“We’re not made of fragile glass. We won’t break that easily.”

Yesterday the City of Mississauga reneged on its agreement to honour pre-approved vacations. People who were expecting vacation pay suddenly did not receive it.

I emailed members to deliver the bad news, and to make it clear that the Employer is trying to make it harder for us to strike, to drive a wedge into our solidarity, and to break the strike.

Here’s how one member responded.

The City obviously doesn’t know their library workers very well!

They’re making the hazardous assumptions that we lack resilience, strength, intelligence, spirit, energy, and, of course, Solidarity.

Low blows by the city might sting but won’t knock us out. They’re underestimating us and it’s a mistake.

I know that everyone is out there grinding the pavement and hustling to send our message. I’m not surprised because it’s the same hustle and strength we bring to our jobs every day. We are the ones on the front lines making libraries work and connecting with customers on so many different levels.

We’re not made of fragile glass. We won’t break that easily.

From the Front Lines: Day Four

Every day, more and more members are coming out on the line!

At least 250 people were at Thursday’s morning rally and lunch-time barbecue with CUPE Ontario. Spirits were very high, and we were NOISY!

We were joined by members of many other unions:

– Ryan & Evan, CUPE 3902, University of Toronto
– Sandra & Tracey, CUPE 5167, City of Hamilton
– Sonia from CUPE 4914, Peel CAS
– Mary, CUPE 3904, Ryerson University
– Bhupinder & Inderdep, United Workers Canada
– Sandeep, NDP Brampton
– Fair Wages Brampton
– Jim McDowell, Peel Regional Labour Council

Our afternoon visit from National Treasurer Charles Fleury was a bit more subdued, but still important. Before coming to Celebration Square, Charles had visited our sisters and brothers in CUPE Local 2974, the Essex Public Library Workers, who are also on strike. He was delivering greetings of thanks and strength. He was also delivering our second $5,000 donation of the day!

And our brothers from CUPE 3902, University of Toronto, are sending a $2,000 donation. Pretty amazing, this solidarity stuff.

The new issue of The Mississauga News has a picture of president Laura Kaminker proudly marching on the line on the cover and a very positive story inside. There still has been no word from the City, and not one word from Mayor Bonnie Crombie. However, we did hear from an unnamed source that — pardon the expression — huge shit-storms are ricocheting all over City Hall.

And there was an emergency Library Board meeting this week. … Hmm, what could that have been about?

Here is the text of a letter one of our customers sent to Library Director Rose Vespa:

Dear Ms. Vespa,

As a regular user of the Mississauga library system, I am disappointed that negotiations with CUPE have failed. I am also dismayed by today’s report in the Mississauga News that includes CUPE’s characterization of library workers’ contracts as “the very definition of precarious work” with part-time workers having “no benefits, no paid sick time or bereavement leave and no paid vacation” and “nothing but a constantly changing schedule that prevents them from holding down a second job, yet offers only 12 to 16 hours a week, often less.” I am sure that neither you nor I would want to have to work in those conditions. I do hope that the city will make a better and more compassionate offer so that we can all continue to benefit from this wonderful service.

Thank you.

John S.

This Saturday, the Strike Committee and the Executive are meeting to debrief for the week and strategize for the week ahead. If you have ideas that you want to pass along, we are listening.

Please support us! Sign our petition, and tell the City of Mississauga: Give your library workers a fair deal!

Bonnie Crombie, Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac, Library Board / Council
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney, Library Board / Council
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

For more information, contact Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989, at 647-200-1481.

05

02

03

04

01

06

07

08

From the Front Lines: Day Three

Here are some highlights of the incredible support our strike action is generating:

1 – A customer called this morning. “Good morning, I am a library patron, just calling to say we support you. It is so hot today, would a donation of water be acceptable?” When we said yes, he said “OK, I will come by around 1:00 with 150 bottles of water.” Wow!!

2 – We received an email from Kyle in Winnipeg, subject line “Solidarity!”

I work at the Winnipeg Public Library and am a member of CUPE 500. I wanted to send my solidarity to you in your fight for fairness.

We know the same struggle as you. As a part-time worker at the library I know how difficult it is to survive on the pittance that we are given. My hours per week also range from 12-20 a week but some part timers get as low as 6. It is basically impossible to live off it or get a second job. A lot of people are forced to leave jobs they love for economical reasons. When it was brought to the attention of our manager that workers can’t live off the hours they’re given she remarked, “that’s not my concern.”

You are fighting a fight for all library workers. I wish I could come out to the picket line to show my support for you directly. But I will do everything in my power from Winnipeg to give you support. You will win your fight.

3 – We were copied on this letter to Library Director Rose Vespa.

Dear Ms. Vespa:

The members of the Progressive Librarians Guild-GTA chapter wish to express their unreserved support for the members of CUPE Local 1989 as they enter into job action over the lack of a fair and equitable contract offered by the City of Mississauga.

More than half of the workers at the Mississauga Public Library work part time, with no benefits, paid sick time, or paid vacation. It is our understanding that the contract that was tabled addressed a pay increase, but that rings hollow when the majority of workers cannot make a living wage with part time hours.

Precarious work is a troubling trend and one that disproportionately affects women, young people, and newcomers, the very populations that public libraries seek to serve.

The very nature of precarious work makes it difficult, if not impossible, to properly connect with and serve community members.

We call on the Board to return to the table and address the demands of CUPE Local 1989 to offer a fair and equitable contract that values the important work of their membership.

With respect,
The membership of PLG-GTA
cc: CUPE Local 1989

4 – We received solidarity visits from…
– Chris Buckley, president of the OFL
– CUPE 79, Toronto
– DPDSB Local 2544
– Bob from a union shop, who dropped off apple fritters and walked the line with us.
– And of course our daily visit from our brothers in CUPE Local 66.
#StrongerTogether!

5 – CUPE National is creating a Strike Support Website for us, to tell all union members all across Canada how they can support us.

6 – Another email:

Good morning:

We at York University have posted the following statement:

“The librarians and archivists of the York University Faculty Association stand in solidarity with all our fellow library workers in CUPE 1989 in Mississauga who are now on strike, fighting against precarious labour and for fair pay and decent benefits.

“Public libraries are important in Mississauga, in Toronto, in every city and town in Canada, and every worker in every library deserves, at minimum, a reasonable salary and a stable working environment. We call on Mayor Bonnie Crombie and the board of the Mississauga Library System to reach a fair settlement with CUPE 1989 immediately.”

William Denton,
Steward, Library Chapter,
York University Faculty Association

7 – Some observations from one of our couriers who stands strong for our union:

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) I love how united we are. We have 20+ year veterans picketing with fresh-faced newcomers. Librarians and senior librarians with (Level 2 pay-grade) 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.

8 – The video we shared recently is up to about 8,000 views and climbing. We’ve tweeted it to the City, of course. #saugastrike #WhereIsBonnie

9 – Speaking of Twitter, Mayor Crombie tweeted about the heat emergency in Mississauga. NOT FIVE SECONDS LATER, Peel District CUPE Council tweeted: “@BonnieCrombie there is an emergency right outside your office! Your librarians are on strike! Go talk to them!

10 – If you have written to the mayor or your councillor and received an unsatisfactory answer, please don’t worry. Everyone will receive the bland form letter. That’s the City’s public face. But in private, the letters and emails and phone calls are counted, and they will have an effect. We don’t know when, we won’t see it coming, but at some point the City will contact us. Until then, keep writing, emailing, and calling, and asking everyone else to do the same. You are making an impact.

Please sign our petition, and tell the City of Mississauga: Give your library workers a fair deal!

Bonnie Crombie, Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac, Library Board / Council
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney, Library Board / Council
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

For more information, contact Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989, at 647-200-1481.

From the Front Lines: Day Two

We had another great turnout today. When I arrived at 8:30 AM, there were already 100 people making noise at our favourite corner, and another 40-50 waiting to sign in.

So what did we learn today…?

The labour community rocks!

Folks from the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Peel Regional Labour Council, York Region Labour Council, Peel District CUPE Council, 4948 TPL Workers Union, plus other CUPE Reps, all came out to show their support.

They talked about how our fight is for each other, for all library workers – and for all workers in Ontario and in Canada. We all share the same issues and struggles, so it’s easy to support one another.

The rally was LOUD! and attracted a lot of attention from passing cars – and I’m sure, from our Employer as well. 🙂

We also received more financial donations, and donations of water and ice pops. One labour friend asked what we needed, and I said, how about some healthy snacks? A few hours later, here comes a guy with two cases of granola bars.

Social Media

We are rocking social media, with big assists from other unions. If you’re on Twitter, please use hashtags #saugastrike and #WhereIsBonnie. Other good ones are #StrongerTogether and #LibraryWarriors.

And speaking of Bonnie Crombie …

Our new mayor has not yet made a public statement about the library strike!

How you can help

The most important thing you can do to support us are to call and email the mayor’s office and councilors/Library Board.

Here’s something I received today:

Dear Ms Kaminker,

As a 7-year resident of Ward 4, a regular library user, and a member in good standing of CUPE 905, I am writing to express my support for your efforts to achieve a truly “fair and competitive” agreement for Mississauga Library staff.

I am also pasting a message I just sent to my Councillor and Library Board member, John Kovac. I hope you find that it adequately expresses my feelings on this matter.

Councillor Kovac,

As a 7-year resident of Ward 4 and a regular user of the Library, I am writing to you to express my deep disappointment in the Library Board in general, and you in particular as a Board member and my Councillor, for your inability to reach a fair agreement with Library staff, resulting in an entirely unnecessary disruption of service.

I am aware that Council recently voted itself a 1.75% increase for this year to a healthy $86,000 salary. Such an increase may seem comparable to the 1.5% (failing to keep pace with inflation), offered to library staff except that many of those staff need 2nd and even 3rd jobs to make ends meet. They might well have settled for a 1.5% increase if they had already been making $86,000 a year.

I am also aware of the 7.3% increase given to director of Library Services, Rose Vespa, in 2014. In light of this fact, and the fact that library staff received 0.5% that same year, it seems unconscionable to describe your entirely inadequate offer as “fair and competitive”.

Public libraries are an essential building block in the foundation of any thriving and successful municipality. By being unable to reach an agreement with library staff, you have weakened that foundation. I judge this current version of the Mississauga Library Board to be a failure, you included. The municipal elections may be more than two years away, but on October 22, 2018, I will remember that failure when deciding how to mark my ballot.

Please support us! Sign our petition, and tell the City of Mississauga: Give your library workers a fair deal!

Bonnie Crombie, Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac, Library Board / Council
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney, Library Board / Council
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

For more information, contact Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989, at 647-200-1481.

From the Front Lines: Day One

strike05

About 200 of us were on the picket lines today. Despite the blazing temperatures, our spirits were high. We waved our signs and our flags, showing our pride to every passerby.

Media

I did interviews with the Toronto Star, CBC (we were at 6:00 PM), CTV, CP24, the Mississauga News, and the labour newspaper Rank and File. Here are some links:

Toronto Star: Mississauga Workers’ Strike Shuts Down 18 Public Libraries

Mississauga News: Union President Says Situation For Mississauga’s Library Workers Is ‘Precarious’ And ‘Stressful’

CBC: Mississauga Libraries To Close Monday As Workers Vote To Strike

CP24: Mississauga Libraries To Be Closed Monday Amid Strike

News Talk 1010: Mississauga Libraries Closed Amid Strike

Global News: Mississauga’s 18 Libraries Closed Due To Labour Dispute

Yahoo! Finance: Talks Break Down, CUPE 1989 On Legal Strike For A Fair Contract With Mississauga Library System

Morning Star: Vital Summer Programming At Risk If Mississauga Library System Doesn’t ‘Get Serious,’ And Bargain A Fair Contract, Warns CUPE 1989

Benefits Canada: Mississauga Library Staff On Strike Over Pay And Benefits

In the battle for public opinion, I don’t think the City of Mississauga is looking too good.

Union Solidarity

CUPE Local 1989 has received a huge outpouring of solidarity and support from unions in Peel, Toronto, and indeed, throughout Canada. CUPE National President Mark Hancock called, and will visit from Vancouver soon.

CUPE Ontario is donating $5,000 to our strike fund. CUPE Local 831 (Brampton City workers) brought us water, signs, and goodie bags to give out to kids. CUPE Local 66 (Mississauga outside workers) stopped by. Labour activists from the Steelworkers and OPSEIU (college teachers) came from Toronto. Well-wishers were stopping by all day with water, freeze pops, and other necessities.

Tomorrow, the Canadian Labour Council, Peel Regional Labour Council, Toronto York Region Labour Council, and the Ontario Federation of Labour are rallying with us. And on and on it goes.

What’s the big fuss? Only that the members of CUPE Local 1989 are on the forefront of a struggle for justice taking place all over Canada. And – literally – all over the world.

Customer Support

Many customers stopped by our sign-in table today. The ones I saw were disappointed that the library was closed, but were very clear that they supported us anyway. One couple with three children were horrified to hear our issues, and asked, “How can we help?”

One customer left me a voice mail: she had gone to Meadowvale and Erin Meadows Libraries hoping to walk the line with us, and was disappointed not to find us there! I told her we were at Central and she said she’d be there tomorrow!

An unemployed Mississauga resident, originally from Sri Lanka, told me: “I depend on the library, and I’m sorry I can’t use it, but I am with you all the way. I support what you are doing. I miss the library, but I want to help you.”

These are only a few stories. There are many, many more. Most customers are behind us. They love their libraries, but they trust us and respect us, and know we are doing what we must.

Fairness and Respect

Why does our strike resonate so well with the public? Why is the media attention we receive so friendly? Because everyone recognizes injustice when they see it.

When workers receive a 0.5% increase and the Library Director receives a 7.3% increase …

When that Director’s increase amounts to more than what many of our lowest-paid workers – 28% of our membership – earn in a full year …

When work done in Mississauga pays under $12/hour and the same work in Brampton pays almost $19/hour …

When workers must come to work sick and ailing, because they lack paid sick time …

When a City Manager earning $280,000 annually sits across the table from a union representing 112 workers earning below the poverty line, and tells us: “There’s no more money. I guess you’ll have to strike.” …

When there seems to be money for everything the Library wants – the new technology, the automation, the renovations – but staff is told to make do …

It’s time to fight back.

Please support us! Sign our petition, and tell the City of Mississauga: Give your library workers a fair deal!

Bonnie Crombie, Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac, Library Board / Council
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney, Library Board / Council
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

For more information, contact Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989, at 647-200-1481.

On Strike

At 12:01 tonight, CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers Union, will be on strike.

The City of Mississauga tells us that a 1.5% salary increase is “fair and competitive”. In 2014, we had a 0.5% increase. In 2015, the same. With inflation running upwards of 1.8%, we are losing ground. Given Library Director Rose Vespa enjoyed a 7.3% increase in 2014, “fair” is not a word that springs to mind.

More than half our members work part-time. They have no benefits. No paid sick time. Not one day of paid bereavement leave, not a day of paid vacation. Many get only 8-12 hours per week, and struggle to string together enough shifts to cobble together a decent paycheque. Everyone needs second — and often third — jobs, but their constantly changing schedules make it very difficult, often impossible, to find more work. Fair?

Our Library Pages — 28% of our membership, and the foundation of the library — earn only pennies more than minimum wage! The same work in Brampton Public Library brings in almost $19.00/hour. Fair? Competitive?

The City agrees that Pages need to be better compensated. Our Union managed to push them — and they fought us all the way — to a $15/hour offer. But only if full-timers agree to take a smaller salary increase. Fair?

The “fair and competitive” offer also contained a host of smaller indignities. The City wants to force part-time workers to use their unpaid vacation in week-long blocks only. It wants to require part-timers to work every Saturday, rather than every-other Saturday, which is typical in our field. Try finding another job with that schedule! And, of course, they want to make it more difficult for us to run our union.

We love our jobs and we are proud of the quality services we provide. But we have been stretched past the breaking point.

If you support us, please sign our petition, and please tell the City of Mississauga: give your library workers a fair deal!

Bonnie Crombie
Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac
Library Board / Council
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney
Library Board / Council
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

For more information, contact Laura Kaminker, President, CUPE Local 1989, at 647-200-1481.

Mississauga Library Workers Vote to Strike

betterlivesYesterday, the members of CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers Union, voted overwhelmingly to strike. Amid massive turnout in three separate meetings, 96% of the members in attendance said they are willing to take strike action in order to win a fair contract for all members. The July 4th strike deadline coincides with the start of summer programming, the Library’s busiest time.

We, the members of Local 1989, love our jobs. We are very proud of the quality services we provide to the community. We are skilled workers, and our services are valued and loved by the residents of Mississauga. We ask only to be treated with respect, and for all our members to be able to provide a decent life for themselves and their families.

Our Library Pages — the people who put the books on shelves — deserve a living wage. Currently they earn only pennies above minimum wage, putting them well below the poverty line. Most are adults who support families!

Our part-time workers — 56% of our membership and growing — deserve paid sick time, at the very least. They currently have no benefits, no paid sick time, no paid bereavement leave, no paid vacation. They have nothing but a constantly changing schedule that prevents them holding down a second job, yet offers only 12-16 hours a week, often less. Their contracts are the very definition of precarious work.

Our full-time and part-time workers received a 0.5% salary adjustment in 2014, and the same in 2015 — 1% over two years! With the cost of living increasing by about 1.8% annually, we are falling farther and farther behind. Meanwhile, Library Director Rose Vespa enjoyed a healthy 7.36% increase. City Manager Janice Baker earns more than a quarter-million dollars per year. But Mississauga Library Workers are being told to make do with a 1.5% increase. When we point out that we received only 1% over two years, we are told, “That’s in the past.”

Commissioner of Community Services Paul Mitcham and City Manager Baker regularly message City employees, telling us about all the wonderful things happening in Mississauga, and how much they value our hard work and dedication. For Library workers, these messages are a sad joke, serving only as a reminder of the huge gap between the City’s self-image, and the reality of being a City of Mississauga employee.

When Mayor Bonnie Crombie talks about reducing poverty in Mississauga, we wonder why 28% of our membership is paid poverty wages, and why the City is staffed increasingly by part-time, precarious workers, with staffing levels stretched to the breaking point.

The members of CUPE Local 1989 challenge the City of Mississauga to set the standard for employment in our city. It can start by treating its library workers with fairness and respect.

Strike Deadline July 4

CUPE Local 1989 is back at the bargaining table on June 27, 28, and 29. We are holding a strike or ratification vote on June 30, and will be in a potential legal strike position on July 4.

staff demographics

What are the issues?

• In 2014 and 2015, the City of Mississauga gave us a 0.5% cost-of-living increase. In 2015, Library Director Rose Vespa received a 7.3% salary increase, raising her pay to $176,000.

• Our “Pages” – the people who put the books on the shelves – earn only pennies above minimum wage. This is less than $15,000 per year. Try living in Peel on that!

• Mayor Crombie says she’s serious about reducing poverty in Mississauga, but the City is paying poverty wages to 112 dedicated library workers.

MLS to BPL

• 56% of our members work part-time. They have NO benefits, NO paid sick days, NO paid vacation. Most are scheduled for only 12-16 hours per week. Many have seen their schedules cut to only 8 hours, the result of increased automation like self-checkout.

Can the City of Mississauga afford to spend more on libraries?

Infographic raises• Library managers salaries total approximately $2.3 million.

• City Manager Janice Baker earns $280,000 per year.

• 550 City employees earn more than $100,000 per year.

• Mississauga has spent millions rolling out a new logo. We think the City should invest more in people than appearances.

Love your library? Want to help?

• Contact the Library Board, City Councillors, and Mayor Crombie. Tell them you love your library and you rely on library staff.

• Ask them to treat library workers with fairness and respect!

Bonnie Crombie
Mayor
905-896-5555
mayor@mississauga.ca

John Kovac
Councillor, Library Board member
905-896-5400
john.kovac@mississauga.ca

Matt Mahoney
Councillor, Library Board member
905-896-5800
matt.mahoney@mississauga.ca

 

The Rebirth of a Local

unions

Mississauga Library Workers Union is pleased to announce that it is once again CUPE Local 1989.

The Mississauga Library Workers have a 40-year history with CUPE. On August 23rd, 1975, the Mississauga Library Staff Association (formed in April 1964) applied for a CUPE charter . The charter was approved by the CUPE National Executive Board on May 10, 1976. Mississauga Library staff had succeeded in becoming unionized!

We enrolled all full-time non-management library workers. Within a few years, the Library had far more part-timers, weakening CUPE Local 1989’s negotiating position. On the fourth attempt, part-timers and pages were signed up and a separate contract was negotiated for them.  To further strengthen our position at the bargaining table, in 1995, the part-time and full-time collective agreements were merged into one.

CUPE Local 1989 led the formation of Peel District CUPE Council, was among the first CUPE locals to join what is now Peel Regional Labour Council, and led the merger of CUPE Local 966. Being part of a bigger local had some advantages and some disadvantages.  As one of sixteen units of CUPE Local 966, there was much comradery and support. Collectively, we could afford a full-time union executive.

Mississauga Library Workers were an active part of CUPE Local 966 with members on various committees participating in rallies, parades, pickets, and social events. In the process however, we felt we had lost our unique identity as Mississauga Library Workers. We decided, as a unit, that we wanted to go back to being able to govern ourselves as a smaller local with a single collective agreement.

Now, 40 years after we first applied for a CUPE charter, we applied for a transfer of jurisdiction to once again become CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers Union. The CUPE National Executive Board approved our charter and reassigned us our old number. One of our talented members designed a beautiful new logo.

Cupe Logo 400x400

Since most of our current members were not part of the union 40 years ago, there must be much more to CUPE 1989’s history than we can know. All Mississauga Library workers, past and present, are invited to tell their CUPE 1989 stories which we hope to share on this website. See what you can remember and tell us about it. Send in your photos, too. We would love to hear from you.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–