Vancouver City Workers Strike

VANCOUVER CITY WORKERS STRIKE

(Face To Face With The Enemy, September 2007, Vancouver Anarchist Newsletter)

“Workers rarely strike when it suits them. They usually strike when it is convenient for capitalism.”
– B. Traven, The White Rose, 1929

As a march of striking city workers approached Vancouver’s city hall on August 29, a group stopped a city vehicle and somebody slashed one of its tires. This person wasn’t arrested, according to the corporate media. At the beginning of the month, the city told the media that they’d suffered $5,000 worth of damage (so far) to city vehicles due to slashed tires and other sabotage.

There have also been picket lines set up at a private club and a movie theatre that were offering to take other people’s garbage. But the city is certainly looking cleaner than one would expect. Managers can be seen daily doing their workers’ jobs and undermining the strike. It seems that other so-called volunteer clean-up operations are going ahead unchecked.

One guy actually followed through on an idea that probably occurred to a lot of us. He dumped his garbage at city hall’s doorstep.

Mostly, the current city workers strike is not about money (at least not in the short term), as the city’s propaganda war in the media portrays it. It’s more about the city’s desire to privatize (contract-out) jobs, meaning more money and control for the city in the long term. For the librarians, it’s also about pay equity for women. The city says it wants “flexibility”, meaning that they want to be able to twist workers into whatever shape they please, like a pretzel. The workers, at least, are refusing that.

For a long time now, a union strike hasn’t been what it used to be, and that’s because unions aren’t what they once were. The bosses deduct the dues from the workers paychecks and hand them to the union. In turn, the union bureaucrats promise to keep the rabble in line. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the bureaucrats help impose the contracting-out of jobs at Telus and the hospitals, against the wishes of, and the struggle waged by, the unions’ own workers. “Screwed by our own union”, said the picketer’s sign outside a Victoria hospital the day after her union leaders sold her out and agreed with the BC government that wages and jobs should be cut. Still, a lot of workers kept up the strike that day back in 2004, against their own union’s orders.

Most people seem content to simply wait-out the current Vancouver city strike, including the city government and the union heads. For the negotiating parties, this may be the strategy of both sides. Wear down the workers until they agree to a crappy contract. The union bureaucrats keep getting their “dues” and the city gets their flexibility and their “labour peace” for the 2010 Olympics, at the expense of the workers of course. But there is an old union saying that hardly anyone might remember, “the longer the picket line the shorter the strike”. In other words, “solidarity.”

“It’s pretty clear the Olympics aren’t for us. They are 10 days for the business community and upper-middle-class people. There’s no doubt that people on the street are taking the big hit.”
– Mike Gillan, 56, street cleaner, quoted in the Vancouver Sun, July 21, 2007

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Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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