Georgia Straight: Todd Wong 30 year library employee interviewed
I arrived at the Library Square picket line just before noon today, as
I had spent the morning in a picket captains orientation meeting. Some
of my co-workers were wondering if there had been a misprint in the
Georgia Straight because I couldn't possibly have worked in the library
for 30 years. Todd couldn't be that old!
I explained that I had actually started working for the library in
uetero, while my mother was working in the library catalogue
department, before I was born. Officially, I joined the Vancouver
Public Library staff when I was 15 years old, back in 1975.
Today, the Georgia Straight published a news story, Boss and union tell different tales,
about the library strike containing an interview with me and a picture
from my website. The picture shows myself with fellow picket captain
Alexis Greenwood, smiling with city librarian Paul Whitney, while on
the picket line on Monday. We have the friendliest picket line – we
don't try to block anybody. I have known Paul for many many years…
Even though he is library management and our Union bargaining committee
has to talk tough with him and the library bargaining representatives,
I would prefer to get along with everybody. We still have to go back
to work with management when the strike is over – the city negotiating
team doesn't. Paul told me personally, “It's not about you and me,
there are bigger things at play.”
Hmmm… maybe this explains why our formal employer “Vancouver Public
Library Board” had an in-camera meeting last night but have been conspicuously absent from advocating for the library. Many of the CUPE 391 picketers are now
sporting picket signs that say “Where is the Library Board?”
Read the entire article: Boss and union tell different tales – Georgia Straight
Here are the interview bits from me:
Wong, a 30-year employee, told the Straight in a phone interview that
the closure of the library will mean that fewer Vancouver residents
will learn about the 100th anniversary of the anti-Asian riots in
Vancouver in September. (See page 15 for more information.) He said
that people can't check e-mail at the library and they don't have
access to ESL programs in many of the branches.
“At the end of
July, I noticed that the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra had to
cancel one of their programs,” Wong said. “They do incredible work.”
a community and cultural activist, said public librarians are paid less
than their counterparts in the corporate and academic sectors, adding
that he can't understand why the City won't agree to mediation.
“Obviously, there seems to be a hidden agenda,” Wong claimed, noting
that the City has hired a public-relations company called the Wilcox
Group to handle communications during the strike.
seems like City Management is trying to prolong the strike.”
said the union “booked out of mediation” in July when it served strike
notice. “The City is our primary funder, so it's logical we would be
consulting closely with them on the movements in our negotiations,” he
said. “And the issue around mediation, I'm assuming, would be discussed
in the context of all three city locals.”
Here are the interview bits CUPE President Alex Youngberg:
Alex Youngberg, president of CUPE Local 391, described Whitney's
comment as “insane” and “downright outrageous” in a phone interview
with the Straight. “He's not giving librarians a very good reputation
as far as math goes,” she added.
Youngberg claimed that the
union's last offer, including provisions for pay equity, would work out
to a 29.5-percent increase in wages and benefits over a nine-year
period if the city granted every aspect of the package. She said that
the union has “trimmed back” its request for benefits, and is only
seeking coverage for eye examinations, laser surgery, and composite
dental fillings because of problems associated with mercury fillings.
claimed that the city has already saved more than $1.4 million by not
paying unionized staff during the strike. That contrasts with only one
percent of payroll, or about $200,000 per year, that she said would be
allocated for pay equity. In addition, Youngberg emphasized that this
$200,000 per year would only be forthcoming if the union could prove
that female workers were not being paid the same as male city employees
for work of equal value.
“In Burnaby, their council was actually
in favour of them having pay equity and they urged the employer to
comply with giving…internal equity,” she said.