sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
 There's so much I want to write about and link to lately, but of course it's June and I'm a schoolteacher, so I've just been reblogging things on Facebook. And that's no way to live. Here are some highlights of the week.

The story gripping the city is of the Toronto Life story about a pair of self-involved, clueless rich kids who bought a Parkdale rooming house, sight unseen, and were shocked that people still lived there and also that you can't hire a contractor based on the fact that he's cycling by. This is all in the context of violent purging of the poor in the Parkdale neighbourhood, most notably an asshole landlord attempting to murder a tenant for striking against deplorable conditions. Quite a lot of pixels have been spilled over this issue, but the best response was my friend Todd's GoFundMe page (you can still donate), and the Metro interview with him that followed. Great stuff, and perfect timing—the Parkdale Rent Strike has the potential to be the most successful political action since BLM-TO forced Pride to ban uniformed, armed cops from getting paid to march in a parade that celebrated the very folks they like to beat up.

The Tories have a new Head Asshole, Andrew Scheer. No one has heard of this guy, and he conveniently had a lot of his more disgusting positions wiped from the intertubes. However, the Streisand Effect is still in play, so you can totally go and read what he's about. Spoiler: It ain't good. Fortunately, he has all the charisma of a mysteriously damp toilet paper roll, so I don't think he has much of a chance against Prince Justin or whoever the NDP nominates.

Do I have a clear preference for an NDP leader? I am shocked to say that no, I do not. I actually like multiple candidates. This is weird. I would be happy if Charlie Angus, Jagmeet Singh (with some reservations), or Niki Ashton won. I tend not to put a lot of hope in electoral politics but I do like having someone I can vote for and campaign for happily rather than someone who's the lesser of three evils.

Speaking of Niki, she's preggers. Yay Niki! She announced it on Twitter, because we live in the darkest possible timeline, and minor douchecanoe Brian Lilley got upset because she did not specify that she was pregnant with a human fetus. What else might she be pregnant with? Speculation abounded. Was it an alien? A tank-human hybrid? A dinosaur? No one knew until she clarified, kinda.

The coolest thing to happen around these parts is that the Ontario Liberals—who I don't even tend to like—announced that the minimum wage would rise to $15 by 2019, along with several other good labour reforms. This is great news, though in Toronto, where the cost of living is stupidly high compared to the rest of the province, it doesn't go far enough for my liking. Almost everyone is in favour, except for this whiny fuckhead, who is such an incompetent businessman that he can't afford to pay people to work for him. He was shocked and appalled to find himself the target of a boycott, and put up an even whinier sign that was immediately mocked for obvious reasons.

I try not to ever think about Barbara Kay, but a hero at Canadaland read that pro-genocide book that she recommended so that you don't have to.

Speaking of genocide against the First Nations, guess how much Trudeau's government spent fighting against indigenous rights in court? #sunnyways #colonialismbutfromtheheartoutwards

In international news, though I hate to go there:

Ivanka Trump makes her shoes in a Chinese sweatshop (no surprise there) and three activists have been disappeared for looking into it.

Laurie Penny continues to be my internet girlfriend. Here's a scathing editorial about freezed peach.

Finally, it is extremely important that we know about whether Melania is getting, and I quote, "federally-funded side peen." Yeah, you're welcome.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
This is a somewhat belated post, but not really, because it's about history. Awhile back—centuries in internet time, meaning a few weeks ago—I came upon one of the many articles on the gig economy/sharing economy/on-demand employment on BoingBoing. It's a link to a small study profiling people who pick up casual jobs here and there through the internet without steady wages or benefits.

The comments were what I found most interesting. Despite BB skewing white, male, and techie, most commenters were sympathetic. This was horrible, they realized, because hardly any of them were working casual jobs by choice. Most people would prefer steady jobs with predictable hours and benefits. But the technology had outpaced the socio-economic structures we put in place to deal with them. Cue throwing up of hands—capitalists, you win this round.


What got me, though, is that nearly everyone was focused on the technology—as if the technology somehow sprang into being spontaneously without human invention or ideology, as if we were merely automatons ourselves, conforming to the technology's wishes. As if, without technology, this situation could never have occurred, and in fact is historically unprecedented.

Which brings me to the concert I went to last week: Billy Bragg and Joe Henry's Shine a Light tour. If you haven't heard about it, they did an album about train songs. It's quite good. I suspect I'll prefer the live show, though, because the songs were interspersed with Billy and Joe talking about the context of all the songs, where they come from, why they chose them, where on their train travels they were when they recorded them. Towards the end, Billy talked about the romanticization of the historical/mythic hobo character, and related him to the presently reviled figure of the refugee. Old railroad songs still resonate because it's still the same story. The skin colour and circumstances may have changed, but the social attitudes and struggle have not.

(As you might imagine, I had a really excellent night, though Billy Bragg's solo set remained the highlight.)

Whenever I read people throwing up their hands, helpless, in the face of the Uberization of labour, I cringe. Because it's not like this hasn't happened before. Read your Marx, people! lIt's not like this isn't capital's ideal, natural state; the stable economy and high living conditions is largely a mid-20th century aberration.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 5.46.55 PM Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 5.47.59 PM
The gig economy, circa 1930. Source/more pictures.

Anyway, two things tend to reverse a trend like this, and neither are whining about it on the internet. One is a really big war, preferably one that kills off a large segment of the working population, but mainly because that stimulates the economy if you do it right. We seem to be headed down that road, so hey, maybe things will improve. The other, far better way to do it, is unionization. That's right, back in the day people didn't just stand for having no job security, steady wages, or benefits—they actually got their shit together and collectively fought.

Maybe that time capsule unearthed in Haymarket will hold some clues as to how we can remember our history, and thus, improve our lot.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
There's so much stupid out there, and it's hard to know when to start when savagely mocking things, even without the US elections stealing a problematic plot point from an episode of Doctor Who. But here are three things that made me roll my eyes so hard that simply a link and a snarky remark on FB was not enough.

1. Facebook, as you probably heard, took down a post from a Norwegian daily featuring the famous photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, best known as the "napalm girl," but be a decent person and call her by her name, okay?  Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, retaliated brilliantly, as you can read here, and eventually Facebook did relent. However, their justification—that is is just too much effort to distinguish between one of the most famous photographs of all time depicting a massive political turning point and child pornography—is what's hella stupid.

Fortunately, I don't need to do a takedown of the whole thing, because Dan Hon did it rather beautifully here, and do take some time to read that post, because it's great and includes one of the most awesome trigger warnings I've ever seen on an online article. But the key takeaway is encapsulated quite nicely here:

Facebook - and, more or less, Silicon Valley, in terms of the way that the Valley talks about itself, presents itself and so-on - is built on and prides itself in solving Difficult Problems. At least, they are now. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar public company where *some* things are difficult and worth doing (e.g. Internet access to 1bn people using custom-built drones, but other things are, by implication, *TOO HARD* and don't warrant the effort.
I was going on at great length yesterday to a friend about my hatred of Facebook's sorting algorithm, and how it can cause some friends to disappear and some to become disproportionately prominent, and make you feel as though no one is listening to you and you're shouting into a void when it decides it doesn't like one of your posts. (It's bad enough when it happens on FB; worse when it happens in cases like hiring practices or policing techniques; we are increasingly delegating large parts of our lives to supposedly objective technology that's created by subjective, and generally speaking, racist, humans.) LJ solved this particular problem in a very simple way, by showing you every post by every friend in the order that they posted it, without continuous scrolling. Now, obviously, this doesn't fit with FB's business model at all, or the way that most people use it, but it does show that the problem can be solved.

Historically, we have not asked big monstrous corporations to solve all of the world's problems, but Silicon Valley seems determined to solve all the world's problems, or at least "disrupt" and create problems where there weren't any problems before. And we seem willing to surrender the questions of what problems exist, and which are worth solving, to them, which is why the US seems to have delegated creating its educational policy to Bill Gates, of all people. Which brings me to a tangential point raised by someone in the BoingBoing forums: At what point do we make a distinction between the traditional definition of free speech being freedom from government repression, and start being honest about the control over the discourse that corporations get. At what point is Facebook equivalent to or more powerful than a state actor? I think we're there; Facebook is the primary news source for a huge chunk of the population, and at some point we need to force it to act responsibly or force it to abdicate this role.

Anyway, fucking stupid. Hire some humans who can distinguish between a black-and-white news photo of a naked child on fire and actual porn, and pay them a living wage.

2. SPEAKING OF A LIVING WAGE...Okay, I've mocked this to shit already today but I'm not done mocking, no I am not.  Via Everyday Feminism, currently vying with Upworthy for the Worst Place On the Internet: 20 Ways to Help Your Employees Struggling with Food Insecurity and Hunger.

Now, for a site that claims to be all about accessibility, EF is slightly less accessible than, say, Alex Jones after 72 hours of substituting Red Bull, vodka, and crystal meth cocktails for sleep, which is to say it's one of the worst-written sites I've ever seen. I'm guessing they don't have paid editors. Every article is skimmable at best, and tends to amount to: "Be gentle, check your privilege, and don't forget to self-care with your yogurt." But this is possibly the worst article of every bad article I've ever read there, because not one of these 20 ways is "pay your employees a living wage."

Because, sorry. A minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, and if your employees are on food stamps, you are not paying them enough. If you "can't afford" to pay them enough, as EF suggested in their equally ludicrous rebuttal to the criticism this article garnered, you are a shitty businessperson and deserve to go bankrupt. And if you have the time and money to learn about your employee's food sensitivities—again, you are not paying them enough, and hardworking taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize your lack of business acumen.

Should you be in the odd position where you cannot control how much you pay your employees (let's say you're the just-above-minimum-wage manager of a McDonald's, though if you were, I'm not sure why food sensitivities would be an issue), plenty of helpful friendly unions would be happy to come and visit your employees and assist them in organizing to get their wages raised.

Also, they include the worst suggestion of all time, which is to load up on meat-lovers pizza. Please do not do this, whether your workers are starving or not. In 100% of catered work events I have attended, the "meat-lovers" go right for the paltry vegetarian options and eat it all up before the vegetarians can get to it.

3. Finally, let's talk about architecture. Check out York U's new building! Now, York U is already the repository for a collection of the worst architectural trends in the last half-century (as is Toronto in general; we spawned Frank Gehry, after all) but this one is just too hilarious to be believed. It's like the Edgy White Liberal of buildings. You can practically see the #hashtags in #every #sentence in that #puffpiece.

Guess what, starchitects. People figured out hundreds of years ago how to make buildings work, and you can't improve on it all that much. Human beings like to feel relatively contained, and more importantly, like their ambient noise to be contained, particularly in places where they're supposed to work or study. That's why universities have quaint, outmoded features like "classrooms" and "lecture halls." Ever tried to work in an open concept office? It's distracting as anything. I'm all for less productivity—productivity is one of the Great Lies of late-stage capitalism—but I would rather be unproductive on my own terms. And common areas for meeting with students? When students want to meet with me outside of class time, it's quite often to tell me that they're struggling with family or workload or mental health issues, so why not just shout that all over the #learningspaces where the whole #engineering program can hear it?

Plus, like every building erected in the last 20 years, it looks like the architect gave up, crumpled the blueprints, and submitted the balled-up paper as the actual design.

Kill it with fucking fire.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fighting the man)
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, and the beginning of a prisoners' strike across the US.

A what?

See, what a lot of people don't seem to know is that slavery never ended in the States. Oh, sure, there was that bit with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement and post-racial Obama, but slavery is still perfectly legal. You just need to be in prison. If you're in prison, the 14th Amendment makes an exception for you. You're also stripped of voting rights and you're likely to be subjected to what we would consider cruel and unusual punishment if, say, a communist country did it. The very fact that prison rape jokes can be a thing tells you how barbaric the attitude of most North Americans is when it comes to those behind bars.

"But wait," you cry—well, not you, you know better—"aren't these rapists and murderers paying for their crimes against society?"

Not most of them. A system exists in the US where simple lawbreaking that most of us do—say, getting a traffic ticket, or having a small amount of drugs*—can compound and compound until it lands you somewhere incredibly unpleasant. Needless to say, this does not tend to happen to white people and it frequently happens to racialized people, especially black people—you know, the ones who were historically enslaved. "I'd never break the law," someone not-you might say. Chances are you have and it just wasn't caught and enforced. But when a population is as much under scrutiny as Black and Latinx Americans, if they wanna find something on you, they'll find it.

And then it's legal to make them work for free for hugely profitable corporations like Victoria's Secret, Whole Foods**, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and AT&T. (Here's a campaign dedicated to identifying and boycotting which companies employ slaves.) You maybe saw something about that on Orange Is the New Black, but it's way worse in real life. So much so, even, that I'd wager a lot of the American economy is dependent on slave labour, the way it's dependent on under-the-table labour from non-status immigrants.†

If you're interested in learning more about why the prison strike, and why today, here's a great cartoon from the Nib that breaks down the issues and context.

And if you, like me, are interested in knowing how it's going, what's happening right now, whether there's repression or progress and whether there's anything you can do to help—well, good luck. The news is crickets. Even Twitter is crickets. If someone has any info, please share it

* Not me, CSIS. I'm clean as a whistle.
** Fuck those smug libertarian crunchy shitbags with a rusty spork.
† Canada's not any better, particularly when it comes to dependency on exploited immigrant labour, but this is specifically a post about American prisons.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (joe hill)

P.S. To forestall the annual argument, here is a brief history of Labour Day in Toronto.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
For tomorrow I return to Canadaland.

Drowned sailors, a maypole, labour monuments, and country idylls )

Home tomorrow. Though Heathrow. Wish me luck.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
Canada Post is phasing out home mail delivery and cutting 6000-8000 jobs. (It claims that people will retire and just not be replaced, which is great for current posties but less great for people who might want secure, unionized jobs in the future.)

Um, do I need to say why this is a shit idea? I don't even need to say it, because it was all over the news:

1. Disabled people
2. Elderly people
3. People who appreciate conveniences that come with living in a civilization

As one of my friends put it, the purpose of a public service is not to make money, it's to provide a public service.

And fuck it, I like getting letters in the mail. It's nice. Some things can't be replaced by e-mail, including getting nice postcards when friends travel and getting my Metropass and pay cheques and such.

Naturally, junk mail will still be delivered to houses, because the free market r0xx0rz.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (joe hill)
Let's fight for a four-hour day.

Also, this article, while US-centric, sums up my feelings about Labour Day better than most. Am I still going to the march? Yeah, but I'll be rolling my eyes a lot.

Obligatory Billy Bragg song (note that they don't play this kind of thing at the Labour Day march):

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
Leigh Phillips joins authors Gwyneth Jones, Marge Piercy, Ken MacLeod and Kim Stanley Robinson to discuss the role of science fiction in extending the radical horizons of our imaginations.

I don't agree with everything in this article, especially in regards to Zizek (Ken MacLeod, you know that's not what he meant) but it's a pretty fascinating read on the radical potential of science fiction and a good starting point for discussion. I particularly liked the last question, about technology and its place in cultural narratives. All of the authors really hit the nail on the head in terms of describing exactly why I feel uncomfortable with the emphasis on anti-GMO/anti-Monsanto/pro-woo stuff on the left:

Gwyneth Jones: Progressives have a right to be cynical about nanotechnology, likewise GM foods and crops, as long as these developments are controlled by ruthless corporate interests. It isn’t about the science; it’s about the tragedy of the commons.

On a more mundane (but still futuristic!) note, this article on organizing workers in a service economy (from Macleans, no less!) is also an interesting read. The premise is that traditionally middle class jobs aren't coming back (likely true) and thus minimum wage service sector jobs should be transformed so that one can actually earn a living at them.

Proponents of the idea that service jobs can become the new ticket to the middle class point to sweeping changes in the manufacturing sector in the early 20th century that helped transform factory work from dangerous low-pay jobs into secure careers that could support a family. From 1914, when Henry Ford declared he would pay his employees what was then an exorbitant sum of $5 a day in order to reduce turnover and boost demand for his cars, governments saw higher wages and greater workplace regulation as the start of a virtuous economic cycle. But whether the service industry can follow the same model is far from certain.

Read and discuss.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
So remember back when the Ontario Liberals took away our collective bargaining rights with Bill 115? And I said at the time that I thought my union's strategy in fighting it was haphazard, disorganized, and ultimately doomed to failure?

Well, it turns out there was a reason: OSSTF's now ex-president's future career as a Liberal MPP. That's right: After the Liberals completely (and predictably) screwed us over in the name of austerity*, the union leadership swooned right back into its arms, and Coran jumped ship entirely.

On the plus side, his campaign isn't going well, seeing as he's a lying liar who lies and isn't even skilled about it.

Here's a memo from Coran back in September, advising teachers to withdraw financial support and membership from the Liberal Party in response to Bill 115:

memo from coran photo 969503_10152966848860640_223295993_n_zps45b0b9e5.jpg

And look, now he's chumming it up with his best buddy, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne:

kathleen and ken otp photo 1006149_10152987070970534_173544190_n_zps03baec37.jpg

I don't even feel betrayed because some of us saw this coming from a mile away, and I expect our leadership to be horrible and corrupt at this point. Ain't labour relations grand?

* Not that it actually saved money; austerity seldom does. Instead, it led to an increase in sick days, which cost money, because if you can't bank your sick days, there's no motivation not to max them out.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (iCom by starrypop)
I've been posting a lot of interesting stuff to FB lately because I can just click a button and withhold commentary, and let's face it, I'm lazy. Unfortunately, discussion and archiving doesn't work as well there.

So here's a link round-up:

A six-minute Fox News segment on the evils of Mr. Rogers. Yes, really.

Rob Ford fanfic exists. Yes, really.

An awesome piece about political lucha libre in California.

An article about a new documentary about the first ever punk band. Who were black and from Detroit. (And called Death.)

It's the 21st century and we can automate nearly everything—so why are we working so hard?

How to spot a Communist.

A sex manual from 1680, adorably called "The Misterie of Fucking."

And finally, the real reason for this post is that I asked people for the name of the awesome punk band that they never started. Inspired by [ profile] jvmatucha, I made a poster based on it.

under a cut because it's huge )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jenny Sparks)
Capital is dead labor,that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. — Marx

Did you know about Buffy the Anarcho-Syndicalist Vampire Slayer?

No? Okay. You're welcome.

 photo Screenshot2013-06-01at30033PM_zps23df12db.png
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (squee!)
may day photo 12000_10200326256333766_1641470171_n_zpsd4f0e934.jpg

Wish I could join the marches for migrant rights and justice for the workers murdered by capitalism in Bangladesh that are going on today, but alas, my crip status and physio appointment today rule that out. So, you know. Celebrate for me.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
So the union has decided that we'll go back to extracurriculars now.

Um, that's good, I guess? A lot of school activities have already been disrupted, and many of my co-workers are not exactly enthused about going back to volunteering so much of our time. I can't say that I'm thrilled myself, since I'll be getting the kids all excited only to abandon them in April again.

The official rationale is a bit confusing. Our new premier, Kathleen Wynne, has made no promises and is continuing along with her predecessor's austerity party line. The new education minister has said flat-out that she won't tear up the contracts imposed under Bill 115. So it's business as usual as far as the government is concerned.

It's also business as usual as far as the union bureaucracy is concerned. I mean, they donated $30,000 to four candidates in the Liberal leadership race, three of whom had voted for and supported Bill 115. That's $30,000 of union dues paid by the rank-and-file who got ass-reamed by the bill.

There is no word about what's happened in closed-door negotiations between the union and the government, and no reports of any concessions made on the government's side. The union leadership's official line remains: "Trust us."

But as a rank-and-file member active in the union, I don't. Why should I? That's been their line since the beginning. Their strategy was to put a bunch of eggs in the Liberal basket, a neoliberal centre-right party largely unconcerned with Ontario workers. Then, when the Liberals betrayed us, they acted all shocked and put on a militant face. The strategy was supposed to be to stop everything we could short of extracurriculars while we were in a legal strike position, and then strike extracurriculars when the government brought Bill 115 down on us. Instead, the provincial leadership blew its load early, making it appear that the government used Bill 115 as a response to our striking extracurriculars, and leaving us absolutely nothing left to bargain with.

Then they went and donated $30,000 to the party that had just fucked us over.

Meanwhile, we lost the critical support of the public by cutting extracurriculars. There were attempts at community outreach, creative strategies, even talk of a walk-out, but the union leadership nixed all that and insisted on colouring within the lines, much to our detriment.

While we protested in the freezing cold on Jan. 26th, our chief negotiator was reportedly inside the Liberal convention, cozying up to her friends in there.

Basically, all of this sabre-rattling has proven the impotence of organized labour in Ontario against an effort by the government to outlaw collective bargaining. It has highlighted our greatest weakness—what ought to be an organization of workers is a bloated, flabby bureaucracy incapable of thinking strategically or acting on behalf of its membership.

I was against the extracurricular ban as a strategy because it puts pressure in the wrong places and hurts the students while giving political leverage to the government, which is the exact opposite of what we ought to have been doing. It hurt. I actually really love doing extracurriculars. My classroom at lunch is a refuge for kids who dread the noisy, crowded cafeteria, for whom sports teams have little appeal, artsy, nerdy kids, kids who don't have computers at home. It hurt most of my co-workers too, teachers who love coaching or producing plays or running yearbook. But we did it, not because we thought it was a smart strategy, but because any strategy would be completely ineffective unless we all stood together.

And I would have said that it was worth it if we'd got something out of it. Sick days. A fraction of the wages they took from us. Something. But as far as I can tell, we did all of that for nothing, and that makes it so much worse.

So I've been a Wobbly since 2001 (dues paid up and everything, even if I can't be arsed to attend meetings) and agreed in theory with their critique of business unions. But it takes getting sold out this dramatically by one's own union to really illustrate the failure of the model. Our union increasingly resembles the official unions in Mexico, an additional layer of bureaucracy that takes money from below and protects the interests of those above. We need to take a long hard look at the compromises we've made and the people we're in bed with if organized labour is ever to be a force for positive social change again.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
It looks as though we'll be holding a wildcat strike on Wednesday. Ex-premier (ex? I dunno; dude is still talking for some reason) Dalton McGuinty is threatening to slap us all with $2000 fines, which was not even done during the dreaded Harris years. All together now: "Christ, what an asshole."

Is a strike still illegal if the contract itself is illegal? I guess we'll see. Also, is a guy who prorogued Parliament, essentially deciding that politicians should be getting paid to not work, really in a position to criticize anyone else for walking off the job?

Anyway, dear friends, your presence on the picket lines (don't know where they will be yet), letters, and other gestures of support are vastly appreciated.

I am enjoying some schadenfreude at the moment, as TDSB director Chris Spence (responsible for—oh, all kinds of stupid shit; want a list) resigned today after it turned out he'd plagiarized several opinion pieces. I am also enjoying watching my kids react to the scandal—as you might imagine, they're finding it completely hilarious.

Interesting times, to be sure.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
There's been a lot of news that I've wanted to blog about over my semi-hiatus, and I will catch up. Let's start with the thing that affects me personally, though, which is the latest Bill 115 debacle.

Last we heard, Dictator of Education Laurel Broten had vowed that if we didn't negotiate contracts within the framework of the bill, she would impose contracts by Dec. 31. As one astute writer put it, we had the choice of being shot in the head or pulling the trigger ourselves. Most locals chose to not pull the trigger. Meanwhile the union fumbled around for a protest strategy, finally putting in place a number of passive-aggressive strike rules and boycotting extracurricular activities.

Well, obviously the deadline has passed, and what has our Dear Leader done? She has imposed contracts that rob us of our sick days, freeze our wages, and forbid us to strike, and then said that she'll repeal the bill. As [ profile] frandroid put it: "Kill the guy and then throw the gun under the bridge. The gun did it, not me!!"

Now we can't legally strike, though, which means that our only legal option is to continue to boycott extracurricular activities. (Which is the last thing that anyone wants!) Naturally, some extralegal ideas have been floated around, which is really what we should have been doing in the first place had the provincial union leadership not expected the government to play by the rules.

Lest you think that austerity measures are necessary to combat the debt (I know you don't think that) and that teachers are greedy, etc., on the same day that the government imposed a bill limiting workers in germ factories to 10 non-bankable sick days a year, it also handed out $21 million in Christmas bonuses to its top bureaucrats. It also continues to protect the trades council that charges $143 to screw in one pencil sharpener in public schools. (Read that article; it will make your skin crawl.) There are, no doubt, places where money could be saved. It doesn't need to come at the expense of our collective bargaining rights.

Incidentally, isn't the government still prorogued? (Not striking, of course; government doesn't strike.) Which makes me wonder how this is all even happening. There's an impending Liberal leadership election—like Broten, Premier McGuinty favours the approach of farting, leaving the room, and crying "whoever smelt it dealt it!" (Not that this has shut him up; he resigned as premier and yet he still keeps talking.) It's a pity Gerard Kennedy is with the wrong party because, as usual, he has his head screwed on straight. Probably doesn't matter who wins the leadership, though; the Ontario Liberals are done for a few years given their string of fuck-ups as of late. We're likely to end up with the monstrous Hudak Conservatives, who want to bring in chain gangs. Only Andrea Horwath can save us now!

At any rate, I'm walking into a very uncertain situation on Monday morning.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
Last week's conservative mantra: Unionized teachers are the enemy.

This week's conservative mantra: Arm the teachers!

As someone on FB pointed out, that would certainly make negotiations more intense.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
I was in the waiting room waiting for a CT scan when the news about the latest mass shooting came on the TV. I gaped; the mind can't immediately process that level of horror.

"Oh God," I think I said, maybe adding that some of my friends had kids that age.

"And the teachers are on strike," said the woman waiting next to me. "So you want to shoot the teachers too."

"I'm a teacher," I said.

"Well, it's really the unions."

"I support my union," I snapped as they took me in mercifully quickly.
I gave her the death glare as I came out. "You're giving me a dirty look just because I hate unions," she snarled.

"Try getting your information from somewhere other than the SUN," I said.

She proceeded to tell me that she was very informed and had a child and was a Ward 9 councillor, etc.

"Well," I said, "I have cancer. And when I get sick with a cold, I can't take off sick because my treatments use up all 10 of my sick days."

"Oh," she said. "I'm...sorry?"

"Remember that we're people too," I tossed over my shoulder as I limped away through the hospital's candy-cane decorated halls.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
So there's been some movement in our ongoing labour dispute. Some OSSTF branches reached tentative agreements with their boards, which were approved by Her Satanic Majesty Laurel Broten. Sounds good, except that the details of said agreements were not released to the public or the rank-and-file of other branches.

We figured this all meant that the agreements sucked. And yep! They suck. They're basically the same as the shitty deal accepted by the Catholic unions in a pathetic attempt to save their separate school system. Obviously if they were any good, Broten wouldn't have approved them.

The big issue is that if we reach any deal with any board under Bill 115, we've basically lost. Not just teachers lose, but all workers are potentially screwed over by this. It sets a precedent whereby the government can use legislation to take away collective bargaining rights. And rights, once stripped away, are very hard to gain back. As you know, Bob, when unionized workers suffer, all workers suffer in a race to the bottom. Hell, in our case, even management suffers, seeing as our administration get reamed under Bill 115 as well.

The OSSTF exec, I'm sorry to say, does not want to hear any criticism of its bargaining. A critical tweet sent by ETFO (the elementary teachers' union) was reposted to the OSSTF Facebook page and promptly removed as it "undermined negotiations."

We ended up getting wind of the deals anyway, and naturally they're identical to or worse than what Broten wanted. Ten sick days that aren't bankable, unpaid days off that amount to wage rollbacks, two-year wage freezes, and worst where I'm concerned, reductions to the benefit plans and an adjudication process for short-term disability that allows the employing boards access to personal details about teachers' medical information.

Some of the unions are voting on the agreements tonight and it looks like York and Niagara have rejected the deals. Which is a tremendous victory for the rank-and-file, as much as we're all tired and want this to end.

Under the cut is a longer analysis written by a friend of mine. It's worth reading if you are a worker in Ontario. We are the canaries in the coal mine; we're a powerful force in provincial politics and if they're able to screw us over, they're coming for the rest of you next.

Not to mention that it's a terrible deal for students too! Increased class sizes have never helped anyone, and EAs play a vital role in supporting special needs students. And, of course, sick teachers who can't take days off to recover mean sicker students.

it's long though )

On a happier note, have a Ford countdown.


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