Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Labour Bureaucrats Go On Strike

CUPE Staff Strike Update: Staffers hit the bricks

Well the high paid staff reps at CUPE have gone on strike against the membership of CUPE. These guys make an average $110,000 a year, have a paid car, get a great benefits package, have additional monies paid to them monthly as per diem's.

They are permanent staff. They are the bureaucracy striking against themselves.

I am sorry I am opposed to labour fakirs and porkchoppers, the guys who live off the backs of union members, being treated like other workers who go on strike.

This is a professional class whose jobs are reliant on some of the lowest paid public sector workers in Canada. While they earn six digit salaries many of their workers are making just over $10 per hour as entry level wages. None of the CUPE members have the protection or benefits that these guys have. And when they advise the membership it is often in their own self-interests and not the members.

Back at the turn of last century labour organizers were paid a $1 a day. Often they supplemented their wages by also selling life and benefit insurance through fraternal orders.

Today these striking bureaucrats are part of the business of business unions. Representing workers in the business of labour relations. Advocating against strikes, especially wildcats and general strikes, supporting managements rights clauses, etc. etc.

There is only one union in Canada that actually has eliminated the idea of a professional class of labour bureaucrats; that is CUPW. The Postal workers elect their representatives at their national convention. Being a CUPW rep is not a permanent job , it is what is supposed to be, a member who works for the members.

Not a labour fakir bureaucrat who belongs to another union within the union. That is the very antithesis of democratic industrial unionism. All reps should be elected and thus subject to recall. To create a professional class of reps is undemocratic and leads to an entrenched bureaucracy, and the transformation of a democratic industrial union into a business union.

On the other hand I support unionization of support staff who work for unions as they are employees. Reps are not employees they are supposed to be fellow workers who represent the members. Thus they should be elected and subject to recall. Something I have advocated for years.

It is now up to the membership, the rank and file of CUPE to challenge the bureaucrats and their own bureaucracy to be reformed into a truly member run organization.

Down With the Bureaucrats!

All union representatives should be elected and subject to recall.




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Joe said...

So how many times have you applied to work for CUPE?

Dissidence said...

Are you aware that many of the brothers and sisters that work for CUPE work in an administrative capacity (typing, office, etc.) and make no where near the money that you've generalized these workers and lack the perks (ie/ the car) and in many cases CUPE is trying to take the good things they have? Many of these people aren't making the big bucks that you've eluded to.

Also, look at
You'll notice a ton of letters from CUPE locals in support of the staff unions' demands. We, as locals, pay for these people, and we stand fully behind their fight against concessions. We also realize the valuable service that our staff reps, organizers, office staff provide.

Be careful when you make these generalizations about the staff unions and their members. They are hard working people, and as a CUPE member myself, I stand 100% behind them.

eugene plawiuk said...

As I said I support 'support staff' those doing the office work being unionized. I would point out that in most cases these staff too make much more money per hour and have better benefits then the membership they serve who do the same work in the public sector.

Union reps on the other hand should never, never, never be a full time job that is a permanent appointment. They should be elected at provincial conventions.
And national reps should be elected at the national convention.
That would ensure the reps did not forget they were members too. Because if they lost in an election they would go back to work.

As a professional class they are former members who cannot return to their old jobs.

Joe said...

You gonna answer my question?

eugene plawiuk said...

Joe your question is irrelevant. I have however been on the executive of my CUPE Local, President of CUPE Edmonton District Council and a member of the CUPE Alberta executive as a Trustee.

brian said...

Hi Eugene,

My name is Brian Blakeley, you may know me from, or What you may not know is that I am a 20 year CUPE Staff representative. I have worked in clerical and servicing positions. I have worked for a local, the Ontario Division, and now the National Union.

Your blog entry contains a number of factual errors and a rather sad point of view.

My T4 last year was for $86.000 including my car and taxable benefits.

Clearly this is a lot of money for anyone to earn and I am very appreciative and respectful of the fact that the hard working memebers of CUPE see fit to play me such a fine wage.

But, I work for people who often earn good money and want good union representation and they are willing to play for it. The vast majority of CUPE staff Representatives are former CUPE representatives, as is now required by the CUPE Constitution.

As to working against strikes, and supporting managements rights clauses, I will only say that is not my position or experience. It is only through strikes such as the EA strike of Local 4222 last year that CUPE and the labour movement moves forward. Strikes and the threat of strikes affect change. Period end of discussion in my book.

You suggest that many of CUPE members wages are around $10.00 dollars an hour. Well I am not sure about the national situation, but in Ontario there are about 6 classifications that are paid less that $10.00 per hour. These classifications are a real sore point for us in Ontario and we are collectively working to remove this embarassment. Currently, CUPE Local 3261 is on strike against one of these problematic employers - The University of Toronto Pres where CUPE members working part-time earn less that $10.00.

So, I am glad that you are bringing attention to my unions strike and I know that your readers are open minded and critical thinkers who will see the problems that my sisters and brothers face in their labour battle with CUPE.

Also thank you for providing this chance to for me to reply to a few factual issues that I saw in your item.

As to how it is best to organize and staff a union. As a CUPE believer I will simply say that Unions should make their own decisions through their constitions about those questions. I know and respect many CUPW members and activists and respect their decisions about structure as I known many of them do the same for CUPE and its constitution!

In solidarity and respectfully,

Brian Blakeley
CSU Member on Strike Alert!

brian said...

But, I work for people who often earn good money and want good union representation and they are willing to play for it. The vast majority of CUPE staff Representatives are former CUPE representatives, as is now required by the CUPE Constitution.

I made a boo boo this should read:

But, I work for people who often earn good money and want good union representation and they are willing to play for it. The vast majority of CUPE staff Representatives are former CUPE members, as is now required by the CUPE Constitution.

Sorry , for that its early morning tyuping OK?

eugene plawiuk said...

Thanks for your corrections I got the salary figure from someone in CUPE so that could be the high end salaries on the grid. And while I appreciate that there are many sincere activists in CUPE as staff reps there are also the usual assortment of carrerists and opportunists as one finds in such organizations. It is the nature of bureaucracy.

Thus even in CUPE we need rank and file democracy including the right to elect and recall staff reps. Who should not make a career out of the position.

eugene plawiuk said...

All this being said, while I am critical of the careerism and opportunism inherent in CUPE's staffing practices, I do support workers right to strike and oppose concession bargaining period. Let's hope some of the reps fighting concession bargaining remember this when they next face the CUPE members bosses.

Joe said...

Of course it's relevant. You throw around a bunch of insults and falsehoods about CUPE staff, but won't admit that you've tried to get on staff yourself.

If you had made it on staff, would you be a 'fakir and porkchopper'?

Derek said...

Hi Eugene and the other comrades. Derek Blackadder here, like Brian B. a rep for close to 20 years and formerly a CUPE member.

And like Eugene, a LabourStart correspondent.

I'd only had a couple of items to toss into the pot.

First, CUPW is far from the only union to elect what we in CUPE call National Reps. Most or all of the Building Trades Unions do so.

To be somewhat politic about it: their politics are not those of CUPW. So I'm not sure there's quite the impact Eugene suggests in simply electing reps. Certainly no direct simle causal relationship; and the status of 'reps' is not even in and of itself much of an indicator of a union's politics it seems.

As an aside, not all CUPW staff are elected. CUPE 1979 represents professional and clerical and building service staff at CUPW. The 'professional staff' do many of the jobs that in CUPE are done by my co-workers; there's really no point-to-point comparison of the work done by the elected CUPW folks Eugene uses as his example and the work done by the hired CUPE staffers.

Local 1979 has over the years contributed more than its share of activists to CUPE staff.

More importantly, there's some history to the fact that CUPE reps are staff and not elected officials. Our Constitution makes an effort to place some constraints on the bureaucracy of the union. So, for example, we are prohibited from speaking to certain issues at CUPE conventions, we cannot run for any position within CUPE nor can we vote at any CUPE event, conference or convention of any kind.

This structural attempt at distinguishing the bureacuracy from the political leadership of the union was deliberate; it's an effort to avoid the bureaucracy overhwhelming the elected activists by de-combining political rights from the less obvious power and influence which staff can exert.

In that we are different from many international unions. I won't say better, but different. I won't even say the framers and supporters of the CUPE Constitution were successful in what they were aiming at in this regard. But there is a method to their madness, it has historical roots.

Reaching some conclusion about the situation as it stands without regard to the historical roots...

Derek said...

Sorry, me again (seems an occupational characteristic of CUPE reps that we need to come back with more after one try!).

To put my second point more bluntly: CUPE reps are staff rather than elected in a deliberate attempt to reduce the power and influence of the people who occupy full-time positions within the union; to leave as much political space for the elected shopfloor leadership of the union as possible. Which is pretty fitting I think, given that a rep's job is to make even more space for the elected activists s/he works with.

On a purely personal level, I remain convinced that one can be, pardon the jargon that dates me, both red and expert.