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  • authored by Members for Democracy
  • published Sun, Aug 31, 2003

Georgetti You Mock Us Every Day In Every Way

But Not For Much Longer

Labour Day had its beginnings in Canada on April 15th, 1872, five years after Confederation. (We will acknowledge that the origin of Labour day is contested. We chose to give credit to Canada because - well - that's where we're from.)

It became a historic day when the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA), the central labour body at that time, organized the country's first significant workers' demonstration.

The TTA spoke out on behalf of working people, encouraged union organization and acted as a watchdog for the exploitation of workers. One of the prime reasons for organizing the 1872 demonstrations was to demand the release of 24 workers of the Toronto Typographical Union who had been imprisoned for striking to obtain a nine hour working day.

The TTA evolved in 1881 into the Toronto Trades Labour Council which paved way for the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.

On July 23rd, 1894 the Canadian Parliament enacted legislation making the first Monday in September Labour Day.

As the recognition of workers' contributions evolved so did the spirit of Labour Day. What originally began as a demonstration quickly evolved to a celebration of working people. Street parades were held to show the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community. Labour Day was to be a special holiday to honor workers and the contributions that they make to their jobs and to society.

Today Labour Day has lost most of its original significance. It has become more of an end of summer holiday-a last chance to head to the cottage and spend time with friends and family before kids go back to school and the cold weather moves in, leaving the only reference to the founding essence of the holiday in its name

The History of Labour Day.

Even Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, says as much in his Labour Day message this year when he tells us that the spirit of Labour Day is not just about workers any more - it's an opportunity to mock workers:

This Labour Day will be remembered not only as a celebration of working people and their unions, but also an acknowledgment of the leadership of working people and their unions provided everyday.

Georgetti's boast that his CLC represents 2.5 million Canadian workers mocks us as much as his misguided Labour Day message and gleeful Labour Day chest-beating which we understand will be taking place in Hamilton and Brantford this year.

Since when is Labour Day about the acknowledgment of the leadership of working people and their unions? It is the leadership of Georgetti's unions that has been collaborating with employers to suppress workers rights both in the workplace and in workers' unions. Why are we celebrating the achievements of the labour aristocrats on Labour Day? It's bad enough that we live with their achievements every day.

Well, if Brother Ken Georgetti wants to celebrate the achievements of the leadership and because in his role as President of the CLC, he is the leader of the leaders, we'd like to get to know him a bit better.

This Labour Day tell us, Brother Ken, what have you done for working people this past year? How many workers' issues have you resolved? How many workers' letters and inquiries have you answered (in some meaningful way)? What have you done about sweetheart unionism among CLC affiliates? What have you got planned for the thousands of workers who are being sold down the river by opportunistic unions that are affiliates of the CLC?

Tell us how much you get paid for leading us. We know this is a sensitive area with you, but since we're the ones who toil to pay your salary, we'd like the straight goods please. Include payments you get for sitting on various boards, panels and task forces. Our wages and benefits are no secret, why the hell should yours be?

What would you do if tomorrow you lost your job or found out that someone cut your salary in half without even discussing it with you first? What would you do if your representative was working against you with your adversaries? We know that's not ever going to happen because your job is very secure, you'll never be subjected to concessions or otherwise sold down the river. But what do you think you would do if it happened - and there was no network of well-heeled buddies to turn to for your next gig?

How much are you really worth to us? Have you considered that your compensation package and corporate image may be alienating you from those whose interests you are supposed to represent? Has it dawned on you that damned well everyone sees the disconnect between union leaders and union members, except the union leaders?

Do you work for the workers or for the leaders of your affiliated unions? If it's the latter, and we think it is, why should we give you a cent? Besides going to the bank with your hefty guaranteed paycheck made possible by thousands of us dues paying members, what the hell do you really do for union members?

In your Labour Day message to us you say:

Lets face it, our work defines us as much as it provides what we need to support our families and communities.

Why do you mock us with this patronizing drivel? Has it occurred to you that we should not allow ourselves to be defined by the bosses? We know it may sound way too radical for your tastes, but there are a lot of us who don't want to be defined by mind-numbing, dignity-depriving, soul destroying, dumbed-down, speeded-up, electronically-monitored, servile and subservient work. Nor do we find it easy to swallow the suggestion that work provides what we need to support our families and communities. Which corporate song book did you get that from?

Why, in your messages, do you claim to speak for all working people? Sure non-unionized workers need unions too but who are you to speak for them? What makes you think they want you to? Your steadfast neglect of those who pay your freight is your claim to fame among the unorganized as far as we can tell.

The somewhat jingoistic question "Is your work working for you?" posed by the CLC this Labour Day is rather moot. The question should be "What should work be?" or, more pressing, "When the hell is Ken Georgetti's 'labour movement' going to work for all of us?"

Bro_Ken, you would like us to celebrate you and the leaders of the CLC's affiliated unions. You've got one helluva nerve. There's nothing for us to celebrate.

Your Labour Day address says nothing of the discontent that is growing among the 2.5 million members who pay your wages. That's a subject that's unfit for polite company at hte CLC we know. We would not want non-union workers to get wind that labour organizations are undemocratic or maybe that they're old, antiquated, obsolete and very self-serving. Oh hell no. Let's just keep that dirty old secret in the family shall we?

Hell, the CLC's great leader won't even take the time to answer letters from union members about their concerns. The Brother who wrote to him a year ago about a sweetheart deal involving the RWU is still waiting for a reply. We've had no response to our plainspoken letter of last week. We don't expect that Georgetti will respond. Why should he? There is no one to make him. The king doesn't have to mix with the serfs. Georgetti turned his back on workers long ago. He could care less about their plight. As long as there is peace in his house of labour, as long as all the leaders are minding their fiefdoms and nobody is raiding anybody else's property, all is well in the kingdom.

But all is not well in the kingdom. The dreaded information genie is out of the bottle. Too much is known about what goes on in the temple and a lot more will be known as the weeks pass. You can run but you can't hide, Georgetti. Call yourself a leader of workers do you? Put your money where your mouth is.

Tell us Brother how you justify IWA Canada's wheeling and dealing with corporations in ways that put workers out on the street or cut their wages in half? How do you justify the backroom dealing that just happened in Ontario between the UFCW and Loblaw Companies? Doesn't it bother you, just a little, to hear union leaders defending corporate greed and impotently blabbering about how there's nothing they can do to prevent the gutting of contracts? Your silence on these great feats-of-rolling-over is deafening. Why do workers who want to be heard get treated like pariahs? It certainly doesn't help unionized workers and it sure doesn't help the way that organized labour is perceived by the unorganized 70% of the Canadian workforce but it does keep the money flowing into the CLC kitty, doesn't it? Maybe you're OK with it because it protects your job security. That, your Lordship, doesn't make it all right.

Your statement that "Tried, tested and true organizing workers into unions gets results" begs the question "What the hell kind of result is going to come from the IWA concessionary deal or any of the other CLC-affiliated concessionary deals that the CLC has allowed?" May we have an answer, oh fearless one?

Here's another heart to heart question: Do you Mr. Georgetti have any idea how it feels having your life thrown into turmoil so that some greedy bastard and his "union partner" can make a big pile of dough? We'll grant you that it must be hard to feel the pain of working people from inside a glass house with a fat pay cheque and ironclad job security so here's a modest proposition that may get you back on track and give you some perspective. We're asking you, as a union leader, to accept our challenge:

Go to work for three months at a job that one of the HEU/CUPE members who have been sold down the river by your affiliated IWA-Canada is doing. While you're there, see what it's like to bust your ass in an environment where you don't know from one day to the next when the pink slip is going to land but you know that it's coming. Experience how it feels to know that in the very near future, no matter what you do, you are going to get considerably poorer. Listen to your union representatives as they tell you "there's nothing we can do". Read the pathetic "partnership agreement" that will soon replace your hard won collective agreement. Watch the self-proclaimed leader of the Canadian labour movement tell you to ce-le-brate your leaders! Do you think you could handle that? Union members who pay your salary are handling it every day.

Perhaps you should spend less time hanging out in your glass house-of-pork-chopping and more time changing what's wrong with our unions.

One union member wisely summarizes your game thusly: "Why would any union continue to pay dues to any organization when constitutions and principals mean nothing, what good are they? Are they only a tax collector? We have enough of that from the government."

The fact that the CLC collects royalties based on how many of our heads belong to its affiliates is bad enough. But why does the CLC Presient mock us from his glass house on this day - a day that is supposed to be for celebrating who we are? That really angers me. How about you?

Georgetti, you cannot hide in your glass house forever. Union members one by one are beginning to see your house of labour for what it really is: A hangout for the self serving, the obsolete and the out of touch.

Come out of your glass house Georgetti and deal with the issues and concerns of union members in the real world. Stop mocking us and start acting for what is best for us rather than for the pork chop hierarchy.

The ground is giving way under your house. An uprising is inevitable. Celebrate you and your leaders? You're dreaming. Why should we honour your pork chopper affiliates when they sell workers to the lowest bidder? Why should we celebrate you for standing by and watching it happen. When we come to your glass house it won't be to sing your praises. We'll drag you out so that a new organization of, for and by workers can pick up the pieces and move on. Your Congress of pork choppers has left us no choice. For us there's no place to go except onward and upward, unencumbered by the dead weight of the labour fakers.

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