| 11-12-2020

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The Year of the Wildcat

20.11.07 - President’s Report - The Year of the Wildcat


Consult Season - The Grind Continues

From a bureaucratic perspective, October is by far the busiest month of the year in the union office due to the sheer amount of consults that need to be done. The only remaining major consults left will be for Urban vacation boards (tentatively Nov 18) and the EMPP rotation of duties consult (date tbd). Of special note were the consults for the EMPP which brought in over 60 new full time positions. 

I wish I could say these new positions were a result of the strong, well-supported arguments that we always make for new positions but the reality is that CPC finally tripped over their own feet and had no choice but to bring in more workers. For years we told CPC that not creating more permanent positions would be a mistake, and for years they ignored us. June 2019 they cut positions, despite our objections at consult, citing that the era of parcel delivery growth was over. Even before the pandemic this was proven categorically false and when we requested positions be added last October, they repeated the same lie. Regardless of how we got the new positions, we are happy to have them because it will greatly help alleviate workloads in the EMPP and give more position openings on the day shifts for those that seek a better work-life balance. Detailed summaries of the consults can be found on the website.

The EMPP consults are always very difficult to organize and coordinate so I want to especially thank Cheryl and her three EMPP chief stewards, Sanjay, Gary and Chris, for their exceptional efforts in involving the membership as well as advocating on their behalf. To them and all the many others helping with the various consults over the past month, a big thank you!

(EMPP Consult Summaries: read more)


Prairie Covid-19 Updates

Sadly, there were four more instances in Edmonton over the past month of our members contracting C19 from outside work (Oct 7 - Delton, Oct 19 - Maintenance, Oct 22 - EDDD, Oct 31 - Shift 3 EMPP). In each case, proper cleaning protocol was followed, tracking was implemented, and everyone is recovering successfully. 

The hard reality is that as cases continue to rise in Edmonton, the virus will continue to be brought unknowingly into our workplaces. We know full well that the safety protocols in place are only being followed by CPC to the extent that the workfloors force CPC to. If it isn’t already apparent, CPC will not be an effective proactive leader on this front so it is up to us to push them to where they need to be. Staggered starts, and the availability of cleaning kits and PPE are all effective ways for us to make sure that if the virus makes it into the workplace, that it will be limited in its spread. On that note, we want to reaffirm our position encouraging all of our members to wear masks while inside at work. C19’s real danger is how it’s spread asymptomatically; please wear a mask to insure that even if you unknowingly have it, you will drastically reduce your ability to spread it. Protect yourself by respecting and protecting others. By thinking, and acting collectively, we will all be safer.

Contamination has become a big enough problem within CPC in Manitoba and Ontario that mask wearing is now mandatory in all their facilities. My feeling is that Edmonton operations is one internally transmitted incident away from CPC applying similar measures here. If we remain vigilant, wear masks, and insist on the safety protocols being followed, we can avoid the statistical likelihood of some of our co-workers being hospitalized.


Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

It’s no secret that the leadership of our local had ambitious plans for educating and organizing our members, as well as doing outreach to other locals, before the pandemic diminished our abilities to engage in bigger group events and actions. Restrictions have made our organizing courses impossible to run effectively and doing them online would undermine the material. On that note, my trip to Winnipeg this past week to help them run their own Taking Back Our Workfloor courses was cancelled until further notice three days before I was supposed to arrive due to the above-mentioned covid-restrictions implemented in Manitoba. This is disappointing but I suspect that until a vaccine is released this part of strategy will be on hold.

At the local level, instead of waiting for the virus to subside, we’ve strived to keep empowering our members in safe and more (pandemically) practical ways via reduced class sizes for courses that don’t require mass group activities. In October, our two basic shop steward courses successfully signed up 18 out of all 18 participants; this amazing feat was partly achieved through a better screening of candidates via applicant questionnaires but also through improving on a lot of the material that was taught. Additionally, our two advanced steward courses helped 14 of our more established stewards sharpen their leadership skills to help our members.

None of this would be possible without the hard work of our newly trained facilitators Sanjay, Kathleen, Jill and James, as well as one established facilitator, Nancy. The work of our Education Committee chair, James, deserves special acknowledgement. Planning one course is difficult enough for someone new to the position; James successfully organized four courses in one month with the help of his committee. Truly excellent work, brother!

With the completion of these four courses, our education department will not be holding any more events until after the peak season is over. In the meantime, James, Natasha (Communications Officer) and Devon (Vice President - Organizing) have started developing new course material and other education resources for our members that may be ready in time for mid-January. This kind of proactive energy to bring new opportunities to our membership hasn’t happened as often as it should over the past decade so I’m very excited to see what they have in store for us.


Solidarity With AUPE Wildcat Strikes

The Oct 26 province-wide wildcat by AUPE health workers will be the first of many serious actions against the Kenney government by labour over the next year. To reiterate the statement I made earlier this week: AUPE’s example was not only heroic but deeply instructive of how the labour movement needs to prepare itself if it is truly committed to defeating governments attacking workers. In this way, AUPE’s struggle clearly mirrors our own: appeals and court challenges will not win us the day, we need to keep reforming all of our labour organizations to fully embrace an organizing programme as opposed to perpetually just talking about it. Any opportunity to support other unions doing this necessary work should be wholeheartedly embraced and encouraged.

Unfortunately, most unions have completely lost touch with this kind of approach and have to start entirely from scratch. Fortunately, the old guard are fading away, and new, discontent activists and leaders are taking the reins to go in a new direction. AUPE is way ahead of the curve, and I’ve been working closely with their activists and organizers, and our allies in other unions, to try and win more unions over to more effective internal organizing strategies. 

This is very slow work made all the more difficult by trying to do it from the outside. The best thing our local can do is: 1) help is to keep building up our own fighting capacity so that we can lead by example should an opportunity present itself; 2) maintain the pronounced displays of solidarity just like our members have been doing since the beginning of the CESSCO lines and for the various AUPE actions over the past couple of weeks. If consults and court challenges are the embodiment of all the bureaucratic methods that have rotted our movement out from the inside, bolstering any example of any union fighting effectively will be our antidote. When we next make a call for our members to support another union, please consider that your solidarity now will only add to our strength when it comes our time to fight.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

(Statement - Solidarity With AUPE: read more)

(CUPW's own history with wildcat strikes: watch here)


In Solidarity,

Roland Schmidt
President, CUPW 730