frozen food aisle. Because of this you need to reduce your turnover by paying more. You want people who can live on the salary and be satisfied with it, so it has to be over $15 an hour.

Grocery skills are likely easier to get, easier to train and thus easier to replace. No need to keep them around.

Not that I like unions, just thought I'd put in a good not for the people that drive down the same tunnel dozens of times a day, 250 times a year...

Matt
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[User Picture]From: beable
2005-04-12 01:49 am (UTC)

A day and penny later, (giving me time to read the comments as well) but I think it is a growing trend.

When PSAC was in a strike position, alot of people I know were complaining about the inconvenience of having large amounts of people picketing in front of downtown buildings, and the traffic slowdowns and disruptions this inevitably causes.

It surprises me how many people my age and younger in particular are anti-union for precisely the reasons mentioned above either in comments or quoted arguments. It's like we (people, Canadians, pick a label, etc) don't have a sense of history, and don't have an awareness of how easily the ground previously one can be taken away again. Then again I'd say the same thing about many things such as freedom and privacy as well. The popular notion that "we are a free, democratic society" so we don't have to work constantly to maintain this state is symptomatic of the same complacency.

Eh, thanks. Whether I said anything or not, for giving me the opportunity to pontificate.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-04-12 12:09 pm (UTC)
A day and penny later, (giving me time to read the comments as well) but I think it is a growing trend.

When PSAC was in a strike position, alot of people I know were complaining about the inconvenience of having large amounts of people picketing in front of downtown buildings, and the traffic slowdowns and disruptions this inevitably causes.

It surprises me how many people my age and younger in particular are anti-union for precisely the reasons mentioned above either in comments or quoted arguments. It's like we (people, Canadians, pick a label, etc) don't have a sense of history, and don't have an awareness of how easily the ground previously one can be taken away again. Then again I'd say the same thing about many things such as freedom and privacy as well. The popular notion that "we are a free, democratic society" so we don't have to work constantly to maintain this state is symptomatic of the same complacency.


It doesn't really surprise me, "how many people [your] age and younger...are anti-union", but it does sometimes shock, in an "I know it's true but I still can't believe it!" kind of way. Or maybe I should say it appals me, but doesn't surprise me.

We have, after all, been living through at least a quarter century - since Reagan and Thatcher first laid their hoofmarks on the world's stage - of an intense barrage of Orwellian propaganda telling us that the right to join a union is slavery, that democratic government is by nature oppressive and that the individual is equal to a corporation economically more powerful by many orders of magnatude.

Add to that a consumerist society that that encourages the short-sighted satisfaction of momentary desire over long-term thinking, and it should be no surprise to us that most of our fellow-citizens are unable or unwilling to bring historical perspective to bear on matters of public interest, let alone to bring themselves to make the effort to analyze a given situation in a context larger than their immediate (perceived) self-interest.

"I've got (or want) mine, Jack," seems to about sum it up (if you'll forgive me for oversimplifying - it's early morning and I'm conscious of the clock).

Eh, thanks. Whether I said anything or not, for giving me the opportunity to pontificate.

My pleasure. (Thoughtful) pontificating is Good.
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