This past month, our entire Executive has been hyper focused on providing our members opportunities to learn about, and participate in, creating resolutions for our upcoming negotiation demands. Between the resolutions oversight working group, and the development workshops for each major classification, we will have around 50 motions proposing improvements to our working conditions spread between today and the March 13 special GMM. This is a wonderful example of economic democracy: workers using their own lived experience to advocate for gains based on the labour value they’ve contributed to Canada Post. A big thanks to everyone coming out to participate in this important opportunity, and especially, Karry, and all those helping her review, discuss and prepare the many, many motion proposals.
As creative and empowering as our resolution formulation process can be, negotiations itself is a very different beast and often very misunderstood. Some think negotiations are simply about two sides compromising in the middle. Others think a clever negotiator will heroically bombard the other side into submission with facts and logic. In truth, the dynamic of a negotiation is determined not by the individual prowess of a negotiator but by the broader political context it exists within: who can create leverage, and what they are willing to do to exercise that leverage.
Our experience in every Canada Post negotiation round since the mid-90s paints a very clear picture: no matter how rational our arguments are in bargaining, or how comprehensive and perfect our evidence is in arbitration, CPC will never concede to our demands unless forced by a sustained strike or the credible threat thereof. Our dilemma, of course, is how constant back-to-work legislation, and National’s historical unwillingness to even try fighting it, completely nukes any credible threat a strike could wield. If we ignore, or refuse, to confront this very uncomfortable reality directly, we will maintain the trajectory established in the 90s: continual rollbacks and a decline in our protections and benefits. Even if we never get to the point of being ready to defy it’s strategically essential for us to at least give the appearance of it to create any leverage! Either way, the right play is to build organizing capacity.
This is a hard truth, and, sadly, the only alternative would be deceiving you. Think of it this way: would we rather have a group of leaders and organizers perpetually talking about, and trying to build toward, the only possibility of breaking this vicious cycle? Or would we rather pretend everything was alright and did nothing? One approach gives us a chance at bettering our lives as well as revitalizing the entire labour movement; the other offers us what we’ve had for the last 30 or so years: degradation. If we want our negotiation resolutions to have any traction, we need to keep winning other locals over to the understanding that our only leverage exists in the collective willingness of our members to organize, mobilize, and fight forward.
For the past two years, I’m proud to say our local has confronted this reality instead of hiding from it. The pandemic put our more intense, group-dependent, organizing efforts on hold but we’re primed to hit the ground running as soon as it’s safe to do so. The 200+ members trained in the Taking Back Our Workfloor organizer course will be encouraged to immediately refine their skills with an advanced organizer course we’re near completing. The moment provincial health restrictions allow, organizers from our local will be visiting other locals throughout the prairie region (and beyond) to help them embrace an organizing-first strategy. Best case scenario, we can get back to our plan well before the demand ratification process. In the meantime, our 1st VP (Organizing), Devon rundvall, has been marshalling our Building Power to Win campaign volunteers to educate our members about the bargaining process. In the next week, volunteers from each facility should be handing out bargaining surveys and doing one-on-ones.
Parallel to the organizing challenges brought on by C19, we’ve established some quality virtual opportunities. Last month marked the successful webinar trial-run of ‘Welcome to CUPW’. This week, we launch our reading group on Jean-Claude Parrot’s memoir, “My Union, My Life”, exploring the height of CUPW’s strength. If you want to understand what makes any union powerful, why our union is no longer powerful, and the tangible ways we can reclaim our power, this book will walk you through every step, and inspire you along the way! Natasha, and Todd (Vipond) will be our hosts, and have kindly prepared readings and discussion outlines and questions. Free copies of the book are available at the office and you can still register by checking out the calendar listings on our website before the first session on March 11.
On the Communications front, special acknowledgment should be given to our newsletter and website teams. Out of curiosity, I asked one of our National Vice Presidents, if they were aware of any other locals with an outreach model similar to ours with a weekly dispatch, monthly newsletter, and regular website updates? They said, absolutely not. This isn’t intended as a competitive statement but to give credit where it’s due: there’s a direct correlation between the increase in member participation in our local and the information made easily, and widely, available to our members. This is made possible by the excellent work of our Coms committee activists: Natasha Fryzuk, their chair, Wendy Crispin, our lead editor, Kyle Turner, Kristine Bowman, and Chris Pilgrim.
Speaking of our volunteer web-savant, Chris Pilgrim, he’s been working tirelessly on a gigantic update for the website that will allow better calendar event promotion, main page features, search functionality, and a merch store. Websites are necessary for present-day outreach, especially during a pandemic, and without Chris we wouldn’t have such a robust resource for our members to rely on. After putting in hundreds of free hours to code every specific requested design-element, I begged him to finally accept a couple of book-offs for website work. Thanks for the extensive sharing of your skills, brother, and for not unionizing against us!
To close, I feel I should acknowledge the local Executive elections. Competition for leadership roles is a valuable chance for our members to assert what we want from our representatives. If you’ve been attending our GMMs, or reading our weekly dispatches, you will have a very clear idea of what I represent and how I want us to reform not only our local, but our entire union. If you don’t support the direction I’ve advocated, you have the chance to support someone else.
If this is to be my last report to you, thank-you for your courage, and the opportunity to try and reform our union into a credible, fighting force again. Hopefully, I can earn three more years to properly realize this objective. Regardless who’s elected as our local President next month, another hard truth remains for CUPW as we move into the next round of negotiations: there can be no victory without struggle. How we vote will drastically shape how we confront this challenge as well as the direction of our local for the next three years. Please come vote at the union hall on either Mar 31 (7am-7pm) or April 10 (11am-5pm). Health protocols are in place to guarantee your safety. Donating just one hour to choose who you want leading and organizing our local during negotiations, and a potential strike, will be very well worth your time.