Vancouver’s Vision civic party has sure ruffled many feathers …well beyond those backyard chicken coops they’ve allowed in the city. But those who believe Vision could, or should see defeat, on the horizon may also not like what they see at the only competition: Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association.
The NPA’s campaign chairman and manager, Peter Armstrong, is also CEO of Rocky Mountaneer railtours, that has been using scabs to replace 108 workers the company locked out since June . And no negotiations or arbitration are on this rocky railroad’s schedule.
Some may argue that Armstrong’s business activities or interests have nothing to do with his role as a citizen participating in the political process: but I would disagree. I don’t believe ANY political organization can choose its campaign head without considering his or her “baggage” … and Armstrong’s labour relations baggage contains some real hazardous waste and could no doubt carry with it some very heavy freight charges for the NPA in the coming civic lection.
And this view of mine goes well beyond my own history as a proud union member and CEP Local M-814 Vice-President: it’s about fairness and the many proper processes available to solve labour disputes, whether it’s teachers, paramedics or rail workers … not just hire scabs to do their work.
Vancouver, after all, is still more a city of working people and working families than upper end managers and millionaires. And you don’t have to be a union member to believe locking out staff and hiring scabs to replace them is not the way to go … as opposed to negotiations, conciliation, arbitration or binding arbitration.
But Rocky Mountaineer locked out its staff in July and brought in scabs it reportedly hired through Craigslist to take over their jobs. It’s gotten pretty ugly since, with the union, Teamster Local 31 , being found in contempt of court in August for incidents on the picket line. And there is no sign that resumption of talks or arbitration are on anyone’s timetable … with the scabs enabling the trains to run on time.
The NPA of course has nothing to do with the labour fight itself, and I pass no judgement on which side is right in the dispute … but I have to ask myself does Armstrong and Rocky Mountaineer’s handling of this labour dispute represent the best the NPA has to offer as a campaign chair who reflects the civic party’s philosophy and ideology towards workers and management?
In Canada we far too often toss the “bums” out in elections but replace with with another set of “bums” who also disappoint, exasperate and disrespect us … yet in the meantime have a full term in office to impose changes we never voted for, reward friends and make us wish we hadn’t voted for them.
So, is the NPA just another group of Gordon Campbell types who see nothing wrong with making a farce of real labour negotiations, hiding their true anti-worker, anti-middle class colours, plans and big business agenda just until they get elected? Will they disrespect the voters just the way the Liberals have?
These are …and should be …real concerns and issues.
Yet, remarkably (or maybe not anymore) the Vancouver media have almost ignored and have certainly not pursued the HOT issues surrounding the campaign chair of a party that could take over take over City Hall in a few months:. And is using scabs to replace his staff!
I can tell you this WOULD be a huge issue in Montreal or Toronto, where the media do not mostly play dead when it comes to covering civic politics.
Civic election day is Nov. 19 and judging by Vision’s bull-in-a-China shop record of bike lanes, chickens in back yards, garden plots on the lawn of city hall, farcical “public consultation” processes, the Olympic Village fiasco and all those invitations to “come on down” to the city core for the Stanley Cup, you might think the NPA would be looking pretty good as an alternative.
Unless you despise strike-breaking scabs … and don’t want to vote to support those who apparently think hiring them is fine.