Essex Library Workers and Peel Children’s Aid Society Workers Need Your Support

For information on how to donate, please scroll down.

This week, members of CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers, joined members of the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, and other members of CUPE, OPSEU, ETFO — and probably others I’ve forgotten — from Burlington, Hamilton, London, North Bay, Oshawa, Ottawa, and Woodstock on a road trip to Kingsville, Ontario.

We brought a bus full of love, solidarity, and donations to the Essex County Library Workers, who have been on strike for six months.

15178164_662921100549102_8882014812968803015_n

We had a spirited and emotional rally and a short picket line walk, and we promised the Essex Library Warriors that they are not forgotten.

We were thrilled and very proud of our members’ generosity. TPLWU held a food drive by branch. They collected so much food, it took 45 minutes to load the boxes into the bus!

15230761_662921137215765_3218936111597566099_n

As you know, our sisters and brothers in Essex County have been on strike for six months, and no resolution is in sight. It’s a very difficult situation, and the winter weather isn’t going to help. If your family makes end-of-year or holiday donations, please remember the Essex Library Workers this year.

CUPE 4914, Children’s Aid Society Workers, are also in a very difficult position. Their employer has hired scabs, offering exorbitant wages with all expenses paid. If you’re a taxpayer in Peel, that’s how your taxes are being wasted.

4914

Click here to send a message to Wynne and Coteau.

Sonia Yung, president of Local 4914, made this appeal.

November 24, 2016 Dear Family, Friends and Allies As many of you may be aware we CUPE 4914, representing 435 Frontline, administrative and support staff have been on strike since September 18, 2016.

While our resolve remains strong, the financial burden of an eleven-week strike has created hardship for our membership. Some of our members are facing eviction notices, some have had to withdraw their children from daycare due to inability to pay fees, some have been unable to purchase required medication for themselves and or their children, while others are struggling to purchase groceries and or purchase gas for their vehicles to make it to the picket line.

And so we sacrifice our pride, and ask that you consider extending whatever support you can.

You can donate in the following ways.

Donations to Essex Library Workers

Financial:
Cheques made out to CUPE Local 2974, sent to:
CUPE Local 2974
3200 Deziel Drive – Unit 414
Windsor, ON N8W 5K8

Food Bank:
CUPE Regional Office
3200 Deziel Drive – Unit 414
Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, 1:00 – 4:00 pm
or
39 Wilson Avenue
Town of Essex
Thursdays, 12:00 – 3:00 pm

Donations to Children’s Aid Society Workers

Financial:
Cheques made out to CUPE Local 4914, sent to:
CUPE National Rep Bonnie Wong
CUPE Regional Office
25 Watline Avenue – Suite 202
Mississauga, ON L4Z 2Z1

Food Bank:
Strike Headquarters
19 John Street
Brampton, ON
Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Get on the bus! Rally and donation drive to support CUPE 2974

CUPE Local 2974 Essex County Library Workers Picket Line Visit and Holiday Gift Drive

Essex County Library Workers have been on strike almost six months. Let’s show these courageous Library Warriors they are not forgotten. Reserve a seat on the bus for our solidarity rally and gift drive.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pick up #1 – 6:30 am – 40 Orchard View Blvd, Toronto

Pick up # 2 – 7:30 am – 2600 Edenhurst Drive, Mississauga

Pick up #3 – 8:30 am – QEW/Guelph Line Carpool Lot, 3073 N Service Road, Burlington

12:00 pm drop off at 40 Main Street West, Kingsville, ON

1:30 pm leave Kingsville for return trip

If possible, please bring any of the following:
– Non-perishable food items
– Gift cards for gas, groceries, or other area stores (Canadian Tire, Homesense, Chapters, etc.)
– Personal care and household products
– New items that are appropriate for gifts (scarves, mittens, games, toys)
Note: please leave any gifts unwrapped.

To reserve a seat on the bus, email Laura Kaminker at president@cupe1989.org. Please note how many seats you will need and what bus stop you will use.

If you don’t need a ride and want to meet us at the rally, sign up here on Facebook.

Ten Reasons You Should Donate to the Essex County Library Workers This Holiday Season!

Ten Reasons You Should Donate to the Essex County Library Workers, CUPE Local 2974, This Holiday Season!

1. They’ve been on strike more than 140 days!

2. They are library workers! Their community needs them!

3. They are CUPE members, union members, standing strong!

4. They are fighting off a sick-leave program that is grossly unfair.

5. Municipal governments all over Canada are watching — waiting for them to crack. The more help they receive, the longer they can hold out.

6. It’s easy to do. Purchase gift card, mail to Local 2974 Library Workers, 414-3200 Deziel Drive, Windsor, ON N8W 5A5. Done!

7. We can show them they are not forgotten.

8. A little goes a long way. No amount is too small. Gas or supermarket gift cards are very welcome.

9. Doesn’t it feel good to help others? Get that warm and fuzzy “I did something good” feeling.

10. We can help their families have a good holiday, despite the strike.

October 1 Rally for Decent Work

15andfair

What are you doing this Saturday? Some of the CUPE 1989 Library Warriors will be heading to Queen’s Park to call on the Government of Ontario to MAKE IT FAIR.

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act is woefully outdated and leaves most workers without protection. Knowing this, employers are able to exploit us, especially the most vulnerable workers like newcomers and those from racialized communities. Changes in the ESA are coming, and we want to make sure workers are at the table.

Join us on Saturday, October 1, as we raise our collective voice to demand:
– a $15/hour minimum wage,
– mandatory paid sick leave,
– respect at work,
– humane scheduling,
– and laws that protect everyone.

Union and nonunion, students and educators, full-time and part-time, young workers and experienced — we all have a stake in this. And we are #StrongerTogether!

For information on buses or to join an event, see the Make It Fair website. Hope to see you there.

Thank You for Your Support

CUPE 1989 members happy to be back on the job, grateful for community support

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Aug. 12, 2016) – Members of Local 1989 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Mississauga Library Workers (CUPE 1989) would like to thank the people of Mississauga for their support during their recent strike, and for the warm welcome that they have received upon returning to the job.

“Every person that came through our doors said, ‘Welcome back, we missed you,'” said Mary Keating, who works at the Lorne Park branch of the Mississauga Library System. “Of course we told them we missed them too. There were lots of hugs from regulars, and some people even started bringing in treats.”

Members of CUPE 1989 were off the job for 18 days in July where they did as much as they could to deliver library services from the picket line. This included distributing free books, and offering free programs like children’s story times.

“Celebration Square will look empty and sad without all the pink-wearing ladies and gents,” said Liliana Korac, CUPE 1989 member, recalling their time on the picket line. “It wasn’t easy, and I am happy that strike is over, and we will go back to do what we love with all our passion.”

Rachel Young, who works at the Burnhamthorpe branch, said, “We got lots of ‘welcome back’ greetings and warm feelings when we reopened. We received two lovely pictures from little kids welcoming us back as only little kids can. Proof that we make a difference. We matter to people!”

With the libraries back up and running the pages, librarians, library assistants, couriers, and cataloguers of CUPE 1989 have shifted their focus back to delivering quality programming and services to the people of Mississauga. But now they do so with an even stronger connection to the community that supported them through the strike.

“The members of CUPE 1989 thank all our customers who were so supportive during the strike-everyone who wrote letters or made phone calls on our behalf, brought us water, honked as they drove by, stopped to wish us good luck. You made a difference!,” said CUPE 1989 President Laura Kaminker. “We’re very happy to be back at work, providing the quality library services that we are so proud of.”

CONTACT INFORMATION
Laura Kaminker
CUPE 1989 President
647-200-1481

Matthew Stella
CUPE Communications
905-739-3999

What the Strike Meant to Us, in Our Own Words

13701091_10208812847471697_4255668960379047393_oImage: “We Hit Them Like A Wave” — Diane Davies

After CUPE 1989 ratified our new contract, I said I would write about the intangible gains we made through our strike, the kind that aren’t written in the collective agreement.

I’ve heard labour activists say that strikes are a “transformative experience” — a life-changing event — and now I know why. Standing up for ourselves, asserting our own rights, is a crucial part of every person’s development. But learning how to stand up collectively is a different level of power.

For many of our members, the strike was their first time seeing themselves as part of something larger than themselves — seeing our union not just as 400 library workers who happen to work for the same employer, but as part of CUPE, and part of the labour movement itself.

Striking together brought so much unity and solidarity among our members, so much goodwill and love and caring. Of course there were some complaints and some finger-pointing. Nothing is ever 100% — even our ratification vote was only 99%! But the huge majority of our members were supportive and caring — and determined.

At work, we are full-time and part-time, we are pages, librarians, library assistants, couriers, cataloguers. But on the line, we were one: we were 1989.

I could go on and on about this — I often do! — but I’d rather let our members speak in their own words. These are quotes from emails and from our closed discussion group on Facebook. Although I am quoting each anonymously, these all are actual quotes from our members. And from most of these, I’ve removed effusive thanks to the leaders and the bargaining team!

Reflections after we returned to work

It was sad we had to go out, but I’m glad I was part of it before I left. That was the first time in my entire 39 years working for MLS that I felt we were truly united! We should all be proud of that. (from a recently retired member)

The journey we all were on for three weeks was enlightening, because now we all know that striking is not easy, but we made friends along the way. We had a unity, a togetherness, instead of the divisions between part-timers and full-timers that some of us thought might happen.

It wasn’t all about the money but also the principle of the matter — fairness, equality, respect, being valued.

What I learned after I went back to work was how much our customers really cared and loved us. I heard “Thank God you are all back!” “I really miss you guys!”, “You’re a sight for sore eyes!”

It was a lot of sweating, walking, with moments of happiness and despair, but for a good cause and I would do it again.

We got lots of “welcome back” greetings and warm feelings when we reopened yesterday, as well as some unexpected ire from patrons angry about the raw deal the City had offered us. Seems like some regulars were letter writing (in our favour) during the strike!

Later we received two lovely pictures from little kids welcoming us back as only little kids can. Proof that we make a difference. We matter to people!

kids pics

There comes a time in your life when you have to take a stand. Fight for what is right. Fight for “the greater good” and not just think about yourself. For me, this strike was my time. I will never pass by another strike and think that a quick honk is enough support. I will always stop to ask if there is anything I can do to help. Water, snacks, words of encouragement. Make calls. Walk the line with them. Whatever I can do to make a difference no matter how small.

As much as it’s not fun to be forced to strike by the employer, I have grown through this experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Celebration Square will look empty and sad without all the pink-wearing ladies and gents. It wasn’t easy, and I am happy that strike is over, and we will go back to do what we love with all our passion. But still, I will miss our togetherness and unity and friendship and feeling that we are doing something very important, that we are changing Mississauga Library System forever, that we have a very strong voice and determination to do what is right. This is even a historic moment because this was the first time that our library went on strike! Solidarity and love to all of you.

I will probably retire next year, but I feel so good about what we all just did, leaving our union in such better condition, proud of ourselves, no longer afraid to strike. I am so glad I had a small part in this. I am so glad that I got to experience a “kinder gentler strike” and to witness solidarity in action.

I still can’t believe the unity the strike created. I admit feeling a little let down once the picketing ended, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing so many of my colleagues daily. It was way better than any staff appreciation or team-building exercise our employer could come up with. The caring about people, checking up on one another, lifting morale when one of us was having a tough day, making sure colleagues were staying hydrated and being safe on hot, hot days.

We have all changed as co-workers. People I used to pass in the building with a smile and hello now take time to stop for a quick chat.

I know for myself, I will never look at striking workers the same. I always used to honk when driving past a strike and even dropped off coffee and Timbits when the teachers were ou,t but now I will go out of my way to drop things off to the picket lines and find time to walk with picketers. I will tell them to stay strong and they will look back on this time fondly. I know I will!

My first day on the strike, I was a little uncertain as many probably were. Within 15 minutes, up went the flag, someone handed me a sheet of chants. “Be a rebel,” she said. And so I was. My favourite part was blocking the executive garage, and chanting at the corner of Burnhamthorpe. Apparently the city received many complaints about the noise.

I met the most wonderful people and the kindness of strangers. Bringing water and freezies and honking. We really had a lot of public support. I learned so much and wouldn’t change those three weeks for anything.

Returning to work we realized the public was totally with us. So happy to see us back. I find it funny they were more appreciative of our return from the strike than when we were closed for 18 months [for renovations]. Many of our customers read between the lines of City’s press.

I will never pass a picket line again without honking or stopping to see if they need anything. Another thought I had mid point of the strike was: it wasn’t us vs. them, it was US FOR US.

Let me tell you about returning to work at the Lorne Park branch. Every person that came through our doors said, “Welcome back, we missed you.” Of course we told them we missed them also. Lots of hugs from regulars. Then patrons started bringing in treats. A large fruit tray from one, and homemade, still-warm banana muffins. We were missed as much as we missed them.

I did miss them, but I wouldn’t have traded our three weeks together for anything. Connecting with old friends and making new friends. Together, fighting for fairness.

All reports about our return were positive. Customers brought staff cookies, someone brought a potted plant! Everyone was saying, “Welcome back! We missed you.” Customers asked, “Are you happy, did it work out for you?” I have not heard one report of a negative comment from our customers.

During the strike…

Today was a really interesting time. Standing up for worker’s rights at the library was a unifying experience. It was really encouraging to hear so many commuters honk their horn in support!

I can’t believe how many caring and talented people work for the library. There are too many to name individually, but I see at least one of them being brilliant every single day. It stuns me that our Employer can be so willfully disrespectful to those who give so much of themselves seemingly as naturally as they breathe air.

It’s ridiculous how our Employer has turned so many of its best and brightest against itself. There are incredibly dynamic library workers, and often it’s these very folks who are channeling their boundless energies and exceptional levels of commitment into keeping our Union strong while standing up to the very organization they give their proverbial blood, sweat and tears to every day.

I love how united we are. We have 20+ year veterans picketing with fresh-faced newcomers. Librarians and senior librarians with couriers and technical services processors. Full-timers, part-time part-timers and pages. Everybody sounds passionate, committed, and fed up with always being treated as an afterthought.

Also, in my role, I get to more branches and departments than most, and every day I see the great things that we do! It really is impressive how we’ve come together across all job classifications. That alone shows how badly our Employer has screwed things up: EVERYBODY has had enough!

I didn’t realize how big an impact a strike can make until I heard comments from our supporters. Kinda like being a part of something bigger than oneself.

I have never felt such a deep sense of belonging. I am so proud!!!!

I’m falling in love with my Union!! I am seeing so much of the best that people can be these last few days (ha ha…with some exceptions, of course, but I tend to ignore those parts).

Really, I am in awe! Thank you and the rest of the team for your strength and perseverance!

Woohoo! Onward march!!

During some tough times…

I support our union! Goodbye 0.5% and minimum wage! We will not blame our union whether we achieve our aims or not. Because: no fight, no hope at all!!!

I’ve been a library employee (and union member) for almost 30 years. In that time, we’ve come close to striking on two occasions (one of them within a hair’s breadth) but we’ve always backed off. Why? First, fear; second, a naïve belief that if we were “reasonable” our employer would recognize this and reward us “the next time”. This “next time” never came, so we drew a line in the sand—and our employer hasn’t just crossed it, they’ve obliterated it with their mean-spirited and insulting offer. I’m sure they did this because they assumed, as in past years, that we would back off. Well, the chickens have come home to roost — only we’re not chickens. We’re taking a long-overdue stand against the erosion of our standard of living.

I’ve spoken with a number of people on the picket line and haven’t heard one word of dissent. I wonder if the City realizes that everything they’ve said and done thus far has only galvanized support for the strike? They will not break us. We all stand together.

This letter [from the library director] is an insidious attempt to divide us; its aim is to plant doubt in the minds of the Union members, weaken our trust and ultimately sap the vigour, commitment and passion that Union members feel right now ( and which [the director] and the other senior managers can witness so vividly from their library offices when they observe us out on Celebration Square).

It must be rankling some of them immensely to see us all together so strong and committed. A cliché but true: divide and conquer. This is what she is trying to do to us.

It is shameful that she is resorting to this tactic and indeed an insult to our intelligence; it is once again treating us as if we are children.

Please know that I stand by you and the rest of the Union leaders. I have not yet received this letter in the mail from Rose. When I do, I will follow up as you suggest (send her a simple, polite response that I stand with my union).

I trust that the rest of our Union membership will do the same.

Tsk tsk tsk, don’t the employers know their attempts to divide us backfires? It’s amazing how loud librarians can get. Today I’ll test my hearing. But so far so good. I think it survived yesterday.

Sending positive thoughts/vibes/prayers to the bargaining team this week. Go get them!!!

Before we went on strike, I already had a bit of activism experience . . . . Now I’m involved in a different type of activism (our Union strike) and it’s fascinating to see where the two types of activism share common ground: ultimately both are profoundly powerful agents for positive change and deeply life-changing for the activists.

I’m sure all of our CUPE Union members who`re working so hard together in this current struggle with the City feel this.

Yes! We need to persevere and support each other and stand up for the fairness of this strike. I envision our strike also helping other struggling workers in the process.

I, for one, am willing to be out on strike for however long it takes; you can count on me.

I believe (as you do) that if we keep it up, we WILL prevail.

I’ve worked for the Mississauga Library System for over two decades and never at any time had any illusion about the employer-employee relationship.

It feels very good to finally have a strong, truly committed Union leadership to inspire library union members to stand up to the City, make it accountable for its actions and demand a fair contract for library staff, a contract that respects good working conditions and a just, equitable remuneration for all levels of staff.

Alongside this it’s wonderful to see the strength and friendship among library staff as we unite together in this strike.

Also wonderful to see the community support we’re receiving from so many of our customers; truly heartwarming!

Not to mention the support and encouragement our Union is receiving from so many other unions and labour organizations.

I am not at all surprised at the behaviour for the City, having worked the library/City for 42 years, this is what I have seen and known for a long time. They have taken advantage of the library staff because we were seen as weak and as we continued to back down at the last minute when a strike was so close it seemed to confirm that. Going on strike is a very difficult thing to do especially for a group who make such low wages, therefore making it very hard to have money in the bank to get you through a strike — and management knows that and uses that. I feel the City would not and do not treat or feel the same why about the other City Unions that are mostly dominated by men.

Your words say it so clearly and I do hope all of library union members are able to hang in there. This is a very hard fight against an unfeeling or caring employer.

When we returned to the table…

Dear Laura

We are with you and the bargaining team.

Thank you.

Good luck to you and the bargaining team. I wish the city would realize what a dedicated crew we (the library workers) are. To strike in summer heat and not falter. It must say something about us as a group.

One thing about this strike. You can meet staff you don’t usually work with and catch up with staff that you do. Whether they be your branch or another.

I appreciate seeing the extra support we are getting. The Fight for 15 Fairness, Maureen O’Reilly, Fred Hahn, so many others. Yup, this is bigger then just us. I would love to see minimum raised to 15 across the province.

When we reached a settlement…

I can’t believe it! This is so wonderful! I am so proud to work with such amazing, strong, dedicated and compassionate people. Congratulations to everyone for a fight well fought!

I will cherish my wonderful memories of picketing, rallies, friendship, unity.

I will definitely miss walking and talking to everyone as well! I will miss our togetherness and preserverance, I will always remember this bonding experience! Love you guys!

18 days ago, my sisters and brothers of CUPE 1989 set out on a journey to show our employer that we were fed up with our working conditions. That we would no longer stand for these unfair working condition.

This strike has taught me many things (some not so good, but let’s focus on the positive); there are so many amazing people that work in our library system, the support, the SOLIDARITY. The support of the public and other unions in this fight was unbelievable.

I hope that we never have to experience this again, but it is now a memory I will cherish, better than any staff appreciation our employer will ever put on for us. I was definitely feeling the stress this past week, but everyone was so supportive and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

I hope that our fight will help others fight for what’s fair and help end precarious work. I say all this still not knowing what the deal will be, but I trust that our bargaining team would not settle for anything less than we deserve. I don’t know about you, but I’m celebrating this weekend!

What a wonderful experience this was for all of us. This strike gave me confidence!! I got to know so many wonderful members from the library system and from other wonderful CUPE members. It’s an unforgettable experience for me. I will cherish this wonderful memories

Let’s carry this hope, loyalty and friendship forward into our workplace and stay respectful and kind to all of our friends who fought this battle and carried the flags and talked the talk… let this be our future mission!

I was starting to feel the stress, my morale was down and then a few conversations with colleagues and a couple negative comments made by people made me take a step back and say ‘hey wait a minute’ and that just motivated me more. Thank you so much for your tireless efforts for us and thank you to everyone who was out there on the picket lines every day in the heat, no matter what, fighting the good fight. I have had the chance to talk to and meet so many people I didn’t know before so thank you for those connections as well. I am on vacation next week but I will be excited to get back and see all the excited kids for the summer programs.

Every time I wear a pink shirt from now on it will mean something more than just wearing a pink shirt.

I am so excited to go back to work but I will miss every moment of my picketing!! Wow! We had so much fun. See you all [at the ratification vote] with our similing faces. We did it! We won!!!

I feel like we won the lottery! Only we didn’t win it, we FOUGHT for it!

After a member expressed concern about part-time getting “more” than full-time…

I knew in time opinions like this would surface. This is EXACTLY what the employer wants. They want staff to have the “this doesn’t effect me, so I don’t support the movement” attitude.

This is the response that I myself have received from friends and family: “But you’re full-time permanent now, why do you care about other levels that you probably won’t go back to?” But once they hear the issues they understand.

I care because I was part-time for 15 years, and I received nothing. I care because when I became full-time I suddenly had all these things I never had before, I was suddenly so much more important, when nothing had changed. My work ethic stayed the same, my intelligence level was the same, who I was still the same. But because I was now full-time, suddenly I mattered.

I care because suddenly my 15 years of part-time service meant nothing (they didn’t want to give me my service pin because I was now full-time, though I completed more then fifteen years at part-time — my manager had to fight for it). I care because I’ve known many people in this system for many years and we’ve all at some point felt that part-time staff meant nothing and that has finally changed.

The bargaining team has made me believe that change is possible, that we CAN make a difference but we MUST stick together. It’s never too late to help your teammates receive things they should have had a long time ago. Full-time or part-time, Pages or supervisors we are all human beings and deserve to make wages we can live on. Solidarity, today, tomorrow and always!!!!

I understand the stress, we’re all feeling it. I know as this goes into a second week people are coming to the realization that this could possibly go on for a while. Know what’s lost now will be regained in the future. The City now knows we’re not afraid, they know that we are willing to do what needs to be done, and I hope that because of this they will deal with future agreements with more class and dignity than this round, because they know we won’t back down. I put all my trust in our leadership and the bargaining team. There will always be bumps, it’s part of life. This will all be worth it in the end. Solidarity always.

— Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE 1989

We Have a New Contract

bargainingteam

Our ratification vote meeting was an experience we will never forget. The line to sign in snaked all around the building; it took more than an hour for everyone to sign in. I believe it was the largest turnout we’ve ever had, for anything.

At the top of the meeting, the bargaining team stood in the front of the auditorium. Before we could say anything, our members burst out into applause, standing and clapping and cheering — for a long time. I was overwhelmed: the member who took this photo caught my tears. We applauded our members back, and we all stood clapping and cheering and shouting. I have no words to describe how I proud I was — of all of us.

While we walked our members through a presentation about the new contract, there was spontaneous cheering and applause throughout.

And then the vote: 99% voted to ratify. 99%!

Our goals

We went into bargaining with four principal goals:

  • no concessions,
  • living wage for our Pages,
  • some improvement for part-time workers, and
  • the largest increase possible for all.

We achieved every one of these goals.

Our strategy

We had one central strategy: we would not accept gains for one group at the expense of another. Pages, part-time, and full-time must all gain. We all know that employers try to divide us, to play groups against each other. Our union has fallen into that trap before. This time, we vowed that would not happen.

Employers are fond of talking about “the pie” — the size of the budget alloted to the bargaining unit, which is then divided throughout your contract.

So if, for example, you give Pages a fair piece of this pie, then you can’t also get a fair wage increase for full-time. If you want to keep your premium for Sunday work, then you can’t also get something else. And so on.

The bargaining team vowed to reject this way of thinking. Our shorthand for this was: Reject the Pie. Here’s a meme that I used as my profile pic for a long time.

12832582_10153822549115289_6540395051067675724_n

A few details about our goals and our contract

No concessions

Naturally the Employer was after whatever it could get out of our contract. The list of potential concessions is so long, it’s practically our entire contract.

So many locals had been burned on recent contracts, that CUPE has adopted a national strategy: no-concession bargaining. I find it strange that such a thing even needs to be said. But from our earliest days of bargaining training, we agreed: no concessions.

We did give the Employer two things that they wanted that some of our members may see as a loss. However, in both instances, we were able to win additional language that made these points a benefit for both sides.

Living wage for pages

Our Pages are our largest classification — 28% of our membership — and they were earning only pennies over minimum wage. We went into bargaining insisting that they earn $15/hour, at once. And we were determined to do it without compromising anyone else’s deal.

The Employer did recognize the need to give the Pages a significant raise. With a new mayor crowing about poverty reduction, they knew they had no choice. But the Employer’s proposals for the Pages were all too little, took too long, and came at the expense of other members. Time after time we rejected their proposals for step increases, including their supposed best offer which brought the Pages to $14/hour in 2018.

Our Pages now earn $15.00/hour. New hires will start at $14, and move to $15 after their probationary period (390 hours). This is the achievement I am most proud of.

I’m told 1989 is the first CUPE local to bring members from minimum wage to $15/hour in one leap.

Improvements for part-timers

We did not go nearly as far as we wanted on the part-time improvements. Their work life is still precarious and their contract still grossly inadequate. But had we accepted the Employer’s offer in late June, it would have degraded even further.

As a result of our strike, the Employer dropped its demands for the punitive language — language that we promised our part-timers we would never agree to.

And we did win two significant improvements that will have a very positive impact on the lives of our part-timers. I believe we will be able to go further for part-timers in our next round of bargaining.

Wage increases

The Employer moved off its (supposed) best offer, and agreed to our (reduced) wage increase proposal. We did not win as much as we deserve — nor as much as library managers and city executives get. But we did get more than the Employer’s best offer — and more than they said they could afford.

What we gave up

We told our members that we wouldn’t win everything, that no strike wins absolutely everything. The bargaining team struggled for a long time over where to give.

We looked at the possibilities from every angle, factoring in every variable. What would benefit the most members? What would hurt members the least? And now, of course, there was another factor. Did we want to ask our members to stay out even longer? Would another week or more of striking produce a better deal, or would there be diminishing returns? We had an opportunity to end our strike while members’ morale was still high. Would more sacrifice bring more gains, or only more hardship?

We discussed and debated for a long time. Eventually, we found consensus. We made what we feel is a relatively small sacrifice in other to achieve all these other goals.

And so much more

These are very practical, tangible gains that we made as a direct result of our strike. Yet it’s only part of the story. I will write more about the intangible gains — how the strike changed us, both collectively and individually. Stay tuned.

— Laura Kaminker

Between the Lines: How did we get here?

13690682_10154455233244658_1953133019086244511_n

We’ve stopped picketing and demonstrating, and are waiting for our ratification meeting and vote tomorrow night, Monday, July 25.

As local president, my life has been consumed by bargaining and the strike for so long, it feels a bit surreal. Is it really over? That may take a while to sink in! I’m sure others feel this way, too.

Thank yous to the bargaining team from our members continue to pour in, along with congratulations from other union sisters and brothers. Donations continue to arrive from other locals, retired members, and even customers. Those are very welcome, as we begin to pay our bills and rebuild our funds.

The details of our new contract can’t be made public until we ratify. But I can say this: we regard it as a very significant win.

For our leadership teams, this is gratifying beyond measure. We have spent the last two years rebuilding our union from the ground up, and this was the outcome.

The roots of our strike: rebuilding our union

Labour-Management

The first step in rebuilding our union was strengthening our position at our monthly labour-management meetings — coming in more prepared, hitting harder, not being reluctant to file grievances. For more on this, see this article on RankandFile.ca, and its source, CharleyRichardson.org: “Kicking Ass for the Working Class”. It’s an honour and a privilege to try to walk in Charley Richardson’s huge footprints. Shoulders of giants, and all that.

The most important element of our labour-management strategy was preparation. This required a willingness to meet regularly, on our own time, to plan and strategize in advance of meetings with management.

Separation

The next step in rebuilding was our separation from a large, composite local structure that didn’t serve our needs, and returning to an independent local, as existed before the merger. This was an enormous undertaking, and required the time and commitment of many members. We held a series of informational meetings so members could make an informed decision — and 98% of our membership voted to separate. This process itself was an incredibly powerful tool for building member engagement.

Becoming an independent local again gave us decision-making power over grievances, including when to go to arbitration, and we adopted a new willingness to use these tools.

Member engagement

Union activists — including our rank-and-file executive, but certainly not only those — made building member engagement our number one priority. We did this in ways large and small; see this post on my personal website: 10 ways you can increase member engagement in your union.

Our new or renewed strength at labour-management, and our new willingness to grieve, worked hand-in-hand with member engagement. We reported the highlights of labour-management meetings to our membership, so they knew we were fighting for them.

Communication

The next factor was clear communication and lots of it. One of the problems with the composite local structure had been a lack of transparency. We vowed to keep members constantly informed, and to strive for total transparency. That is probably the single most important piece of this picture. How can members feel engaged if they don’t know what’s going on?

Our attitude towards member communications extended to bargaining. Past negotiating committees had been very quiet about negotiations until the very end. That is very common, and many union members believe it is actually required, and that keeping members informed constitutes bad-faith bargaining. Not so.

We adopted a different approach. While we didn’t share every roller-coaster twist and turn of the bargaining process — which would be completely counter-productive — we kept our membership in the loop throughout. I regularly emailed “Bargaining Bulletins” (thanks to Maureen O’Reilly for the name!) summarizing how the process was going, what we were fighting for, how the employer was reacting. We also gave updates about bargaining at our monthly general membership meetings.

And finally, the strike vote

This process went on for a long time, all of it working synergistically, building something larger than the sum of its parts.

When it was time to ask for a strike vote, our members were primed and ready. The bargaining team wasn’t swooping in out of nowhere, asking people to gamble, to make this sacrifice. By the time we received the employer’s (supposedly) best offer, and declared that we would not recommend ratification, our members came pouring into the auditorium ready to vote yes.

Here, I’d like to share something personal. The night before the strike vote, I experienced a dark night of doubt and fear. So many of our members said they were willing to strike… but what if that was just talk? When push came to shove, would they vote yes? I’ve just faced our employer across the table and said, “We are rejecting this offer. We are not recommending ratification.” What if our members didn’t back us up?? If that happened, we were done. Finished. Our power at the table would be completely negated. We had said as much to members many times — and members were saying it to each other, which was a great sign — but still. There was no way to be sure.

All that night and into the morning, my stomach was in knots. We were holding three vote meetings, to give our members (as we are shift workers) maximum opportunity to participate. As soon as the first meeting began, I saw our members’ faces — a huge turnout, the room crackling with energy, everyone smiling and excited — and I knew we had it.

And we did. We had the highest turnout of the last two years, and 96% of our membership voted to strike.

What did we gain?

I will write more about the gains we’ve made from striking — both very real, practical gains in our collective agreement, and myriad intangible gains as a union and as individuals — after we ratify. Stay tuned.

— Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989