Helping CUPW Locals Without Sufficient Anti-C19 Measures
This note is to provide constructive suggestions and resources for any members, anywhere in Canada, still working in facilities that do not have adequate anti-C19 safety protocol in place. These resources are based on the Edmonton local’s experience and what has worked here. Take whatever information you feel will be helpful and leave the rest. For further updates, resources, or media coverage on how our local is tackling the C19 crisis please like/follow our CUPW 730 page. Please share widely with postal workers still without sufficient anti-C19 safety measures.
Roland Schmidt President, CUPW 730, Edmonton & Affiliates
Creating Pressure To Create Change
Whether during normal operations, negotiations, or a global pandemic, CPC can’t be relied on to voluntarily do what is needed to adequately protect its workers. Is this fair? Of course not. Can we expect CPC to have a change of heart? Of course not. Without pressure to force CPC to change its behavior, our working conditions will not meaningfully improve.
A strategy is needed to first create pressure and then leverage to force CPC to make changes. In Edmonton’s experience, the most effective strategy has been classic, old fashioned, direct unionism: groups of workers collectively confronting management to raise issues and demand specific changes (examples detailed below). No need to reinvent the wheel, the solution has been embedded in CUPW’s history this whole time.
All across the country, our members are asking all levels of union leadership for a unified strategy to force CPC to get its act together. So far, based on calls I’ve had with both regional and national officers, it seems our national leadership is mostly utilizing the consultation process. Time will tell if this approach will effectively push CPC to give our members the needed safety measures, quickly enough, to minimize any contamination that makes it into our facilities (updated contamination list here). In the mean time, here’s a list of activities with different commitment levels that we can all support each in doing, right now, to force change:
Low Effort Activities = Modest Results
National Petition - Safe Working Conditions For Canadian Postal Workers During COVID19 Crisis (link)
Petitions have no leverage on their own but are a useful way to get our co-workers focused on a tangible set of demands to fight for. The petition linked above is gaining a lot of traction and has useful talking points for organizing workfloors or doing media releases (see below). Please email/share/text as widely as possible!
CUPW Webinars - This is an excellent initiative by CUPW national (details here) that every member should consider participating in for important C19 information. These webinars are also a rare opportunity for members to give our national leadership direct, respectful, and constructive feedback on what our union could be doing to better help our members still suffering unsafe working conditions. For example, Edmonton members will be asking what is being done to develop a national strategy to apply more pressure on CPC. If you feel the same as many of our members, please echo the question below during any future webinar:
“CPC has known about this pandemic since January 2020 and clearly isn’t responding fast enough to our extensive consultation efforts. What strategy is our national union leadership willing to advocate to force CPC to implement sufficient, country-wide safety measures? Has our union demanded that health authorities audit our operations to verify CPC’s claims that all of their facilities have sufficient anti-C19 safety measures?”
Medium Effort Activities = Sizable Results
Media Releases - People give media more credit than it deserves. Media is similar to a petition in that it can galvanize our members around specific issues (e.g. CUPW Edmonton’s call for a national health authority audit on CPC operations) but without actionable leverage, it will not force CPC to make meaningful changes, nor will it rally the public to fight on our behalf. It must also be said that the media doesn’t really care about postal workers; they do, however, deeply care about how postal workers may be inadvertently undermining Canada’s containment strategy by working in unsanitary conditions all day. Here is a step-by-step that worked in Edmonton:
Press Release - The only reliable way for postal workers to get media attention at the local level is with a press release issued by the official spokesperson of your local (typically the local president). Alternatively, any worker can make an anonymous tip to a news contact line (unless you are the union spokesperson, stay anonymous; CPC will suspend workers publicly disparaging the company). A press release should be factual, controversial, and have clear objectives. If desired, please feel free to use the following as templates (example one, two).
Interviews - Most people, myself included, find interviews incredibly nerve-wracking. Regardless of your comfort level, the fundamentals remain the same: be truthful, stay on point, and always steer the conversation back to the main points you want to bring up. Other than that, just like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it. Just remember that this is an opportunity to voice the concerns of people who hardly ever get the opportunity to be heard (example one, two, three).
Coffee Break Meetings - If your facility has not implemented, at the bare minimum, staggered breaks (inside workers), staggered starts with no overlap between waves (delivery agents) and sanitation regimes (inexpensive kits with disposable gloves, disposable rags, and disinfectant spray for every high-contact work area), then CPC is needlessly keeping you in high-risk working conditions.
A vital step in any attempt at organizing a workfloor is sharing information via a workflorr meeting. Ask a few supportive co-workers to help you let everyone know that you will be having a group coffee break to share into about C19 (either outside or in an appropriately large enough room to allow for physical distancing). At these meeting, have a few folks simply share information on what safety measures have been implemented in other locals. Keep holding these meetings until you’re able to identify 4-5 strong voices willing to help with organizing your facility. Here’s a report on how CPC’s inaction will prolong the C19 crisis with lots of info that can be shared with your co-workers (pdf version).
High Effort Activities = Tremendous Results
Organize Your Workfloor - Any locals still without sufficient safety measures can’t afford to wait for CPC to ‘review’ or ‘look into’ worker concerns. The hard truth is that if we wait for CPC to give the protections we need in a timely manner to navigate this crisis, more facilities will needlessly be shutdown due to contamination. We urge other locals to mobilize their members, as soon as possible, as best they can, to substantially minimize chances of contamination throughout their facilities. Here’s a 7 step approach that helped Edmonton win quick results (link).
Build Towards A Mass Right To Refuse - Your right to refuse is a very powerful tool that a group can use as leverage against CPC. One very important thing to remember is that your right to refuse unsafe work must be practiced individually to be considered a formal refusal and not a work stoppage or an act of insubordination. However, if many of your co-workers share the same concern, they can be there to use their right to complain as well as morally support each other. Here is an example of how a member might individually choose to express that right if they are feeling unsafe and have the support of other postal workers sharing similar concerns.