Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Road Less Traveled

I know that this is primarily a crochet blog, but it is still my personal blog, and so I feel the need to stray a bit off topic and discuss a matter that is right now rather a huge deal for me.

I am a unionized employee at a company that in November ended a 4 month labour dispute. Bitter is not the word to describe what went on before, during and after the whole debacle. I spent those 4 months standing strong with my brothers and sisters, even though it was tough, emotionally, physically and financially. I saw the end of friendships as people found themselves on opposite sides. I saw the dark and ugly of union and corporate politics. To say that this dispute was difficult, and ended rather dismally for those who chose to stand in solidarity is an understatement; still I would not change my decision. The only change I would want is that I was not very aware of the issues, or involved in effecting changes prior, and I now wish I was.

I could probably fill 3 pages with the details of the dispute, but I won't. What is important to what is currently happening is that the Executive Council (EC) of the union made many strategic and communications mistakes throughout, and lost the confidence of much of the membership. There was particular distrust of the president, as there was a closed door meeting between him, the CEO of the company, and the leader of an entirely different union who is currently under a cloud of suspicion himself. There was no other member of our union present, contrary to bargaining practices in our constitution. The final vote on the contract that was finally accepted was an absolute joke, with many members in rural areas not receiving their ballots. Heck, I never did get one, but I at least live in one of the three major cities this company is located in, and therefore had an office to go pick up a ballot and vote in. And those examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, this past week has been the annual convention for our union, where elections are held, policies are made, and other business is discussed. At the beginning, a special convention was called to discuss non-confidence in the current EC, the result of which being that a majority vote of non confidence was reached, the EC positions declared empty, and elections began on Tuesday.

All very nice and democratic-sounding, right? The problem is, rather than bow out gracefully, or run again, our president took the matter to the courts, filing an injunction against the non-confidence vote and new elections on the grounds they did not follow the proper procedure in the union's constitution. The defense is that they simply used provisions under a different area of the constitution, and therefore valid. It's a tricky piece of legal pie, really. I'm not a lawyer, so I am not going to try and explain both sides. Anyone wishing to know particulars, feel free to email me, and I will be happy to send you links to information on the injunction. As it stands, the injunction is in effect until June 30, pending the outcome of a full trial or other action.

Honestly, at this point I think it matter less about which side is right on the legal matter. At this point, it angers me that our president, who should be looking out for the members, who should not be further alienating those already disillusioned with what happened during the labour dispute, is once again looking out only for himself. His supporters claim he is only trying to protect our constitution, but if that is the case why is he suing for monetary damages?

Now, we have a membership divided between those that want to keep the status quo, those wanting to effect change within, and those so completely disgusted and disheartened by the actions of a few, they want to either merge us into a new union or decertify completely in order to get rid of the current EC.

I know where I stand in this struggle. I am in the camp that wishes to change from within. We have amazing people in our group, people who could make a difference, who could make this union effective and amazing. I just hope we get the chance to do so.

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