CUPE National squashes unionizing effort at Carleton U

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onlinediscountanvils
CUPE National squashes unionizing effort at Carleton U

Yup.

onlinediscountanvils

BASICS: [url=http://basicsnews.ca/2013/12/cupe-national-squashes-unionizing-effort-at... National squashes unionizing effort at Carleton U[/url]

Quote:
Residence Fellows were succeeding until they received shocking news on December 1 of this year from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – which boasts a membership of over 627,000 workers – that the union would not be accepting them after all.

The decision came from on high: the President’s office at CUPE National. Once the news surfaced the organizers were outed to management at Carleton. Workers were threatened with being fired for even mentioning the word “union.” Organizers were cut off from any support, leaving them to deal with potentially volatile situations on their own. Isolation and retaliation made their working conditions intolerable.

By December 7, three workers, including Marina Tronina and Miranda Moores, resigned as a result. Because their employment was tied to their room and board on campus, this meant losing their homes as well. Moores explains, “We can’t work there anymore. Understand we didn’t resign simply because the environment was hostile; we resigned because we could not work there safely. It is too dangerous.”

Quote:
Dan Preece, Vice-President of Unit 2 at Local 4600, elaborates on the situation, “There were options before. Now they are abandoned and this has created a poisonous environment. Workers are either too scared to say something or they have absolutely no faith in unions… Nobody should be signing a card if the decision from National could go either way. CUPE National needs to consider the human cost here.”

onlinediscountanvils

Quote:
On November 21, Colette Proctor, CUPE National Organizing Representative, sent an email stating, “as long as the Local is fine with the possibility of having to cover the group I think we can organize them.” Thirty-one union cards were signed by November 24 reaching the certification requirement, before the President’s Office at CUPE National killed the campaign a week later.

NorthReport

Why?

And why not approach another union instead?

onlinediscountanvils

NorthReport wrote:
And why not approach another union instead?

Because the workers behind the successful organizing drive have resigned, and the remaining workers have been threatened.

Quote:
Once the news surfaced the organizers were outed to management at Carleton. Workers were threatened with being fired for even mentioning the word “union.” Organizers were cut off from any support, leaving them to deal with potentially volatile situations on their own. Isolation and retaliation made their working conditions intolerable.

By December 7, three workers, including Marina Tronina and Miranda Moores, resigned as a result. 

abnormal

Call the Teamsters.

In my grad student days we, the grad students, voted to unionize.  I was at that meeting - the individuals that were appointed to speak to the unions were receiving phone calls from the teamsters when they walked in the door to their homes.  No idea how that union found out about the vote (or who had called them).  

 

 

onlinediscountanvils

abnormal wrote:
Call the Teamsters.

Again, the organizers have already resigned because they no longer felt it was safe to work there once CUPE National reneged on their support. I suppose the remaining workers could decide to undertake the risks and challenges of a new organizing drive with a different union, but given how the last one turned out, and given the absence of key organizers, I wouldn't expect it to happen.

NorthReport

You want to become unionized you must have courage to walk the talk. Call another union and stop whining. Shit happens.

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/12-10

onlinediscountanvils

NorthReport wrote:
You want to become unionized you must have courage to walk the talk.

How the fuck do you figure these workers haven't been 'walking the talk'? It's easy to talk big when you're 3500 km removed from the struggle, and it's not your physical safety that's on the line.

NorthReport wrote:
Call another union and stop whining.

Again, the workers who were the driving force behind the union drive are no longer employed. It's no longer their place to call another union. Nor is it yours, mine, or CUPE 4600's. Maybe the remaining workers will try again. But after seeing what's gone down, I wouldn't be surprised, nor think any less of them if they don't. And no, I don't think it's trivial that a union would give workers the green light to conduct a union drive, only to rescind their support once the workers had successfully 'walked the talk' - especially knowing how vulnerable these workers are when their home and school is also their workplace.

NorthReport wrote:
Shit happens.

Sure, sometimes shit just 'happens'. But often 'shit happens' because people do shitty things. It's not like this was an 'act of God'. If shit happened, it's because people made shitty decisions that left precarious workers hung out to dry.

onlinediscountanvils

rabble's labour beat writer, H.G. Watson: [url=http://rabble.ca/news/2013/12/carleton-university-res-fellows-blocked-or... University res fellows blocked from organizing -- by the union[/url]

onlinediscountanvils

[url=http://rebuildingmilitantlabour.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/rml-responds-to... Responds to CUPE National’s Shameful Disregard for Precarious, Young Workers[/url]

Quote:
The decision to withdraw support for the young, vulnerable (and newly disenfranchised) Resident Fellows of Carleton University is a shameful representation of the disparity between bureaucratic jargon and meaningful action undertaken by CUPE National to support precarious workers. The Internal Coordinating Committee of Rebuilding Militant Labour denounces this conduct and will endeavour to support the Residence Fellows in any further actions to remedy this injustice. We demand that you issue a formal and public apology to the Residence Fellows at Carleton University and provide compensation for wages lost as a direct result of your flagrant disregard of their vulnerability in the workplace.

triciamarie

None of the large unions want little workplaces like this. They say it costs too much to service them

But organizers have done a good job of attracting attention to the situation here. That could help swing the decision in their favour -- either with CUPE, or a competing union.

Depending on how organizers are saying their safety was endangered, and what evidence they have, might want to have a discussion with the employer about reinstatement.

Alternatively, or in addition, does the OLRB have jurisdiction over a reprisal in this case, IE as an unfair labour practice? They could order reinstatement. And such a finding against the employer could make it easier to certify the union next time.

How about the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal? They can also impose reinstatement.

The Ministry of Labour? Their anti-reprisal language is specifically around workers exercising their rights under the Health and Safety Act. But anyone can call the Ministry and report safety violations, and this could result in orders being written against the employer, which could help build a case for the other actions.

All of this activity would be expensive for the employer, and also carries the additional risk of the potential to radicalize other workers. That's another tactical element to keep in mind.

 

Unionist

Hi, triciamarie, great to see you around these parts again!

You're quite right about unions not having much interest in small units. But this isn't a "little workplace". And CUPE already has a large local here (4600), which apparently agreed to provide service to this group - and at least one other local (2424). Lots of members and resources, besides being the biggest union in the country overall. So, I don't understand what exactly happened here. Even if for some obscure legal reason these young workers don't have "employee" status, why wouldn't the union support them outside that legal framework??

As for the recourse you suggest, they don't need to be unionized to file complaints about harassment, intimidation, assault (I'm trying to decipher what happened to them prior to their card-signing campaign) - with the university, or under OHSA, or the police, depending. But: 1) I don't see any allegation that Carleton took any action against them - did I miss something? 2) I can understand their frustration and sense of betrayal and anger and fear - but I don't fully understand why they resigned. Unless they were induced to resign, I don't really see how any tribunal can order reinstatement.

What I'd love to see is Local 4600 step up to the plate, if the national union won't, and just provide assistance - again, whether or not these young workers qualify as "employees" or not (I have no clue). If unions stick to what they're legally "allowed" to do, then they might as well give up the ghost and organize a memorial service. That's not how unions got organized in the first place, and it's not how they'll survive and grow.

 

triciamarie

Right, police - was going to mention that, too.

triciamarie

Hey U!

An excellent observation, Brother.

4600 told us yesterday that they're still working on it. CUPE National is under significant internal pressure over this, including from many of the PIRGs organized under their wing.

genstrike

NorthReport wrote:

You want to become unionized you must have courage to walk the talk. Call another union and stop whining. Shit happens.

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/12-10

They DID walk the talk.  The result?  The union turned them away, the cat is out of the bag, the employer has already started its anti-union campaign, and key organizers are gone.

Organizing is difficult at the best of times.  Trying to organize a group of workers after they were just screwed over by a union and lost their key organizers?  That might be impossible.

Honestly, I'd be very surprised if anyone - be it CUPE, Unifor, Teamsters, or whoever - can salvage a successful organizing drive out of this rubble.  And that's NOT because the workers are somehow undeserving of a union, as NorthReport seems to think.

Also, I'm not sure why you posted that article - are you also telling the woman in this article to "call another union and stop whining" that she got fired?

genstrike

I think one of the most shocking lines from the article is this:

Quote:
According to Francois Bellemare, Assistant Director of Organizing and Regional Services, CUPE National feels that the union would not be able to maintain appropriate services and “make a big difference” to these workers since they work on limited one-year contracts.

If this is accurate, it betrays a stunning ignorance about the PSE sector.  Student and sessional academic workers have organized - probably most of them with CUPE or the former CUEW which merged into CUPE - and that has made a huge difference.  Can CUPE possibly be that ignorant about its own members?

onlinediscountanvils

[url=https://www.change.org/petitions/canadian-union-of-public-employees-nati... petition to CUPE National and Paul Moist[/url]

abnormal

genstrike wrote:
Honestly, I'd be very surprised if anyone - be it CUPE, Unifor, Teamsters, or whoever - can salvage a successful organizing drive out of this rubble.  

In short, they picked the wrong union from the get go.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Unionist wrote:
What I'd love to see is Local 4600 step up to the plate, if the national union won't, and just provide assistance - again, whether or not these young workers qualify as "employees" or not (I have no clue). If unions stick to what they're legally "allowed" to do, then they might as well give up the ghost and organize a memorial service.

Hey Unionist, can you elaborate what you meant by this? What assistance could 4600 provide? 

Just for some more context, aside from the small local/non-employee relationship argument that seems to be behind this, there is a significant rift between the grad student/TA locals (like 4600) and the rest of CUPE, one that often expresses itself along the young worker vs old worker fault line.. It's a massive barrier to solidarity, both in age and class. Other locals frequently complain about the "University sector," sometimes with cause. But TA locals tend to be more militant than other locals, at least in terms of their executives and delgates at convention or within the bureaucratic structure. As a relevant example, a member of 4600's executive, Lydia Dobson, challenged Paul Moist's presidency from the floor at the last convention. Not to suggest that Dobson's candidacy had anything to do with this decision, but small locals that tend to be unruly? I wouldn't be suprised if that tendency influenced the decision somewhat.

Unionist

Catchfire wrote:

Unionist wrote:
What I'd love to see is Local 4600 step up to the plate, if the national union won't, and just provide assistance - again, whether or not these young workers qualify as "employees" or not (I have no clue). If unions stick to what they're legally "allowed" to do, then they might as well give up the ghost and organize a memorial service.

Hey Unionist, can you elaborate what you meant by this? What assistance could 4600 provide?

Sure. They have 2500 members. Do what we used to do, with way fewer members, when a union rep got fired unjustly (we funded him for almost a year until he got reinstated with full compensation - and we reimbursed the members!), or someone suffered a loss of some kind, and where the Big Union wasn't acting fast enough or at all to get the matter to arbitration or court or find another solution: Pass the hat among members, and others. Raise money. We can't be talking about impossible sums here... Room and board in residence (or actually, just a portion of that... whatever portion was being subsidized for Residence Fellows)? I'm still not clear as to why the three organizers resigned so fast - like, really really fast. Hire a lawyer (if CUPE National won't kick in their legal resources, and why shouldn't they??), and get those harassment and intimidation and assault complaints (if I read the background material correctly) to the cops and/or the human rights commission and/or whatever other tribunal in Ontario handles these varied issues. Popularize the issue. File a formal appeal to CUPE National. Go public (not just a quote here or there from some individual local union exec).

2500 members - geez, what can't they do? And then there's Local 2424, and I don't know which others right at Carleton. They have thousands of members there. Surely someone cares, if properly mobilized?

I don't know what portion of total dues reverts to locals within CUPE, but they must have some bucks, even without the fundraising/crowdsourcing/etc. And they certainly have bodies and souls. Go for it!

Quote:
Not to suggest that Dobson's candidacy had anything to do with this decision, but small locals that tend to be unruly? I wouldn't be suprised if that tendency influenced the decision somewhat.

We (or rather, I) actually have no idea, whatsoever, what influenced the decision. I'd love to actually hear all sides of this story (especially... why did they resign???). But waiting for one National President to change his mind - and meantime signing petitions - doesn't seem to me like the most productive use of time and resources. Fix the problem.

Normally I don't interfere in others' affairs, but my excuse is that you asked.

 

onlinediscountanvils

[url=http://coopradio.org/content/media-mornings-324]Derrick O'Keefe speaks with Carleton res organizer, Marina Tronin[/url] on Vancouver Co-op Radio. Segment begins around 37:10.

Unionist

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

[url=http://coopradio.org/content/media-mornings-324]Derrick O'Keefe speaks with Carleton res organizer, Marina Tronin[/url] on Vancouver Co-op Radio. Segment begins around 37:10.

Thanks for that, ODA!

I'm glad to hear 4600 has been providing financial support.

I still don't understand why they resigned.

Sounds as if there's a Unifor Community Chapter of some kind on campus which they're now in contact with. That's encouraging!

 

genstrike

abnormal wrote:

In short, they picked the wrong union from the get go.

Well, organizing with CUPE made the most sense - there are two large locals and at least three CUPE bargaining units on campus, and local 4600 has a lot of members with a lot in common, and experience organizing collective agreements for student workers in term positions - until Paul Moist's office intervened.

Not their fault though - it seems to me like no one, neither these workers or the folks at 4600, predicted that the national would intervene in this way.  And, there's no guarantee that another union would not have done the same thing - most would likely shy away from organizing this group.

Robo

genstrike wrote:

 

If this is accurate, it betrays a stunning ignorance about the PSE sector.  Student and sessional academic workers have organized - probably most of them with CUPE or the former CUEW which merged into CUPE - and that has made a huge difference.  Can CUPE possibly be that ignorant about its own members?

It is a very long time since I knew a residence "don", what I believe are yesterday's equivalent of "residence fellows" -- I never lived in residence, but had "friends of friends" who were dons. But, if the basics of that system remain as I remember them, no trade union bargaining unit under the terms of the Ontario Labour Relations Act could ever have been formed among this group, let alone a CUPE trade union.

Fundamentally, the right to form a trade union on Ontario rests with the majority of employees working for a common employer; individuals have no individual right to do so, so the existence of a common employer with a number of employees is a key feature of the legal structure. While being chosen by Carleton for the role of Residence Fellow would not likely have been difficult to prove, I think being "employees" would have proven difficult. When I knew some "dons", they received a significant discount on their university residence costs in exchange for being what today is called a Residence Fellow; this seems to be what is suggested as the basis for compensating Residence Fellows in the article authored by Watson in one of the links above (but I'm not entirely sure that Watson is certain about this fact -- some clarity on this point would help). If true, receiving a discounted rate for a service probably is not going to be accepted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board as constituting an "employment relationship" as the term is used within the Act; without an employment relationship, no bargaining unit for any trade union can be legally recognized, regardless of how badly treated the Residence Fellow are (and I have no doubt that they have legitimate complaints about their treatment). If I am correct in this guess, the hope of the representatives of some local leader in a sibling CUPE bargaining unit that CUPE would agree to represent them would have been well-intentioned but based on a misunderstanding of what can legally be achieved in our labour law system.

Maybe I'm wrong -- but I think that Graduate Students and sessional academic workers referred to above are fundamentally different from Residence Fellows, in that these two groups both receive paycheques, have CPP and EI deductions made from their wages, and have many standard features of an employment relationship in Ontario. I could easily be proven wrong by someone telling me with certainty that Residence Fellows are issued a T4 slip annually for their wages or maybe can collect EI unemployment benefits after a term of Residence Fellow work. Until then, I think that chastising CUPE for failing to do something that it could not legally accomplish within our legal framework makes little sense. From the discussion above, CUPE did seem to have given financial support to the group in its efforts, something that trade unions do from time to time and something within their legal authority (until Tim Hudak manages to stop them...). It just does not seem to me that the statements from a sister bargaining unit's leader that the group would be represented by CUPE or that a group of these people with a common interest signed union recognition cards (that some unions make available on their websites) should automatically from the basis for rabid condemnation of CUPE leadership for "squashing unionization efforts" that I do not believe had a chance of finding a legal foothold in the first place, from the facts that have been expressed so far.

But what do I know? I only know what I have read here and in the links above.

Robo

I have just listened to the Co-op radio link that is provided above, and heard the organizer who was actually on the ground state that she and other Residence Fellows receive T4 slips annually -- that may answer the question I raised above, but I am aware of people who have taxable benefits provided by an employer (separate from wages) recognized in T4 slips, so I think I might have some more questions to ponder.  She did have some confusion about what it means to be an employee under the Employment Stanadards Act as opposed to under the Labour Relations Act, but I don't expect everyone (including me) to understand the finest details of labour and employment laws. I do note that the person being interviewed said that no group of Residence Fellows in Canada yet belongs to any union. This situation presents an interesting question that some Labour Board may well be asked to answer in the future about where the limits of union organizing can extend in this kind of relationship.

genstrike

Robo wrote:

genstrike wrote:

 

If this is accurate, it betrays a stunning ignorance about the PSE sector.  Student and sessional academic workers have organized - probably most of them with CUPE or the former CUEW which merged into CUPE - and that has made a huge difference.  Can CUPE possibly be that ignorant about its own members?

It is a very long time since I knew a residence "don", what I believe are yesterday's equivalent of "residence fellows" -- I never lived in residence, but had "friends of friends" who were dons...

My comment was referring specifically to the statement from Bellemare, that being unionized with CUPE wouldn't make a big difference to workers on one-year contracts.  That is obviously preposterous, given that CUPE already represents thousands, if not tens of thousands, of student and sessional academic workers across the country.  When I was a TA in my university days, we had wages 20-80% higher than the non-union university in the city, and in two years I won tens of thousands of dollars worth of grievance settlements for our members.  So yeah, saying that being unionized with CUPE won't make a difference for workers on short term contracts in the PSE sector makes no sense.

Anyways,

Judging by Carleton's own recruiting information, it seems clear to me that these residence fellows have set hours and pay taxes:  http://carletonuniversityresidence.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/faqs-2013...

Also, in the rabble.ca article,

Quote:

There appears to be no legal reason why residence fellows would not be considered employees.

"There is no exclusion from the Labour Relations Act for workers paid by room and board rather than wages," explained Dr. David Doorey, an associate professor at York University who specializes in labour and employment law, via email. "The definition of employee in the LRA is very broad. For example, it includes taxi drivers who aren't paid a wage at all." He also explained that the Employment Standards Act includes people paid by room and board in its definition of employee.

CUPE officials did not respond to requests to clarify why they believe that residence fellows are not in an employee-employer relationship with Carleton, leaving their reasoning unclear.

onlinediscountanvils

Robo wrote:
It just does not seem to me that the statements from a sister bargaining unit's leader that the group would be represented by CUPE or that a group of these people with a common interest signed union recognition cards (that some unions make available on their websites) should automatically from the basis for rabid condemnation of CUPE leadership

They were given union cards. They didn't print them off a website. They didn't proceed simply based on some offhand statement from 4600. They were given the green light by CUPE National's Organizing Representative.

 

genstrike wrote:
Judging by Carleton's own recruiting information, it seems clear to me that these residence fellows have set hours and pay taxes:  http://carletonuniversityresidence.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/faqs-2013...

Also, in the rabble.ca article,

Quote:

There appears to be no legal reason why residence fellows would not be considered employees.

"There is no exclusion from the Labour Relations Act for workers paid by room and board rather than wages," explained Dr. David Doorey, an associate professor at York University who specializes in labour and employment law, via email. "The definition of employee in the LRA is very broad. For example, it includes taxi drivers who aren't paid a wage at all." He also explained that the Employment Standards Act includes people paid by room and board in its definition of employee.

CUPE officials did not respond to requests to clarify why they believe that residence fellows are not in an employee-employer relationship with Carleton, leaving their reasoning unclear.

Yeah. I can't easily pull them up now, but over the past week I've read comments on twitter by at least one labour lawyer (as well as many trade unionists) who dispelled the argument that these workers wouldn't have been allowed to unionize under the Labour Relations Act.

onlinediscountanvils

Maclean's: [url=http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2014/01/07/carleton-residence-work... residence workers want a union[/url]

Josh Dehaas wrote:
Moores and Tronin weren’t just concerned about the workload. They also worried about a team member they say was harassing them and threatened their safety.

“He was very active in telling us he had a gun, was in the military and was a marksman,” says Moores. She says he spoke of “retaliation” and was physically intimidating to her and to students.

“He would puff out his chest and come towards you as if he was going to do something and stop right in front of you or stop where he was touching you with his chest,” she says.

“It was hard to keep his temper in check,” says Tronin. “In our head, a school shooting was about to go down.”

They say their concerns were brought to their manager in August and September. After telling another residence manager, they had a meeting with Natalie Allan, assistant director of housing. In mid-October, they learned the teammate had been terminated. They still didn’t feel safe. For one thing, the coworker was allowed to move temporarily to a new room in the same building. They were also denied a request made to Allan Burns, director of university safety, for extra protection.

Unionist

Well that's good news:

[url=http://rabble.ca/news/2014/01/cupe-reverses-invites-carleton-fellows-to-... reverses, invites Carleton fellows to unionize[/url]

triciamarie, on December 30 wrote:
4600 told us yesterday that they're still working on it. CUPE National is under significant internal pressure over this, including from many of the PIRGs organized under their wing.

Yes!

onlinediscountanvils

Great news! Congrats to all who refused to "stop whining" about this.

Unionist

I wonder if CUPE got spooked when the organizers started talking to Unifor lol! Oh well, whatever it was, it's good, and let's watch and support the organizing effort now. Hope they can undo some of the damage done.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Unionist wrote:
I wonder if CUPE got spooked when the organizers started talking to Unifor lol!

Ha! I thought the same thing -- but I think this is a credit to CUPE 4600, the RF organizers and sympathetic CUPE locals (cough, cough) who wouldn't let the issue drop -- and of course to rabble.ca's own H.G. Watson for continuing to cover the story!

robbie_dee

Better late than never I suppose. But what does this actually mean, given that the three key organizers have resigned their positions? Is there any momentum left to restart the campaign?

Unionist

robbie_dee wrote:

Better late than never I suppose. But what does this actually mean, given that the three key organizers have resigned their positions? Is there any momentum left to restart the campaign?

Well for starters, aren't the signed cards still good?

And from Twitter:

Marina Tronin wrote:
The organizers and I are thrilled to move forward with @cupenat organizing. We are picking up where we left off.

Sounds positive!

Unionist

How did we (or rather I) miss this really disappointing news - in February?

[url=http://rabble.ca/news/2014/02/carleton-res-fellows-vote-against-union-sl... res fellows vote against union by slim margin[/url]

Quote:

The battle to unionize the Residence Fellows at Carleton University is over – for now, at least.

Last night, the residence fellows – who work in the dorms at Carleton – voted 29-28 not to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 4600. There were four abstentions.

I'm confused:

On Jan. 24, CUPE reversed itself and agreed to sponsor the organizing drive.

On February 10, workers voted.

So, the cards were still good (as I surmised)? And they filed them immediately with the Labour Board? And the Board ordered a quickie vote?

Hey H.G. Watson, any more info available on this? (Why can't I just tag her in this post like on FB or twitter??)

 

 

Unionist

Ok, I followed Marina's twitter feed and found the answer. This was January 30:

[url=http://www.charlatan.ca/2014/01/res-fellows-restart-union-drive-after-cu... fellows restart union drive after CUPE reverses decision[/url]

Quote:

The first step to unionize is soliciting at least 40 per cent support from res fellows in the form of signed cards. These were already collected in November 2013 and Tronin said she hopes to send them to the Ontario Labour Relations Board soon.

Five days after they are submitted, a formal secret ballot vote will take place in order to determine if the res fellows want to unionize.

Sad - but her subsequent tweets are very upbeat about what everyone has learned and how the struggle will continue!