Vancouver library workers CUPE 391 vote 78.1% to reject mediator Brian Foley's recommendations, calling it “Foley's Folly”
Television camera crews showed up early at Library Square on Tuesday, October 9th, in preparation of the the 7pm announcement for the vote by Vancouver library workers. By late afternoon, Global TV and CBC TV had trucks parked on the plaza with lights set up for their reporters.
Starting at 9:30am, members of the 800 strong CUPE 391 began voting to reject or accept the recommendations to end the first strike in the Vancouver library workers' union in their 77 year history. I arrived shortly after 3pm to register my vote. There were two tents set up for voting by secret ballot. In each tent there were two registrars who checked my name, and a scrutineer whom I also knew.
At 4pm there was a crew talk. D'arcy Stainton gave us the skinny on the day's events. He reminded people to vote, and that the media black out was lifted the bargaining committee was not speaking. But if people wanted to speak to the media they were free to do so. Stainton than made comment to the morning's Metro News which featured his friendly face on a large cover photo, with a story about the striking unions inside on page 2. Bonus story was about the Knitters for Solidarity… (aka Knit-Picketeers) who have knitted 500+ hats and other articles to donate to those in need.
Ricky examines the front page of the Metro featuring picket captain D'Arrcy Stainton. D'Arcy has been a wonderful leader on the strike action committee – photo Todd Wong.
At 5pm, Matt and I stopped by the CUPE 15 picket line in front of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. They were glad to see us, as we have often dropped by to give support, and also coordinated some joint “waves to the traffic” on Georgia Street. The Playhouse CUPE 15 members come over to our Library Square picket line for coffee and also dropped in on our Friday BBQ's. The mutual feeling was of support for each group. We were glad that CUPE 15 felt good enough about Foley's recommendations to vote yes and accept them. They felt disappointed for us, that the mediator's recommendations didn't come anywhere near to what we felt we could accept. We both agreed that our part-time auxilliary workers are left without any job security.
15 and CUPE 391 workers demonstrate solidarity with a theatrical flair.
l-r Debra, ??, Kim, Alan, Matt and Hank – photo Todd Wong
Back at Library Square, I pulled my accordion out shortly after the 5:30pm closing of the voting polls. Battle Hymn of the Republic also known as Solidarity Forever was the second song I played. The first was Scotland the Brave, at the request of bargaining committee chair Ed Dickson. Ed is a Scots descendant and his wife is Scottish. With library/gypsy jazz guitarist Ross Bliss, we had earlier talked about the Scottish contributions to the development of Canada and the world. Ed just liked the sound of Scotland the Brave… he wanted something stirring, and asked if I also had any Sousa marches. I played a Sousa March, as well as When the Caissons Go Rolling Along, When the Saints Go Marching In and some other lively songs.
Soon the camera crews came over to ask Ed some questions, but he deflected them, saying he would make statements later when the vote was announced. Television cameras came over to me and my accordion, as I was repeatedly asked to play a few rousing bars of “Solidarity Forever.”
Here's a flickr photo of me taken when I was performing at Word on the Strike by mordechai dangerfield
“Why am I playing music on the picket line?” I was asked by a reporter for CBC Radio International.
“In support of all the arts and cultural groups who are shut out of the library, because they cannot host their presentations here, they cannot access music here or archival documents… or whatever they need,” I replied.
“I am a 30+ library employee, so yes… I work as a library worker. I play music to help lift the spirits of my fellow picketers, help create a special musical ambiance… and to help engage the public. When you play beautiful music, people are sometimes more likely to ask you why you are picketing.
Alex Youngberg (CUPE 391 President) and Ed Dickson (CUPE 391 Bargaining Committee Chair) face the media as they prepare to announce the results of the Vancouver library workers vote to reject mediator Brian Foley's recommendations – photo Todd Wong
At 7pm, Ed Dickson, chair of the CUPE 391 bargaining committee made the announcement that CUPE 391 Vancouver library workers voted 78.1% to reject the recommendations by mediator Brian Foley.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Foley's recommendations don't meet the needs of our memberships and the rejection is a very strong message that we need to go back to the library and do some more work,” said Dickson. “Our bargaining committee is prepared to meet with the City Librarian Mr. Paul Whitney, and his bargaining committee. To open the library, we have at strategy and a plan that we think will work But we need to sit down with Mr. Whitney and his committee and get this library open.”
“They say you shouldn't go out
on a principle but it appears that we have,” CUPE 391 President Alex Youngberg said. “And the principle is an end
to discrimination. This is a female dominated workforce, and we are
not compared with male dominated workforces. We do not get equal pay
for work of equal value. This has been our fight all along and this
has been our principle.”
Ed Dickson said “We believe that Mr. Foley's recommendations could be the basis for a settlement, but clearly more work is required. Our members have spoken, we had a very large turnout at the polls today. They've given us a very clear direction. They've give us the tools we think we need to go back and speak to the city librarian and his committee and settle this dispute… but clearly Mr. Foley's recommendations were not good enough, clearly he misinterpreted the issues that we presented to him.
“Pay equity is our number one issue. That's why we went on strike for and why we remain on strike. The benefits improvements that he suggested to be enough to settle on don't even meet what the other eleven locals have settled for without a strike. And finally there's nothing for our part-time auxillary workers who make up 49% of our work force. We absolutely have to get improvements for these workers.
Alex than added “We're not asking for more money, we're just asking for more equitable distribution. When the top members of our workforce are offered more money yet the bottom members are not offered anymore and there is a new classification introduced with even less money then there is a question that begs to be answered. We are asking that question and there needs to be a different result.
“If CUPE 15 settles and goes back to work,” said Ed “that will focus more attention
on the city to say What the hell is the matter when you've got all
these other cities in the region that settle without a strike We're
not asking for anything that none of other libraries got, we're asking
for items that have been regionally already accepted . What the hell
is the matter with the city of Vancouver? They can't settle with this
group of workers, they're starting to settle with some of their other
worker? What the hell is the matter with the city of Vancouver?”
It is interesting that the library workers – often seen as docile public servants or as information nerds, were the most vocal and strong in rejecting the mediation recommendations. While CUPE 15 Vancouver City inside workers voted 73% to accept the recommendations for their specific issues. But while CUPE 1004 Vancouver City outside workers voted 58% to accept the mediated recommendations, they require a 2/3 majority vote – so essentially CUPE 1004 Vancouver City outside workers are still on strike. 1004 pickets at City Hall and other locations, could also effectively keep CUPE 15 workers off the job on the outside of picket lines.
See my pictures on flickr.
Here are some articles from the website www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca:
VANCOUVER — After 82 days on the picket-line, Foley’ recommendations
have not passed the test at CUPE 1004. Due to an existing CUPE 1004
by-law, the members need to accept the mediator’s recommendations by
two-thirds in order for it to bring an end to the strike. Only 58
percent of Parks workers accepted the recommendations and 57 percent of
City workers accepted the deal, which means Vancouver’s outside workers
remain on strike. [October 9, 2007 08:35 PM]
VANCOUVER—Vancouver's inside workers followed the recommendation of
their CUPE 15 bargaining committee and voted 73 per cent to accept
mediator Brian Foley's recommendations for settlement. Over the past
two days, almost 2000 members voted. [October 9, 2007 07:08 PM]
VANCOUVER—Early this evening, members of CUPE 391, representing over
750 striking Vancouver library workers, voted 78 per cent in favour of
rejecting mediator Brian Foley's recommendation for settlement.
Throughout today more than 540 CUPE 391 members cast their vote. [October 9, 2007 07:03 PM]