Day 4: Surrealism Sets In – Plane Crash, Jack Layton, and Calypso Newfoundland Folk Songs

How much stranger can things get?

First off, the teacher situation. See for the latest info.

Starting tomorrow, teachers will be on picket lines. What does this mean for our staff? The latest word I have is that Strathcona and Britannia branches will be shut down for sure, and it’s possible Joe Fortes may be as well. Plans as I understand them are to shut down both Britannia and Strathcona on Saturday as well.

Please…NEVER cross a picket line! I’ve been in touch all day with our members at these worksites and with members of management, who have agreed to redeploy affected staff. If you have any questions, contact the Union office right away. Laura Safarian will be there to answer questions. Any member of the Executive can reach me 24/7. I’m back from Winnipeg on Saturday. We will be assessing the job action over the weekend, and have further information by Tuesday.

Yes…my day started out with a plane crash. See:

Cargo plane crashes in Winnipeg, killing pilot

A courier plane crashed near our hotel early this morning. It was transporting a variety of viruses. Sadly, the pilot perished.

Our delegates’ day started with meetings at 8 am. Laura attended the womens’ caucus. Mark, Gerard and I attended a special communications breakfast held for locals who won communications awards. It was an interesting hour, as we learned about CUPE National communications strategies. It was a pleasure to meet Ian, CUPE’s web guru. I note now that this blog has been listed on the National web site (my apologies for readers not from Vancouver Public Library or Gibsons—this is an opinionated blog intended for our locals’ membership…but please feel free to read, anyways). Go to, and click on the “blogs” link under “what’s new.”

It’s a good thing I’m too sleep deprived to care what strangers think about what I’m writing. Otherwise, I’d have blog anxiety.

So what happened today?

An important resolution calling for a national child care strategy was passed today. My good friend Randi Gurholt-Seary (see photo in earlier posting) spoke WONDERFULLY about the pressing need for CUPE National to organize child care workers in our province. CUPE is the union with the best resources to represent this sector…but is expending almost no effort to reach unrepresented early childhood educators.

There were a number of elections (see the CUPE National web site for details). Just to give you an example of union politics, and a taste of the kind of work we’re doing, here’s a scenario that happened today.

Regional Vice Presidents are elected from the floor of the convention. BUT, what really happens, is that each regional caucus elects candidates (BC gets to choose two). These candidates are nominated, and are elected by acclamation, thus allowing each region autonomy in choosing who represents them.

What was different today? Alberta’s nominee was their Provincial president, D’Arcy Lanovanz (good name!). HOWEVER, another member from Alberta was nominated as well – another highly capable Albertan named Margaret Templeton. And she did something gutsy…she accepted the nomination.

So, we had a real election. Here’s where research and knowledge of procedure is important. We quickly put our heads together with Laura to find out if this was something the womens’ caucus was using as a strategy to help address gender balance. She reported no—that the caucus had decided, in fact, not to do that and to respect regional autonomy. Based on that, we decided to support Alberta’s own choice out of respect for their provincial body and to not vote for Margaret, despite our concerns for gender balance on the National Executive.

The result? Margaret won, 1014 votes to 393. A massive amount of non-Albertan delegates voted for her. Why? I’m not sure. It could be a reaction to C-27’s failure to pass yesterday. Does this signify a split in the Alberta caucus?

If it does, it was not evident. In the true spirit of unionism, which is about building our co-workers up through solidarity and not tearing them down through in-fighting, D’Arcy and Margaret stood together at the microphone and pledged to work together. D’Arcy moved to make the vote unanimous for Margaret, and said she would represent Alberta well.

Of course, some Alberta delegates were outraged, and made it clear at the microphone. It makes for an interesting convention!

Another moving union moment today was when the delegates sang “Happy Birthday” to Claude Generaux’s daughter Jade today. She turned 18, and our National second-in-command had shed tears when he addressed the convention previously. It is the first time he has missed being at home for his daughter’s birthday.

Congratulations to Gerard…

Who spoke at the microphone for the first time today, and did a stellar job. He addressed a resolution that detailed a strategy for CUPE to combat high fuel costs (emergency resolution of fuel price relief no. 304). His argument was very incisive—the gist of which was that price controls would not work, as multinationals would find other ways to pass costs on to the consumer. He also advocated for tax revenues from the high price of fuel to be used to advance research in alternative energy sources, and pointed out that high fuel costs actually help turn consumers towards more viable long term solutions to fossil-fuel dependency.

Speakers today included…

Jack Layton, leader of the Federal NDP, and a rousing speaker. He told the story of his father’s last couple of years of life. His first long-term care home was private. The care was impersonal. The average tenure of staff was 18 months, and they were poorly paid.

The last 12 months his father was in a publicly-funded and unionized care home.

“My father was able to spend the last twelve months of his life in an atmosphere where he was cared for and loved. That’s what true public service is about.”

Xolile Nxu, known affectionately as “Comrade Boss,” first vice-president of the South African Municipal Worker’s Union. He spoke about the effects of privatization in the rebuilding of South Africa, and the poverty that it has brought.

“Leaders of the revolutionary working class, I bring you greetings from South Africa.”

Viva, SAMU, viva!

Josua Mata, labour leader from the Alliance of Progressive Unions in the Philippines (our Local last month pledged to donate $750.00 to help the striking workers of Hacienda Luisita).

“If you continue to enjoy your life in complacency, you are doing so at the expense of workers in the third world.”

…and the calypso Newfoundland folk song? Nancy Riche, a character and a half (a Newfoundlander and former union leader), who was hired to run the elections killed some time by singing “Ise a bye” in a calypso style to the overwhelming delight of the crowd today. A superb public speaker, I wish she could run more than the elections…like maybe the COUNTRY. Anyhow, she won all of our hearts today with her good humour, patience, and common sense.

More tomorrow. I’ll update you all via e-mail if I learn anything new regarding the teacher situation. Stay well, everyone!

In solidarity,