So we're coming up to that time of year again. And I wrote about it, like, a week after the fact. So I'ma gonna share it with yas... cuz I can.
I'll save the Viners, ex- or otherwise, the pain of this nauseous read.... you've read it! or most of you have...
...but I invite anyone to share their tale on how they heard the news that day, or how or if it affected them or someone they know, or what their general thoughts or feelings were about it, as it was happening, or after it had all sunk in.
Okay, so I'll start...
here's my slant on a day in history:
I was on the picket line that morning, doing time (8 'til noon, for $35
strike pay - God knows when I'll see it - apparently He has more pressing
issues) with the rest of my UNDE/PSAC local, hittin' the bricks, blocking
traffic a few minutes at a time, with the slim hope of actually affecting
anything or even 'making a statement' (the military only had to whine a
little to get their raise, so we thought that might work for us...making
them whine, that is), even if that statement is only, "we can't get any
respect, so we ain't giving any!"
Anyway, at 10am I offer to take over flagman duty for an hour, so I had to
wear the reflector vest and hold the Stop/Slow sign and take my cues from
the flagman a couple hundred feet away at the north end of our picket, and
the next half-hour passed by uneventfully. I think it was around 10:30 (I
had no watch on) that Ray, our local prez, grabbed a megaphone and addressed
the crowd of strikers. He didn't point it my way, however, and though I
tried, I couldn't make out, but wondered just the same, what he was saying
to them, and no one walked over to apprise me. (Though I'd never given it a
second thought that day, neither had I the inclination to inquire as to the
subject of Ray's address, such was my state of shock and grief to follow.
And it never occurred to me again, until I'd thought about writing this
account the next day, and it struck me how bluntly rhetorical that question
Around a quarter-hour later, during one of the traffic stoppages, there were
around 15 vehicles backed-up at my end when this exec-looking type gets out
of his car, fifth from the front, and strides purposefully toward the MPs,
who were in their vehicle on the shoulder adjacent to me, maintaining their
police presence at the picket line so things don't get out of hand. The
suit, indignantly gesturing in my direction, begins interrogating the MPs as
they rise out of their vehicle to face him: "What gives this guy the right
to block this road? I'd like to make a complaint - who do I lodge a
"Write your MP", I piped in, easily within ear-shot, and...no pun intended.
"...blah, blah, blah...", he persisted, his agitation mounting with every
deeper shade of red evinced on his face.
Meanwhile, the flagman at the other end yelled, "Break!", and when the
picketers cleared I flipped my sign around: SLOW, to which the traffic began
"...and these people are blocking traffic!", he raged on, unaccustomed as he
most likely was to not having things his own way.
"Now you're the one who's blocking traffic, sir", I calmly interjected.
He glanced over and noticed the cars moving past me, turned around to see
about 20 vehicles now backed-up behind his. He stormed off, disgusted, and
as he drove past me I said, "Your patience is appreciated". (In retrospect
I'm glad I didn't antagonize further with, "Have a nice day!") The cops
just looked at me and smiled as I tipped my hat - they never had to say one
word to the guy!
I had to stop the vehicle at the very end of that next line because the
change had been called and picketers were commencing to cross. "Sorry," I
apologized, "We'll only hold you up a few minutes; we appreciate your
patience", and the driver, in army fatigues, didn't seem to mind.
About a minute later this driver rolls his window right down and says, "Have
"Heard what?", I answered.
A week later now, and it's still too hard to fathom: "Terrorists hi-jacked
two airliners and flew them into both towers of the World Trade Center in
New York City. Both buildings collapsed. They flew a third plane into the
Pentagon", the chap related, his children looking bewildered in the back
seat, trying to wrap their little minds around the significance of such
news, as was I.
I was stunned, letting it sink in, the surrealism commandeered my brain,
like I was Clark Kent being told the Daily Planet was rubble, and I was
thinking if this doesn't begin World War III then I don't know what will.
"Man, this could start World War Three", I blathered, unable to say anything
beyond what I'd just thought. On cue, an automaton, I flipped the sign. He
just nodded and drove on, a pall of gloom left on the day, and me, in his
At the side of the road, I asked the MPs if they'd heard the news. They
said, "Sure; we been listening to it on our radio here for the last hour".
'Thanks for the heads-up', I thought to myself while feeling like I was the
last insignificant soul on Earth to find out.
My relief came a few minutes later; I handed him back the props while we
exchanged incredulities. No one seemed to really know what to make of it or
how it would bode for the future other than that it was not good.
"How truly worthless our plight here now seems", I remember saying.
With me back on the picket line, about 11:15am, Ray manned the megaphone
once more - this time I not only heard it, but anticipated it; he read from
a newly dispatched net communique:
"In light of the tragic events in Washington and New York earlier today,
security will inevitably be heightened at government offices and
institutions. Continuing our picket lines in these circumstances could put
our members at risk. In addition, many of our members would routinely
assist in protecting the safety and security of Canadians as part of their
jobs. Given the current situation, it is appropriate that they remain on
the job. As a result, the PSAC is suspending all strike activity for today
and the rest of this week.
"As public sector workers, our solidarity goes out to our Brothers and
Sisters in New York and Washington, and to all those who are affected."
On that note we broke it off and pulled up stakes; cleaned up the area and
headed home. On leaving I asked if the union meeting was still on for 7pm
that evening. "Yes", came the reply.
I suppose everyone has their own ideas about what it is we're striking for
and probably the 'bottom line' is reason enough for the lowest common
denominator. But for many more I think it's a matter of principle, that if
we're to be properly sodomized, hog-tied and held over a barrel, then pardon
us if we hoot and holler a bit; that if members of parliament and senior
bureaucrats can take hefty hikes to their six-figure incomes while limiting
everyone else to a paltry 2% snub they've got another thing coming: our
silence over their incomptence and gross waste of taxpayer funds won't
continue to be had so cheaply; that in 22 years with the federal public
service I have never, EVER, seen a contract increase that EVEN CAME CLOSE to
the increase in the Consumer Price Index; that, as one brother related in a
'town hall' meeting, "when I started here, I made the same as a Warrant
Officer - now, a corporal makes more than I do"; that the government can't
hire new tradespeople because few will work for so little, which sooner or
later becomes a safety issue because they end up calling back retirees, and
how long before one of them drops dead on the job, and at what risk to
others, and whose head will roll because of it? You can bet no one's - it's
the Canadian Way. (Look no further than Walkerton, the good-ol'-boy system
gone awry, for the kind of 'accountability' that gets imposed on those
criminally negligent in their duties - ZERO! ZILCH! EFFING NADA! - There was
a definite pay-off there, but it wasn't to the victims or the local
rate-payers; but I don't doubt it was designed to buy someone's
silence, to not implicate other shirkers of office within the local
As much as we'd like to put up a common front, we know there is vocalized
dissention in the ranks. Not too few number those who think striking won't
amount to much more than 'our loss'. Some have made clear that they won't
endure a protracted strike and may be forced to 'cross the line', while
others think the government will legislate us back to work and are maybe
even 'crossing their fingers' that they do. Wouldn't that be just like the
government to NOT legislate us back to work so we'll self-destruct and be
further divided? Well, things don't look too hopeful and, against all
odds, we still feel like we've got to do something, even if it's just
a token sacrifice of pay for a lousy 'token' of a half-percent more respect
over what they're currently offering us. I can only cling to the delusory
prospect that in a flash of ingenuity, someone in Cabinet might determine
what a great boost to local economies throughout our beautiful country a
five percent public sector pay hike would prove to be. Imagine that! I'd
actually be able to 'afford' to order take-out every other week! oh yay.
Um...how many times am I allowed to digress?
There are other issues, with me anyway, like the fact that the bargaining
process is in arrears. In other words, by the time we ratify a contract
it's close to expiring. This is stupid and wrong. It means that near the
end of a contract being ratified the amount of 'back pay' accumulated over a
year or two becomes a bribe, so much so that our underpaid, impoverished
membership, dollar signs lighting up in their eyes upon their determining
the actual figure, will invariably vote 'yes' and settle for less than they
should. Every other union strikes the day their contract expires, but not
us. I can only blame the PSAC for allowing things to slide this far out of
control, though I know it's us, the grass-roots that are too apathetic and
complacent to object strongly enough to shake up the union hierarchy.
Anyway, I want the union to get out of this bargaining in arrears nonsense,
put the offer to us for ratification, and get into advanced negotiations for
the next round so that we can be prepared to strike the day our
contract expires, like a real union, and put an end to the back-pay bribe.
With that as a bit of background I'll cut to the union meeting, 9/11/19:00h.
Nothing too detailed here (I don't have the memory for it) but I can touch
on a few of the issues raised at the meeting. Just general strike-related
stuff, mostly, like how to muster the membership to the warpath to deal a
deathly blow to The Great Satan, er... Treasury Board; or what do we do
about scabs in the membership who end up crossing our lines if we can't beat
the livin' **** out of 'em? "Shun them", came the answer. What? That's
hardly The Canadian Way! It's more like, "Here, take this broom-stick and
when I bend over, shove it up my *** as hard as you can and see if you can't
do more damage than the last parasite. I still have a spleen intact, after
all,...so piss on you!" But seriously....we also discussed where would we
picket? Location, location, location...is there some strategy we should be
heeding? Most folks just want to picket our workplace, the base, at its
gates. Simple, but futile...if we're not going to be militant about it and
shut the base down, i.e., no commercial traffic free-flow without
consequences: no more Mr. Nice Guy; it's got to cost them
something - their insurance deductibles, maybe even higher premiums.
But most would lack the heart or stomach for something like that (not this
cowboy). Others think we'd get more media attention if we picketed with
another local in downtown Barrie. I tend to agree, since we're neither
angry nor militant enough to effectively strike our own workplace, at least
we could jam up downtown somewhere. And speaking of the press, did you know
that the public service is not too highly exalted in the public esteem? Me
neither, but I wouldn't put it past the ingrates! heh Apparently there's a
rampant false impression out there that public servants are all gorging
themselves at the trough. Wrong, fools! Don't confuse us with bureaucrats,
contractors, consultants, senators, deputy-ministers, and politicians!
They're the ones taking you for a ride that you're all too complacent to
even vote them out of office or voice objection over. And all I can say is
you deserve the fleecing you're getting out of it - every last $billion!
I guess I better tie this in to the disaster soon if I don't wanna lose ya!
A Sister said she thought the Attack on America presented us an opportunity,
at which point I said I agreed before I'd even heard her out. She went on
to say we could exert more pressure at the borders and before she could
elaborate, her suggestion was dismissed out of hand, citing untenable
sanctions in a time of crisis would heighten public scorn and prove a
detriment to our cause. To this I also agree.
After various other discussions, I had occasion to again bring up the
history-in-the-making, which had been unfolding these past 12 hours.
"Ray, you said that we are not held too high in the public eye, but I think
the events which occurred south of the border today could provide us, or the
PSAC, a rare window of opportunity, not to use as a bargaining chip, but
rather as a face-saving means to back out of this strike, which many members
don't want nor can long commit to, and put the offer to the membership,
which they'll likely ratify because no one can afford to be on strike while
failing to stare down that sizable back-pay bribe, and do it all ostensibly
under the banner of patriotism and national unity in support of our closest
ally, which should garner us some favour in the public eye, while at the
same time moving us toward a more forward-, as opposed to backward-,
bargaining stance which would lead to the eventual end of the back-pay
bribe - a victory of sorts, when you add the proper spin."
May I say that when I talk, people's jaws drop.
"What do we want to help the Americans for?", said one guy lacking vision.
(I swear, some people can't see beyond their own goddamned noses!)
'Fool!', I thought. "It wouldn't be 'for them', it would be for OUR
benefit," I tried to explain...Aw, ya can't tell a Heinz pickle nothin'! At
least there was one member who voiced favour for my suggestion, but anyway,
no motions were made nor carried on any issue that night, so my 'vision'
didn't even get to die on the order table.
One thing about windows of opportunity: evanescence is their essence - here
and gone! I should know: I've missed enough of them!
Peace, Salaam, Shalom
Stay tuned right here for early November, when I'll post my dad's experience in a B-24 Liberator crew in the Battle of the Atlantic.