Courtney doesn't have her own blog, so I'm lending her mine for the next 1000 pixels or so. She has something she wants to share and I think it's important enough that I'm posting her words on her behalf.
Here's what Courtney wrote:
The Right to Strike or The Right to Terrorize?
I am not writing this letter to discuss the merits of one’s right to strike or right to assemble and hold a public labor dispute.
I am writing to discuss the behavior of the CUPE Union Locals 416 and 79, most specifically with respect to Local 79 during their public labor dispute.
My outrage stems from a shocking personal incident that occurred yesterday at the Municipal Offences office located at 2700 Eglinton Ave W.
Having harboured no previous opinion either way regarding this strike, or previous distain for these Unions or their members, I attended the Municipal Enforcement office to address a parking ticket. I knew of the picket lines at the various garbage dumps throughout the City, but had no idea that it had extended to Municipal enforcement offices.
After pulling into the driveway I saw a number of people crowded in front of the building with signs, picketing to raise awareness concerning their labor dispute.
As I approached in my vehicle, I can’t deny that I didn’t feel some level of anxiety. In the past week I have seen and heard deplorable, aggressive and harassing behavior by CUPE Union members at various dump sites.
I have heard reports of people being accosted in their vehicles, one individual who had their vehicle damaged by a CUPE Union members while his wife and two-year-old child were in the car; another individual who was seen on video having their vehicle surrounded by garbage; other reports of CUPE Union members tearing up garbage and throwing it around like cavemen, in addition to various reports of seniors citizens being forced to lug large loads of garbage for hundreds of meters because of the picket lines.
As I pulled my car into the laneway of the municipal office, these upsetting stories immediately came to mind as I saw the picketing group gathered. That said, I had already pulled into the driveway and could not easily navigate the crowd or the line of cars ahead and behind me to turn around and so I decided to have faith in the Union members and attempt to proceed with my own personal business to resolve my parking ticket.
I was first approached by a City Manager who advised me that:
1. There is a labor dispute.
2. That a union representative would approach my vehicle to discuss the issues and I could choose to listen or not listen. That if I didn’t want to listen to calmly advise the Union member and then wait to cross the picket line.
3. I was advised that I would have to wait approximately 15 minutes per/vehicle.
I accepted those terms and continued up the narrow driveway, as again, I wasn’t left with many options considering I had picketers in front of my car, Union supervisors to the left and right of my car and even more vehicles piled up behind me.
An older woman from the union approached my car. I wound down my window and she asked me if I would like to listen. I wasn’t really feeling well (not that I should have to give any explanation for exercising my right to choose) and so I politely advised her that I would not like to listen at that time and wound up my window preparing to wait. She respected my wishes and walked away from my vehicle.
Without provocation and within 5 minutes a second, more aggressive younger woman approached my vehicle and was shouting through my wound up window. She told me that if I did not wind down my window and listen that my car would stay blocked and I wouldn’t be allowed through at all! I found her behavior quite aggressive and when I realized that by this time I was all but trapped in my car between the tight squeeze of other cars and the picket line: I began to panic. I have never in my life, living in this city (through numerous job actions) felt so violated and, dare I say, terrorized.
That an individual having a dispute over the banking of her sick days felt that it was her right to demand that I oblige her by listening to her plight or face being humiliated and detained against my will and accosted in my vehicle is totally sickening. Since when has our society become a dictatorship where individuals who assemble to express their views have any right to detain and dictate orders to (or, rather, totally bully) members of the public?
While I respect any person’s right to freedom of expression, a right which they were exercising, my rights to express my own freedom of choice and expression were violated with flagrant hostility. Quite clearly, there are members of this group who now feel emboldened to not only picket and protest, but torment and browbeat those who exercise their right to not participate in or listen to their plight.
How does this Union expect to win public support by terrorizing and intimidating the public?
What’s worse, is that while this incident was taking place, the police that were present and witnessed this woman’s hostile behavior towards me remained unfazed nearby, continuing to chat with picketers, displaying an insensitive – if not ignorant - dismissive response. Perhaps the fact that they are CUPE Union members themselves introduces a personal agenda that presents a conflict of interest when it comes to exercising appropriate professional judgment to determine under what circumstances they will keep the peace.
Feeling the effects of this injustice after being detained against my will, after having my right to feel safe and secure in the city I was raised in taken away from me, I decided to contact the parties involved, hoping that I would find out that it was simply this one woman who acted in poor taste.
To my complete surprise the following entities responded to me in the following ways:
Who I Spoke With
What They Told Me
CUPE Local 79
That because “I was polite” in the incident she would look into it. She refused to provide information to me concerning the specific individual in question to prevent me from legally pursuing my issue. I got a completely condescending and “superior” response like that of a parent to a child from this woman.
Howard Moscoe’s Office – Councilor in my riding
A woman answering the phones
When I tried to report that I had completely denied access to the premises at 2700 Eglinton Ave W, contrary to the information on the City of Toronto Website, she was not knowledgeable and actually told me that she wasn’t even aware of the information concerning the strike that was posted on the Cities website. That I would be best suited to listen to the individual at my window to get past the line. This was after advising her that the Cities website stated that Unions refusal of passage was unlawful.
Mike Colles Office – Provincial Member of Parliament
A woman answering the phones
Refused to answer my questions or take a message for my representative and told me to email the Premiers office
The Toronto Police
I was told that unless a physical altercation had ensued they were doing nothing to protect the public from being detained on roadways or from being verbally accosted in their vehicles
Rob Fords Office
They were quite understanding and suggested that I send an email to the City and copy their office on my email
City of Toronto
Requested that I email a detailed description of events to them and that my issue would be looked into
Here are some sobering truths about how our leadership is prepared to deal with the violation of the rights of their constituents:
1. The office of the councilor I voted for had no procedure to deal with, assist constituents affected by the behavior of CUPE Local Union Members. In fact they appeared to have no care or concern for what I had been through whatsoever. Their office dismissed my concerns and, in fact, advised me listen to the union to save myself the trouble. No offer was made to record or follow-up on my complaint.
2. The Provincial Member of Parliament that I voted for refused to answer my questions and refused to accept or even record my complaint or opinions and shuffled me off to The Premiers Office.
3. The Toronto Police just sit idly by, allowing these Union employees to harass, accost and detain individuals in their vehicles, without care or concern for the public or The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am not unreasonable and don’t think that a verbal altercation warrants an arrest, however they should intervene when the Union member is provoking an altercation just as they’ve shown that they will when a member of the public were provoking an altercation under the same circumstances.
4. That the Union Local 79 suggested that since “I was polite” my complaint would be considered. Had I not been “polite”, would that have made that Union employees behavior somehow acceptable?
I tend to wonder if I had been as aggressive with the Union employee as she was with me, would this be the same story I am writing today? Had I responded to her in the same fashion she was addressing me, would that have been construed as my disturbing the peace? Would the Police have continued to remain disconnected mere feet from the incident? If I had waited until the end of the strike day and blocked the union employee’s vehicle the way she was blocking mine, would that behavior have been permitted?
It seems so painfully clear to me that in this grand hypocrisy the only people above the law appear to be Union members.
My message to the Province is not that these people should necessarily be legislated back to work, however I continue seeking legislation that mandates civilized conduct of workers during a strike and that they not be permitted to approach people in their vehicles and make arbitrary demands.
I am a business owner and work very hard to afford to be able to live and work in this City. If a client terminates, or chooses to amend the terms of a contract, should I begin to terrorize every human being that attempts to enter their facility? What would this City look like if every worker behaved the way these Union members do?
While people throughout the world are protesting equal rights and mass genocide, I found myself in this situation because of a labor dispute over sick days. I was downtown during the Tamil protests, past the transit stations during transportation strikes and never, ever have I have encountered a thug such as the one I did yesterday at 2700 Eglinton Ave W.
Perhaps the City should fund a membership or association granting the public the ability to organize, advertize, assemble and protest this kind of atrocious, militant behavior.
Union members – and the lack of leadership and response by my municipal councilor, MPP and Toronto Police - are making it easy for the public to despise and resent them and everything they stand for rather than earning public support and respect.
I urge the City of Toronto to stand their ground and not to bow down to the brute tactics of these CUPE Union members. I also urge the public to stand up for their right to sit in their car peacefully, with their windows up if they choose, without fear of reprisal, unlawful detention or intimidation tactics.
Chief Executive Officer
Inside Solutions Corp.
6001 Yonge St. #305
Previous entries about Toronto's civic workers strike: