Category Archives: Unions

Agents Provocateurs Launch Olympic Torch Relay?

Agents provocateurs were outed at the FTAA protest in Montebello in August 2007. I expect they’re at it again in BC on the first day of the Olympic torch relay, this time with marbles.

The huge contingent of police officers watched as the group blocked traffic in several major intersections and even threw marbles at the feet of horses used by the Vancouver police mounted squad.

Victoria police spokesman Sgt. Grant Hamilton said “restraint was the order of the day” Friday night, explaining that officers did what they could to keep the peace. There were no torch-related arrests in Victoria Friday, Hamilton said.

via Protesters crossed ‘moral line,’ angry torchbearer says.

Let’s start with initial media reports of protesters throwing marbles on the ground in front of or at the feet of police horses.

Then we hear of reports from the protesters and observers that no protesters threw marbles.

Then as of 4pm yesterday, CanWest stories of protesters accusing police of throwing the marbles, on at least the Ottawa Citizen and Victoria Times-Colonist websites, are “not available.” Maybe they’ll return again.

At this stage, it’s unclear who threw marbles, or if they were thrown at all. Civil liberties observers saw no marbles at all.

At this stage, we have ambiguity.

Those who like to believe the police and the $1b VANOC security force are good people who would never lie or entrap or discredit protest can shake their heads at the mean protesters who want to kill horses.

But anyone who paid attention to the FTAA meetings in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007 knows that protesters caught on film 3 police officers dressed as protesters, with faces covered and rocks in hand prepared to incite violence.

If you weren’t one of the almost half a million people to watch the footage, you can see it here.

Within days the Quebec government admitted the masked men were police officers.

And from VANOC’s perspective, that was probably a critical error in their game plan. Don’t admit anything, then the ambiguity allows people who lean your way anyway to believe the dastardly deed was actually committed by the protesters.

So we start with marbles and as the quote above indicates, stoking public sympathy by talking about police retaining order and restraint, keeping the peace and making no arrests.

You can be sure that if the marbles came from the Olympic security forces, the next action from agents provocateurs will take advantage of this goodwill they’re building in the public to step up their interventions.

Why the Windsor CUPE Strike Will Inspire You

Read on and enrich your spirit for progressive social change, understand the need to build solidarity on the ground, and learn about the threat of cyber-scabbing!

The strike is an instance rare in the current climate of workers’ struggling for a political principle rather than immediate wage demands. As such, it has much to teach but also reveals complex challenges that both the labour movement and the Canadian left will have to meet in the near future.

The main issue at stake for both locals is the City’s demand that post-retirement medical benefits be eliminated for all future hires.

The future of the union movement as the first line of working class defence against ruling class attempts to make working people pay for the recurrent crises of capitalism depends upon its discovering new ways to mobilize its membership against this new mutation of an old divide and conquer strategy. It also depends on building solidarity, the next critical issue of general significance raised by the strike.

via Cyber-scabbing? Lessons for labour from the Windsor CUPE strike |

Alcohol Privateer Fear-Mongerers, With Flaky Arithmetic

In what the industry is calling the NDP’s “six-pack attack,” private store owners are warning an NDP win on May 12 could increase the price of a half-sack of suds by three dollars

The NDP’s promise to increase the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 would have a disproportionate impact on the food-service industry, she said. “You could see the price of a bacon-cheddar burger at Earl’s jump from $13.55 now to $16 under the NDP. A burger at the Cactus Club could go from $14 to $16.60.”

via NDP’s pledge to up beer prices brews woes.

Before I address twisted arithmetic, let me just say that I don’t buy my BC brew at private liquor stores. Their selection is overpriced and awful, their stores are generally untidy, they are understaffed with usually not-so-thrilled workers who are paid awful wages–no surprise there.

Without injecting any numbers, a private liquor store is making a killing if it sells beer at prices higher than government stores, yet pays people minimum wage, thus less than the BCGEU employees at government stores. That’s got to make some sense, right?

And why do the privateers get a 16% discount on products compared to government liquor stores? Because Gordon Campbell will subsidize privatization wherever he can. Corporate welfare 101.

So, I have absolutely no sympathy for the privateers. Their criticisms make me just shake my head at their baldfaced greed.

The best part, though, is that if you buy your beer at public liquor stores, none of this neoLiberal Party fear-mongering will affect you at all! And the threatened restaurant burger price increases are made up as well, so have no fear.

That said, let’s look at the math. You can take a look at the BC NDP’s analysis of public and private liquor costs here.

But here’s my first question. If a 6-pack of beer costs $12 at a private liquor store [already $2 more than at a government store] and the privateer owners are claiming that a $2 minimum wage increase from $8 to $10 will cause the $12 6-pack to cost $15, what kind of labour costs must they have? I know this sounds like a word problem from grade 9 Math or something, but just think it through.

If there are [an unrealistically high] 3 employees making $8/hour on duty over 12 hours each day in a privateer’s store, the daily labour cost is $288. At $10/hour, the labour costs go up by $72. In this scenario, and looking at labour costs alone, the only way $3 can be passed on to consumers is if they sell merely 24 6-packs each day–and nothing else. That’s clearly just nonsense.

When we add in the loss of the privateers’ discount of 16% to 10%, that 6% will affect final costs too, but not significantly. Even if the $12 6-pack were being sold at cost, the loss of the extra 6% discount would increase the 6-pack by 96 cents. Since the privateers’ mark-up is a whopper, the real final cost increase of the 6% discount reduction is far less.

So how does the privateer industry get a $12 to $15 price jump in their wonky arithmetic? They add 25% to the final product cost. Why 25%?  Because if the minimum wage goes from $8 to $10, that’s a 25% jump. I do enjoy my beer, but honestly, I’m not that stupid. And anyone who thinks it through for just a short time isn’t that stupid either.

I think the industry, the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., is simply lying with these numbers by suggesting that’s how labour costs factor into retail prices. I also think the neoLiberal Party is promoting the lie to scare beer fans away from the NDP and their plan of cutting back on the corporate welfare program for privateer, profit-gouging liquor vendors. Enough already!

I also think the industry and the neoLiberal Party are expecting people are stumped by grade 9 Math word problems to the point that they’d believe the crazy arithmetic without working through the problem with a pencil and paper.

They must think we’re stupid. Oh right. This is consistent with the neoLiberals’ disdain for the population it governs.

Doing similar math with the burger costs, we find more PR and rhetoric masquerading as arithmetic.

With a 25% increase in minimum wage from $8 to $10, Earl’s and the Cactus Club claim they will pass 18% and 19% of that increase on to their burger consumers. This isn’t as pathetic as the alcohol privateers’ lame arithmetic, but it is also impossible to find plausible. The last time I was at Earl’s they were going to charge me $4 for there to be vegetables on the plate of my entree.

So, we have the BC neoLiberal Party candidates ducking all-candidates meetings, telling people to just “get over” the BC Rail corruption scandal, lying about social service improvements, watching their lead in the polls evaporate to within the margin of error, seeing female voters favour the NDP by a back-breaking margin and the Canucks in the playoffs distracting loyal Liberal voters from all things political.

And now we have the arithmetically-challenged fear-mongering trying to scare beer drinkers into thinking the NDP is going to rip them off.

But in the end, if you buy your BC brew from a government liquor store, the minimum wage increase and the reduced discount for privateer liquor vendors will simply not affect you at all!

So, even though I’m not a BCGEU member, I’ve been a proud member of 3 unions in my life. I feel wonderful buying my beer at government stores because I know the workers are at the very least being paid a living wage and the product costs less than at the privateers’ stores where they have been getting their 16% discount in Campbell’s New Era of corporate welfare for privatized services.

So, do your grade 9 Math word problem above, get your result, keep shopping at public liquor stores, wag your finger at the neoLiberal Party’s desperate fear-mongering, vote NDP and STV with a smile and enjoy a new era for human beings starting on May 13th.

The BCTF Says to Take 5 People When You Vote

YouTube – BCTFvids’s Channel.

The BCTF’s YouTube videos [above] are pretty powerful. One of the best ideas in them is for each of us to make sure we take 5 people to vote for public education.

Do a quick mental survey of people you know, those that are politically curious, those that tend to avoid political topics.

Send them this link to pro-education videos and ask them if they’re registered to vote. Then be their democracy guardian angel.

Too many people will end up not voting, but the world is run by people who show up, especially in a democracy that is struggling with legitimacy in our electoral system. Let’s make sure that the people we know who care about solid policy that respects what a healthy future requires, actually cast a ballot.

And many grade 12 students are eligible to vote. Do you know any of them? Ask if they’re mad as hell yet. If they’re not going to take it anymore, make sure you help them along to being registered and vote.

Stop Colombia From Privatization at Gun Point

In BC we know too well what a rabidly anti-union government can do to the lives of unionized and non-unionized working people. Colombia is the poster child in this hemisphere for extremism among these neoliberal, anti-human carnage-mongers. And our federal government wants to increase trade with this murderous regime!

It’s time to let Colombia–and our federal government–know that human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Follow the link to read the details and email Colombian President Uribe to let him know that we won’t stand for this: Colombia liquidates Cali unions < Global Justice | CUPE.

Paul Moist is asking CUPE members to send email to president Alvaro Uribe Velez after riot police and soldiers evicted city workers in Cali, Colombia and liquidated their union.

Sixteen members of Cali’s public sector unions have been killed since 2004, including union executive Carlos Alberto Chicaiza Betancourt.

“This is privatization at gun point,” said Moist. “It’s chilling to think that the people who are doing this are those with whom our government has just signed a trade agreement.”

Challenging the Myth of Non-Partisanship and the NPA’s Stability

Two nights ago during dinner, one of the candidates for the Vancouver Park Board phoned me. He is running with the Non-Partisan Association, the NPA…a group that I have written before [see “The Lie of Non-Partisanship” from July 8, 2005 at]. In fact, the NPA is anything but non-partisan, being all conservative and neoliberal. And it turns out that partisanship is the theme of this article.

Now, I won’t go into who from the NPA ranks phoned me the other night, mostly because I block out trauma, explaining to him that I would never in a million years vote for the NPA. He was jovial, wanting to engage with me despite our differences of opinion: a total waste of time.

He said he phoned me because my sister gave him my number and that I would consider voting for him, so he should call me. Right. I have no sister. Maybe the woman he said who came into his store and gave him a phone number wrote it down incorrectly and this hapless fellow phoned me. Or maybe the NPA candidates are cold-calling people in the phone book because that’s where they’re at now.

The phone book seems to me to be the best explanation. It reflects how desperate the NPA is, poised to lose all their seats on city, school and parks boards as they are, what with the COPE-Vision-Green coordinated slate. Well done Mayor Sam Sullivan, destroying the NPA brand in but one term.

But the synchronicity arrived this evening at dinner time when a pollster phoned. It was Innovative Research Group, another group I’ve written about before [see “Racist Survey Questions on a Survey about Multi-Culturalism” from October 15, 2007 at]. A year ago I wrote about one of their omnibus online polls that asked me many things, including to rank how I felt about a variety of racial groups living in our multi-cultural Canada, on a scale of 0-10 on whether I have a favourable or unfavourable impression of each race. I included a screenshot of those poll questions in my article last year.

Tonight’s IRG poll asked about my awareness and voting intentions in the Vancouver election. And while the poll wasn’t as offensive as last year’s, it did ask one question that bothered me: was I concerned about the number of Vision and COPE school board candidates who have been education union members.

The poll didn’t at all ask how I felt about the number of business owners or candidates with corporate connections in any of the parties. This reflects an ongoing, ingrained mentality in our society that there is a “normal” group of people, and then there are the special interest groups, like unions. This is the same mythology that the NPA has perpetuated for decades, pretending that they are neutral, objective or somehow not beholden to any ideology or group. This is nonsense. Everyone has a bias. Pretending you don’t is a lie.

And while it was far from clear that the NPA commissioned tonight’s IRG poll and loaded it up with that union question, the presence of the question indicates a mindset that special interest groups are treated as marginalized.

Now with the global economic meltdown in full swing and former US Federal Reserve Bank Alan Greenspan testifying before Congress this week that deregulated, neoliberal capitalism doesn’t work, I think that questioning people with corporate connections should be fair game.

An interesting twist came this evening when I swung by the website of Innovative Research Group: It turns out they’ve gone off the radar. Here’s a screenshot of their website tonight:

When you click on the image you can see that their entire website consists of one page saying “Welcome to the future home of This Page is currently under construction.”

Maybe it’s semantics, but honestly, they used to have a full website functioning at that location. Thanks to the marvels of the Way Back Machine, you can see various incarnations of their past websites at*/ There could be lots of reasons why they’ve gone under the radar, no longer promoting the coverage of their polls or letting people easily contact them. But their lack of presence, especially because they used to have one, just looks fishy to me.

Sam Sullivan’s Latest Re-Election Schemes, 54 Weeks[!] Before the Election

Today’s fresh new email from Mayor Sam Sullivan [see below] graced my email inbox with an upfront expression of his concern for the recent shootings in Vancouver. After the debacle of his attempt at union-breaking strike management he now wants to assure us he’s out to protect our lives.

Start the email with fear and the calming words of a leader out to protect us all. Boo. Truly scary is during the civic strike he spoke in similarly glowing terms of municipal employees. His walk did not match his talk there. Further, invoking Stockwell Day shows how much Sam is out of touch with the kind of figures who resonate with Vancouverites.

Then Sam moves on to his personal, unscientific, but sure to be quoted for the next 54 weeks of the municipal election campaign [and even longer] survey of citizens on the necessity of extending Skytrain to UBC.

The context of this is important. In order to force the TransLink leadership [democratically elected, pesky as that was] to commit to the Canada Line privateer-megaproject for the Olympics, after failed votes, eventually northeast suburb politicians were bribed with the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam Centre in exchange for voting for the Canada Line.

Democracy is an inconvenient truth in BC. The BC neoLiberal government is currently in the legislature ramming through a bill that will remove all democracy from TransLink and put the board directly in the hands of corporate appointees.

I seem to remember something before our time about the American revolution being about taxation without representation. Now in the 21st century we are embracing it in BC, legislatively so. Shame.

Back to Sam, though. His personal, unscientific, qualitative survey is all about justifying a future bid to supplant the Evergreen Line timeline to get the next Skytrain leg out West Broadway to UBC. Maybe this isn’t his plan, but since it may be a decade before this extension is supposed to occur, after the northeast sector, what is Sam’s rush to meet with West Broadway businesses now and embark on this poll on his personal website?

The pdf on his site on why we should complete the Millenium Line [to UBC] has some sound arguments. As a fan of transit, I think they’re great. But they’re second in line behind the Evergreen Line. The day Sam starts squawking about why the northeast sector should wait–again–is the day I look back to his website survey with complete cynicism.

Message from Mayor Sullivan regarding recent shootings

Like all residents, I am very concerned about the recent shootings that have taken place. We are taking this situation very seriously.

Late this afternoon I held a meeting with Chief Constable Jim Chu to discuss the issue of gang violence in our city. Yesterday I met with federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and Chief Chu and I will be meeting with the federal Justice Minister tomorrow. In addition, I have written to the provincial government and will be meeting with mayors from Metro Vancouver next week to discuss ways to coordinate our efforts and attack organized crime.

I want to reassure residents that the men and women of the Vancouver Police Department are among the best in the world. They are working with our partners in the region to solve these crimes and bring these criminals to justice.

The solution to addressing these problems requires a coordinated and intelligent response. We will deliver that for our citizens.

– Mayor Sam Sullivan

Mayor’s Millennium Line Survey – Have Your Say

Mayor Sam Sullivan invites residents, businesses and community organizations to provide their views about plans to complete the Millennium Rapid Transit Line from VCC Station to Central Broadway – and ultimately UBC.

Disclaimer: this is a qualitative survey of website visitors. Results are not considered as scientific.

Sears is into Union Busting in the Lower Mainland

Taking a cue from the morally-repugnant labour tactics of Vancouver’s NPA, Sears has locked out IBEW 213 after they refused a take-it-or-leave-it concession-filled contract without even bringing it to their membership.

Sears has also been involved in impeding unionization in Belleville in 2006.

I’m sure Sears will blame it on the strong Canadian dollar.

Service Technicians employed by Sears in the lower
mainland of BC were locked out on October 1, 2007
because they would not work under a collective
agreement that was imposed. Bargaining broke off
on September 27 when Sears demanded that the
Bargaining Committee either reject or accept the
offer right then and there prior to taking it to
their members. Sears locked them out On October 1,
first thing in the morning and then offered them a
chance to come in and work under the company’s new
agreement. The “agreement” contained many
concessions and was inferior to what the employees
had previously. These long term employees joined
the Union in 1997 because of poor management and a
constant chipping away at terms and conditions of
employment by Sears. They are represented by IBEW
Local 213. They are asking that others do not
patronize Sears until this dispute is resolved
regardless of where they live in Canada.

We are asking all of our members to show support
for these workers who are fighting for dignity and
respect by not doing any business with this unfair
employer. If you would like to express your
opinion to Sears management, call: 1-800-973-7579
(Sears President’s Line) or 1-800-469-4663.

Thank you for not shopping at Sears until this
dispute is resolved.