Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Striking stupidity

The transit strike that's gripped our city this week has forced a mad scramble for alternative means of getting to work and school. The University of Western Ontario and its student council combined forces and launched a "community van" program where volunteers drive rented vans between seven points throughout the city. Sounds simple enough, right?

Not so much, apparently. Since no transit strike would be complete without a healthy dose of stupid behavior, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents the transit workers, has called for an end to this shuttle service. They've predictably called it "union busting".

Somewhat more surprising is the response from unions representing university workers. The president of the UWO staff association says the volunteers represent scab labour becuse they're replacing regular workers. Even better, if the bus drivers start picketing the campus, they'll refuse to cross the picket lines. I guess solidarity to students doesn't rate in the average UWO prof's world view.

So, from where I sit, a volunteer-based, alternative means of getting around town that has absolutely no connection to regular bus service is at risk of being shut down because unionistas call it "scab labour". I suppose, then, that my own volunteer-based, alternative means of getting around town would also qualify:
  • I rode my bike to and from a couple of appointments this week. Since my legs did the work normally done by a bus driver, I guess they now qualify as scabs.
  • I drove the kids to school, and later to their gymnastics class. I think I passed a bus stop along the me a scab.
  • I walked the dog along part of a bus route last night. I suppose that, too, makes me a union-busting scab.
At the end of the day, transit workers have decided that the only way for them to score a better deal is to walk off the job. Whether we agree or disagree with them, that's their choice.

But they're not the only one with choices - or needs. As citizens, how we move around the city in their absence is entirely our choice. I'll be damned if some union leader decides for me how I can and cannot get myself and my family from place to place. Call me a scab if you wish, but please don't call me a transit rider when this thing is over: By then, I may just decide to stick with my hastily-arranged choices in union-busting, self-provided transportation.


Mark said...

What a sad state of affairs. I might see the transit worker's point if the van service were charging money. Because it's volunteer-based, however, I see no reasonable (if one sees unions and striking as reasonable) argument for objecting. People who do not own cars or have another way to get themselves from point A to point B should not suffer because of a union's disagreement with its workers' pay/contract arrangements.

Mojo said...

I don't even know how to respond to this. First of all, the whole idea behind "scab labor" is that the employer hires non-union labor to do the jobs left undone by the striking workers.

I would think a university professor would know this.

File this one under "Things That Make You Go WTF??"

kenju said...

I agree with Mojo, and I can't believe that objection.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting for me to read the blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

carmilevy said...

"Anonymous": I'm leaving your comment up because there's a certain amount of poetry in the fact that an obvious piece of comment spam would land on a blog entry that discusses stupidity.

Maybe you drive a bus for a living?

Tabor said...

So sorry for your stress. My dad was a union man, so I tend to form knee-jerk reactions to strikes as being necessary for the poor guy to show how valuable he is. This is a service, is it not? A commercial and not a public service?

Anonymous said...

I sent an e-mail to the free press article reporter that pretty much mirrored your post.
If you gave your kid a ride to school, and took a couple of their friends along, that would apparently make you a shuttle service and therefore a scab.
The bus drivers have a difficult job and should be renumerated fairly. However, they are also employed by the taxpayers,the same ones they are refusing service to.
So unless they can make a business case, i.e. the budget has a surplus that would allow it,they are really in no position to strike.
As for the argument that a transit employee in another municipality makes a different wage, the union was apparently upset as a child that little Billy got a bigger piece of chocolate cake at the 5th birthday party.

poor babies.

London Ontario

Wendy said...

Hey Carmi - just wanted to let you know that a comment you made appeared in today's Montreal Gazette on page A10. The article was called "Kindles finally come to Canada" something like that.

If you like, I'll send you the newspaper page via snail mail. Just email me your addy.

Our whole transit system needs to be overhauled (at least here in Montreal). Sucks!

invisible said...

Newspaper headlines:
Economic meltdown. Thousands jobless. Food banks inundated.
Foreclosures rampant.
Bankruptcies increasing.

Union thought:

Want more.

awareness said...

Well, that's a broad definition of what a scab is......AND what a bus driver is if the students are driving VANS and TAXI-ing people from point to point.
However, walking Fraser along a bus route, well that's just taking things too far Carmi. For shame!

Hopefully this transit temper tantrum doesn't last as long as the one in Ottawa did last year.

Anonymous said...

One could only wish the union president and all the strikers could read the string of posts. Alienation is no way to create sympathy.