Tuesday October 16, 2007
Papers missed the strike facts
By BILL TIELEMAN
Many a good newspaper story has been ruined by over verification.
There is a lot of garbage left around town from the end of the Vancouver city workers' strike - too bad so much of it was printed in newspapers.
Those who insist on trash-talking workers should at least get their facts straight, but apparently that's asking too much.
Or maybe some columnists are simply suffering amnesia about why and when the strike got "personalized," strangely forgetting Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's lead role.
My friend Mike Smyth in the Province railed that: "The labour movement chose to personalize their attacks on Sullivan from Day 1."
And the Vancouver Sun's Pete McMartin opined that the Canadian Union of Public Employees gained momentum: "by its clever, and unfair, campaign of painting this as 'Sam's Strike.'"
Wait a minute, guys! Who said the strike was "not his top priority"? Sullivan.
Who said that CUPE's goal was to "disrupt" the 2010 Olympics with a strike, without any basis whatsoever? Sullivan.
Who said the contract term had to be 39 months or else? Sullivan.
Who wrongly said CUPE had rejected a possible five-year deal? Sullivan.
Who got the Labour Relations Board to force workers to vote on a "final offer" that their bargaining team had already strongly rejected? Sullivan.
It was only after these repeated insults that CUPE workers began calling it Sam's Strike, and with good reason.
The mayor went out of his way to take an unhelpful public role in the strike - if city workers named it Sam's Strike it's because they were repeatedly belittled by Sullivan.
So they plastered "Sam's" stickers over the "On" part of their "On Strike" signs to make them read "Sam's Strike."
Then there's my 24 hours colleague Erin Airton's suggestion, along with other right wingers, that privatizing garbage collection would solve any future inconveniences.
Wrong again. Private garbage companies are also unionized and could also face a strike or lockout their employees, which would mean - ta-dah - no trash pickup.
Lastly, others were outraged that the outside workers - CUPE Local 1004 - require contracts be ratified by a two-thirds majority.
A "mockery of democracy" Don Cayo fumed in the Sun. "Common sense, maturity missing" a Sun editorial lectured.
Hmmm. When B.C. held a 2005 referendum on a new electoral system it required not one but two super majorities - over 60 per cent of all voters in favour and over 60 per cent of all 79 provincial constituencies voting over 50 per cent yes. It failed the first test despite a 57 per cent yes vote.
So if a union's members democratically decide that they need a strong majority vote in favour to ratify contracts, I say big deal.
And if you want to trash talk, get it right.