Thursday, July 23, 2009
PICKETING BY THUGGERY, INTIMIDATION AND FRUSTRATION
Cops, Courts And Politicians Ignore Public's Rights
It is plain from the way judges, politicians and police brass ignore the public's right to safe and immediate passage through picket lines and native barricades that the present "system" doesn't work.
It may never have. And since strikes are only to get longer and more bitter, and the natives have run amuck in thumbing their noses and guns at Canada, you and I must insist through our votes and our voices that we intend by every legal means, including law suits and the withholding of taxes, not to accept this spitting in our faces.
There's nothing civil about our servants when they strike. As for blue collar workers, they are so traumatized by firings, layoffs and huge working factories disappearing in just months that they may return to the labour strife of yesteryear.
For a couple of decades, I have talked about this to every top cop around, including one of the most famous in Canada. They are frustrated too about the "deals" they have to make, often broken, by which picketers can block us for five or 10 minutes, which expands with their anger.
As I've written, a major judge ruled in a bitter postal strike that strikers could not stop us for even a second for the purpose of communicating their demands. Except, the cops say, rulings by judges since then have turned that decision into Swiss cheese. They also say, to be fair, that they have less trouble when strikers can block the public for a short period. Except that period always grows.
Toronto council, Queen's Park and the federal government have tolerated the intimidation, even when it grows to assaults or damage to cars, because they want everyone to be friends afterwards.
Except that is BS. When the politicians and police go along with the strikers, they side against their bosses, the public. Let's be clear about that. The purpose of a picket line is not to communicate with the public but to harass the public and any colleague who dares think of being a scab. You think when they import thugs from the industrial unions that they want them to serve tea and cookies to the elderly waiting in the heat.
The Toronto police used to have a squad of their biggest cops who went into bitter strikes determined to break as many heads as possible. Now we've gone to the other extreme. It's a wonder we don't see deputy chiefs playing patty cake with the jerks who have just stopped a 75-year-old woman from getting rid of her smelly garbage because she has always kept a clean house. We shouldn't go back to that squad but there has to be a middle, not a sell out.
I learned from my first week as a kid reporter in 1958 that the best picket lines, as far as unions are concerned, is one where you fears for your life.
I was sent with a burly photographer named Don Grant to a Teamster strike. I thought naively that I was to take notes. Turned out I was the biggest reporter at the Telegram and I was to be bodyguard. The Teamsters cursed and came towards us. Don flourished his Speed Graphic, all sharp metal edges and knobs, and said he would shove it in their faces. Then he announced that I had played university and Argonaut football and could handle their best beer-bellied jerk. (I had played very briefly for the junior Argos and Ryerson but every lie helps when you're facing bullies.) And so we escaped with pictures.
In case you think I'm anti-union, I benefitted from improvements the Guild got at the Tely, was a union steward, served on the city Guild executive and was a delegate to the international convention. I was in line to be chair of the Tely bargaining union but I got promoted out of the union. I had 13 reporter-photographers working for me. They weren't covered by the union but I acted as if they were and they responded magnificently. I've never forgotten that lesson that most people respond to fair treatment.
The three Toronto dailies endured a long and bitter strike by the printers. And they won. I remember the night I sent a small reporter, Ray Biggart, to an inquest. The picketers claimed he touched them with his VW and ripped him out of his seat. I heard this on the police radio and went roaring through the line to the rescue, sending picketers flying like duck pins. Biggart kept his calm (he was later Metro parks commissioner) and it helped when Charles Dubin, later chief justice of Ontario, volunteered to go to the police station.
Unfortunately many nice men and women get so poisoned by their cause when they go on strike that they routinely do things that must embarrass them later. Think of the strikes at Queen's Park where police horses were shot with ball bearings and there was even a bomb (it was kept secret) set off in a flower bed beside the Legislature. My oldest son, John Henry, was working in the trade ministry, and daily went out to escort a very pregnant woman through the pickets who tried to block her for 30 minutes. I wrote a column about the laws regarding picketing and my son showed it to police and security who thought it quaint that anyone would think anyone should be able to cross without waiting.
So what should be done? Companies and governments now have to apply for injunctions to limit the action of picketers when the deals with the police don't work.
This is the way it must work with strikers and protesters. Any union who blocks anyone for even one day is fined, and the daily fine increases each week. After several weeks, the public gets a refund of taxes.
As for native protesters blocking highways, every protester must be arrested and fined immediately. If this takes place in or beside the reserve, the government grants going to that band will be reduced. There must be an end to governments tolerating this civil disobedience which borders on insurrection. Obviously police must be granted some leeway in how they keep the peace but in any strike or protest that lasts more than a few days, any deals the police make with strikers must be approved in the courts where the public can object.
Silly, you say! Unenforceable? It is intolerable that we allow picketers to try to win their strike through interference with our lives. And that's what picket lines are. If the strikers want to withdraw their services, fine. Since many are suffering and would love to have these jobs - and we now have extensive labour protection to protect us against employer abuse - strikes should no longer be won through thuggery, intimidation and frustration.
In 2009, such strikes as Toronto's are anachronisms. They have allowed uncivil servants to have better salaries and working conditions than many taxpayers.