Frustration

I have to say that dealing with adolescent boys is one of the more frustrating things that anybody will ever do. I was the same way. Nobody could tell me anything. On second thought, maybe I haven’t changed.

My son said some things recently to his mom that deeply offended me. I will be honest, she is hard to deal with but his conduct was not called for. You can be angry with somebody, but the attack was designed to hurtful. As an outsider I can see that neither party is listening to the other. It is very difficult to be the mediator between my ex wife and son.

I blame myself a little. The divorce wasn’t as ugly as they can be, but are they ever pretty? The tension is there. It’s really easy to get short. Pretend in front of the kids all you want; they will see the truth. They see the little digs back and forth.

My ex can talk more than any person I know and I am quiet. I like the quiet. I get irritable when forced to participate in an argument that I will never get my point across. These days she sees red and I see green. There’s not much common ground and the 10 years apart has only widened the divide.

Despite her ideas and mine being from different planets, we still have 2 kids together. We have to communicate.

Now that the boy has moved into my couch, communication is nearly daily. I want to start the conversation with a disclaimer: Please state the purpose of your call in 15 words or less! Go!

Well, maybe it’s a little harsh, but I just don’t have 45 minutes each and every day to have a conversation about the kids. I just don’t. If I felt it was a conversation, you know where you dialogue back and forth, I could accept it. It’s more like a parenting course for beginners. It’s not my first rodeo. The child will be fine and if not, my partner will pick up any slack. She loves the boy.

So I hit the end of my rope yesterday. We are going for a little therapy. He needs to learn to deal with his angry outbursts and I need to learn to parent with his mom. There is no instructions for raising kids in a divorced or blended family. Maybe when the kids are grown, assuming I survive, I will write a book? Until then, I will make the best decisions I can. I was raised my my parents and I’m still alive, although there were a some close calls! I just hope this therapy helps.

Holidays aren’t what they were

Today is Easter. I feel strangely empty. We didn’t have any kids for the first time in a long time. My mom is dead and I’m not religious.

The stress of the last few months is getting harder to get away from. 3 or 4 hours hiking in the wood this weekend. I still can’t relax. My duties at work are just becoming more. I really don’t want to hear your opinion on the collective agreement. The time for your input was before bargaining began. Now, not one thing can be done until bargaining in 2015. I doubt that will be me. We did exactly as asked and it’s just not enough. I’d rather shove a sharp stick in my eye than discuss one more thing about bargaining.

Last week I was thanked and called a “fucking idiot” several times each day. Sadly, the latter comment wears on you more. I am really sick of it all. So sick of it, that I am considering letting these people do the job themselves. I’ll take the education and go elsewhere. I’m at that point.

I have other things happening in my personal life that I cannot discuss until it’s finished. Long story short: my ex cannot handle my sons and one has taken up residence on my couch. Suddenly, I’m full time dad to 3 kids. That’s not totally correct. Most of the parenting of her 2 is done by her. This one is my sole responsibility and he is exceptionally smart. So smart that he scares me a little.

I guess I have 1 of 2 kids full time. He eats like a horse and I am still paying full support to his mom. I brought the subject of reducing support up briefly and my ex was very clear that I could go directly to hell.

Should I go back to court? Who does that benefit? We already have 1 case on the go with my partner’s ex. What’s another one? I can represent myself. Should I just wait? He’s almost 18 and he indicates that he is not going to university. Support will end naturally. I currently make a little more, so we would have to adjust anyway. I would like to settle the one case before starting another.

Anyway, that’s my grammatically messed up, venting blog. It is what it is. I started the blog to vent, not preach and my last few were pretty preachy. Unions are great, but they don’t solve personal problems. There is a saying that I am starting to believe more and more: unions eat their own. It’s not unionism, but the fact that politics is always dirty and I’m not sure I have the energy to continue to fight for people that are thankless most of the time. Whew! There it is and I feel better.

Saturday thoughts in the winter that never ends…

this was actually written a couple of weeks ago, but never published. I have been too busy to write, or read much so I thought I could throw this one out. Have a great day!

20130219-075427.jpg

It’s Saturday morning. The sun isn’t even up and I’m driving around a 40,000 pound vehicle, totally empty. I would so much rather be home in my warm bed. It’s frigid with the windchill. I thought spring was here, but I was as mistaken as that damned groundhog. 2014 has the never ending winter. I feel like I’m living in an episode of “Game of Thrones”. Any moment a white walker will stroll out of the distance.

Let me clarify: I am not writing while driving. Bus routes are timed to pick people up. Any time that you aren’t stopping to pick up, you get ahead of schedule. If the bus arrives at the stop early, the passengers may not have made it out yet. “An early bus is no bus” as the employer says in discipline letters and other propaganda. So as I sit at a layover point, I write stuff that I think about.

I’m actually quite pissed today. A member of the supervisory staff divulged some private, personal information about me. The main reason I’m pissed is that the information was not factual. This guy tried to be a union guy and he wasn’t really smart enough so he switched teams. He couldn’t keep confidential information when he was on our side.

Life is a power struggle. You try to do well at your job. We all have relationships. When I say relationship, I’m not talking about couples. If you go to Starbucks to get a coffee several times a week and the “barista” or whatever they call them, makes small talk, you have created a relationship. It is not substantial, or significant, but they start to form an opinion of you. Through small talk you can learn about marital status, job, kids or not, pet lover and so much more. I learned a long time ago as a bus driver to guard what I say.

I had a regular, but sporadic passenger. One day he got on and the first thing he says, “How are your kids?” Let me backtrack; I know this guy lives in a halfway house. It is specifically geared to sex offenders. Sometime before I knew that, I must have told him, through small talk that I had kids. He remembered.

I am a leader in my workplace. I am generally well liked. I am also venomously despised. The people that hate, supported my opponent in the election, or I couldn’t reverse their discipline. Some think union folks just don’t want to work. They see the events I attend and are jealous. Meanwhile, I was the only one of 3 or 4 willing to attend.

I’m not sure where I’m trying to go with this. Just random shit from my head. I’m now home and going out with some very good friends. I just always try to be cognoscente of the impression I create in others. I’m still getting used to this more public role and it’s a far cry from other jobs I’ve had. If I joke around during a discipline meeting, I am judged. Sometimes it’s ok, but most times it’s not. I really want them all to like me, but I am accepting the fact that probably only 20 percent do, 60 percent are indifferent, 10 percent dislike and 10 percent more would destroy me if they could. Such is the price we pay for the choices we make. Life is political no matter how much you think differently.

Organization Drive – Toyota Cambridge and Woodstock Ontario

Image

As I have already posted in several previous blog posts, I am a union local executive member. Today I made the front page of the paper, much to my embarrassment: http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4444354-battle-of-words-in-toyota-union-drive-heats-up/  there was 600 other people there!

Our local is Unifor 4304 representing the transit operators, specialized transit operators, fleet support staff and specialized dispatchers at Grand River Transit in the Region of Waterloo. We are very active in our community as a whole. Not just union activities! We serve dinner to people in need at the Ray of Hope organization. We support the food bank of Waterloo Region with the Stuff a Bus campaign. We lobby the local, regional, provincial and federal governments on issues from Health and Safety to opposing bills such as C- 377 and 525.Image

We have been working to help the folks at the local Toyota plants experience the better working conditions that unions provide for well over a year. It is an initiative that started at the national executive level and has been embraced by our local union president Darlene Wilson. She is the most active person in our local, often campaigning in the dead cold of the winter that is just releasing it’s hold on Southern Ontario now. She is tireless in her efforts, some would even say relentless! I think she would prefer passionate.

We are firmly committed to showing our support to the union movement as a whole. We hope we have their support when it comes time to organize the LRT workers (Light Rail Transit) that will be coming to the region in the next 2 years. Our employer has provided an unprecedented contract for a private company to build, operate and maintain the LRT project. We are not talking about a trial program here. We are talking 30 years!! Transit is designed to fill a need, not to make money. This is why almost 100% of transit properties in Canada and much of the United States are public companies subsidized by tax payers. We want all transit to be on the same team in this region!

So the Toyota campaign, while really hoping to help bring better working conditions and job security at one of the largest auto manufacturers in Ontario, it is also a trial run for our people to learn what it takes to organize a large employer. I am very optimistic that LRT is going to fall under the transit umbrella. We are very excited to share better working conditions, wages and safety that Unifor 4304 will provide!

Image

No “I” in team

I know it’s kind of a cliche, but there really are no individual people on a truly united team. Our bargaining continues. We have set more dates to meet and they go into mid April now.

At first this bargaining was getting me down a little and I found it quite stressful. Now, I have a different attitude. We truly have a great team. We have good, solid people that have the membership’s best interests in mind. We are bargaining in the toughest economic climate in many years. The entire union movement is under attack across North America. What a time to bargain!

Before we sat down at the table with the employer, I spent over 2 months doing research. I’m sorry, the team spent over 2 months doing research. Don’t let anybody tell you that researching labour law, employment standards, arbitration decisions and reading other collective agreements from other workplaces is fun! There were times that I thought my eyes would bleed and my head would explode.

As we hammered out our positions we fought. We had some brawls! As the dust settled we emerged together and solid. There is no division now. There is one page and we are all on it.

Now as we continue to work toward an agreement, I am reaching a point where I do not really want it to end. Everyday that we bargain, I spend the day, and boy do we have some long ones, with the strongest and the smartest people I know. The camaraderie that has developed is what I will miss the most. Seeing each member and the passion that they bring to the table inspires me. Our president knows the law much better than I do and I have learned so much. I know more about the other departments now. It is like being on a sports team that has made it to the playoffs, so obviously, not the Toronto Maple Leafs most years. There is a chemistry that has developed and could never be duplicated. It is like an organic thing that has taken on a life of it’s own.

I have never worked in such close proximity with others in my life. My work history has some pretty individual effort jobs. I worked as a mechanic; you work on the car until you are done. Somebody may hold a wrench for you. I worked in a factory; it was piece work and every person for themselves. Whichever worker had the most done when the order was finished made the most money. I was a truck driver, the only person in a workplace of one. I did what I wanted and did not need to play well with others.

This is a different role, but one that I will miss. Each and every bargaining day we get locked in a little room. We work together to determine our positions. We form united positions and everybody has a say. Most of all, I will miss the working lunches. We always eat as a team. We laugh, joke and blow off steam. It is the very best part of the day. When we ratify the contract, it’s over. Any frustration I had with the delays has gone. Frustration leads to stress and high blood pressure. My blood pressure is optimal today. If only the other things in my life worked this well…

Sporadic Schedule

Today I had a shorter day. I attended a labour arbitration for one of our members. It kind of makes up for the 14-16 hour marathon bargaining sessions we are planning for Thursday and Monday. It doesn’t really make up for it, but I knew what I was running for when I got elected. Note to anybody looking to do union work: if you like a consistent schedule, don’t do it!

Arbitration occurs when a grievance goes to the final step and is still not settled to the satisfaction of the union or employer. In this particular case, while I cannot provide details, I can say that we felt this individual was disciplined far too harshly. Whenever you bring an outside person in to solve an issue both parties will walk away not totally pleased with the results. The best solution is the one that the parties can come to on their own.

So I have not blogged at all due to the long days and nights I have been working. I also have a personal life which needs attention or she will get angry. Yes I meant to say she! My spouse tells me that I do a fantastic job keeping work and home separate, but as the stress of bargaining (on top of other duties) increases, that becomes more difficult.

I have rules that I follow for my own personal balance. Unless it’s a dire emergency, I don’t answer the phone after 6pm. I do not do union work from home whenever possible. The exception would be replying to emails. I do not talk about what I am doing at work except for the broadest of strokes. I generally get home early because I start early, so I may do a little work before the family arrives, but only upstairs, away from the kids when they arrive home.

Work life balance is the most important thing that I cherish. I put work before my family in my first marriage and it failed miserably. We all make mistakes. I am now happier than I have ever been and I intend to stay this way. Work used to be my escape to happiness, now it’s the time I spend with my family, which includes 2 dogs.

Don’t let work, whatever work you do, take priority over the things you love and cherish. You will be a more balanced and happy person in the long run. It will give you the energy to fight for what is right.

Union Fundamentals

Facebook-20140316-035200

Zoe got me thinking yesterday. That is why I like her so much. I wrote a post about what unions do. Unionism is an ideology. Religion and political affiliation can be as well.

Any ideology can be dangerous. One only needs to read the news to see the issues that religious and other ideologies can cause. Acts of terrorism, shootings at abortion clinics and burning of railway cars are all things that have happened and continue to happen in the name of god, or a political belief. Yes, even unions sometimes go too far, but somebody has to stand up for the ordinary worker. Unions teach workers to stand up for themselves.

I am not a union zealot, but I would like to speak for a moment about the history. I am going to stick to the Canadian history. Unions already had a foothold in parts of Europe and the United States before spreading to Canada.

In 1872 Toronto printers had a strike. The issues around this strike were primarily based on the length of the work day. They wanted a 9 hour maximum day. This became known as the “9 hour movement” and spread to other industries such as the railroads. It was Canada’s first mass labour movement and created the Toronto Typographical Union. In March 1872 they went on strike and there were many arrests. This led the Prime Minister at the time, John A. MacDonald to enact the Trade Union Act on April 18, 1872. The Act legalized and protected union activity. The purpose of this strike was better working hours for all. Sometimes you need to be a little radical to get what you need changed.

20140312-100635.jpg

The Winnipeg general strike of 1919 is another big moment in Canadian Labour.  The entire city of Winnipeg was reduced to a military occupation. Many people were injured and 2 were killed. Some of the leaders of the labour movement were imprisoned and deported. The strike was to fight the abysmal working conditions and wages from employers who had been made wealthy due to the profits from the First World War. They got some of their demands.

In 1974 Uranium miners in Elliot Lake Ontario, part of the United Steel Workers met with government officials regarding the high rate of cancers and other diseases caused by working in the mines. What was then the Workman’s Compensation Board totally ignored the workers concerns. It should be noted that they were pleading to be heard for over 16 years. Finally they staged a wildcat strike. This lasted 14 days and led to a Royal Commission, commonly known as The Ham Commission. The Ham Commission report had over 100 safety recommendations and was adapted to become the Ontario Health and Safety Act. Perhaps the biggest idea was that of an Internal Responsibility System in all workplaces. Positive change for all workers in Ontario where 377 people still died last year from occupational health issues.

There are so many other things that unions have fought for that benefit every Canadian worker that I would need to write much more. This is the unionism that I believe in. The worker is the underdog. By banding together, we can force change. This is what I try to do in some small way in my daily work as a union local Chairperson. Workers deserve to come home in the same condition that they arrived at work. Workers deserve a fair, living wage. Workers deserve to work in a harassment free workplace with equal treatment for all. This is why I got involved and am a union activist!

Facebook-20140312-041857

Special thanks to the Worker’s Health and Safety Centre. Their printed materials in all the classes I attended, formed the basis for the facts in this posting.