In some ways, the context is much different from the 2016 strike I led against the City of Mississauga. That local comprised 400 members, ranging from Pages to Senior Librarians, and members of CUPE run their own local. We first had to break away from a composite local to re-establish our independence, and then had to forge solidarity in a large unit with greatly disparate interests, and very little trust in their union. It was a monumental undertaking -- and a hugely successful one.
My present situation is very different. I belong to BCGEU. The 48 members of my bargaining unit are all librarians with a professional designation. I am a member of the bargaining committee, but not steering our course as I did in my former role.
The frontline library workers in the system belong to CUPE. Union members have cultivated deep solidarity between the unions -- which makes this job action possible.
The two contexts demand different strategies, and different skills and experience.
Yet in many ways, the two job actions are extremely similar -- because in so many ways, all strikes and all labour disputes come down to the same thing. Workers want respect. We want respect for our labour and for our skills.
The principal ways employers can show workers respect is by paying a living wage, and providing safe and humane working conditions. When either of these factors are lacking, and workers are fortunate enough to belong to a union, a job action may ensue.
Although I love my job as a librarian and library manager, I do not love the actions and attitudes of my employer. This story from my earliest days on the job perfectly illustrates some of the issues. I was not able to share it here, for reasons which will be obvious, but as we are now in job action, I've decided to communicate more freely.
Day 1: communicationsOn my very first day on my new job, I was not told where to report. I was staying in the proper city, but there is more than one library branch in that city and I was never told where to go.
Day 2: interpersonalThe following day I was meeting a high-level administrator at a different location. She gave me directions and told me how to access the staff entrance. I misunderstood her directions and waited at the wrong door. It was December and I was waiting outside for 45 minutes. My phone (still with an out-of-province provider) was going straight to voicemail so I wasn't getting her calls.
Day 7: trust, respect, priorities
The following week, my manager told me I was invited to a meeting with them, their own manager, and the top administrator (the person from Day 2). My manager was acting very strangely, not making eye contact, and left in a hurry. I had no idea why.A union steward had been assigned to the meeting. Again, I had no idea what was going on. The steward also didn't know.