I see a lot of gammon in the village
A quiet week but we’ll try to find something to talk about.
NBC has a sitcom called Superstore and it has almost two full seasons dedicated to a group of retail workers attempting to unionize the stores in their region. The show is funny and the characters are fun to root for and the organization efforts are portrayed with a surprising eye for detail. Scabs, wreckers, spies, tattle-tales, and robots are all present as hazards for a group already in precarity.
The arc is at its most uncomfortable when the baby union has the signed cards it needs and their emissaries head to the negotiating table. The idealist organizer, our protagonist, meets with the union negotiator. The aging boomer is instantly ready to show their belly, dropping demands like hot rocks, cutting the legs out from the millennials at the table with a machete of defeatism. She butchers their negotiating position at every juncture before having a heart attack and getting shuffled out on a backboard. It’s not a subtle metaphor.
This fiction was far outside my mind when wildcat strikes across Alberta greeted me with my morning coffee on a cold October morning. It feels like a year ago but, I swear to god, support workers and allies AUPE were standing outside their workplaces demanding justice for the people who blast COVID et al off the implements of our health care apparatus ahead of their wholesale privatization, and all the indignity that goes along with it. How could defeat enter my brain that morning when the most significant labour action of my life, at least since I walked pickets with CSSD teachers as a child, was pink and newborn and standing in ankle deep snow at legal distances from workplace entrances? Me of the past: you’re a total moron, a grinning baby with a full diaper. Shame on you for laughing at the enemy and not watching your six.
We knew AUPE would be hauled up in front of the labour board, and we knew everyone would be threatened with fines and jail, and we knew that there would be an order to go back to work. What I never predicted was the word from Alberta Health Services that said, to paraphrase, get back to work or we will fuck you up when you are forced back. An action with intense support from the public and from the workers, with the sword of illegality hovering over actual lines of real people who walked off the job anyway, AND the employer very specifically promising to retaliate against demonstrators? I’m trying to imagine what it must feel like to be on the good side of that much righteous fury. I quiver to think of the things I would feel justified doing.
AUPE blinked. The lines crumbled, the bosses laughed, Shandro got a win. Shandro won something. Kenney won something. In hindsight the target was shrewd. They needed to dip their toes in somewhere and deflate the resolve of the unions and they could never fold this fast if actual nurses were at huge risk. Cooks, janitors, laundry service? Jobs staffed with new Canadians, women, and people of colour? Jobs the Facebook psychos can wave away, why does a mop pusher get all those benefits, privatize them and be done with it? They knew the executive wisdom would be to save strength for the fight, and they knew that keeping guns in the locker would damn AUPE and others for the rest of plague, maybe the rest of the Kenney administration.
A line in No Country For Old Men left out of the movie goes something like “if you have a mean enough dog, people stay out of your backyard”. Guy Smith, facing glory two millimeters away, could have retired on his actions. Maybe some jail, a trial, some fines? If he would have told all of them - AHS, ALRB, UCP, the whole alphabet soup - to go fuck themselves and clean their own COVID sheets he could have some honest claim at the most important figure in Alberta labour struggle in decades. The dog in the backyard licked hands and the UCP put out lawn chairs. With their heads in baskets at the bottom of their own gallows, labour leaders congratulated themselves and the workers they abandoned. They assured people that unions exist to mewl and lose and piss themselves. They felt the heat of their shame and planned harmless rallies, demonstrations of power without actual disruption. The corpses of their leverage high-fived each other in morgue coolers.
When the big one comes, whatever form it takes, AUPE, or CUPE, or the ATA, or someone is going to talk to nurses and whoever else is next for misery and say, walk out. Strike. Show your power. When they want something in Chicago, they threaten to strike and follow through. It works. The nurses or the teachers or the transit workers will scroll back in their memory and see what was done to the janitors and the cooks and the laundry workers. If they shake their heads no, retreat into their shell, and count the treads on the looming boot will we blame them? If they had their dues back at least they could pay their bills.
👃When the province shut down safe injection sites in Lethbridge a group of badasses gave them the finger and just helped people themselves. They do it in tents! Do you know how windy it is in Lethbridge? It’s like that movie Volver but without any singing.
👣Edmonton cops put a guy in a coma and a Calgary cop, who became an internet sensation for beating the shit out of an unarmed woman half his size, also did blackface. A Toronto cop is going to jail for beating a kid with a pipe so bad he lost an eye.
🤠Rockyview in Calgary is added to the list of hospitals with huge outbreaks of coronavirus, Edmonton hospitals are about to drown in COVID patients, and the AHS is losing the ability to contact trace new cases. It’s all going great.
🎅Albertans will probably lose their homes en masse when all is said and done.
🩰If you worry about produced water spills from oil companies just wait until you find out how many holding ponds out there were built between 1950-1970 and have crumbling or non-existent liners and just leak that shit right into groundwater.
👑Quebec keeps trying to be France by emulating all their dumbest and most annoying tics.
🐨Only 14% of Republican voters said coronavirus response was important to who they voted for. 234,000 Americans have died of the virus.
🤵🏽COVID is forcing a new era of state capitalism.
🦥Even Ol’ Saint Nick will be forced into the dangerous gears of capitalism during a plague with an essential service designation.
👩🏻🎨Capital will bridge taxonomy gaps to create shareholder value.
🍳Chuck and Nancy’s Infinite Dumb Shit.
🎮If you must be stranded on a boat it helps if the boat has a burger stand built into it.
🛀🏽A mediator has been sent to negotiate terms with white Nova Scotia lobster terrorists.
🧉Not even Nickelodeon is immune from interference from zee Russians.
🐄Grand River land defenders were shot with rubber bullets and tasers.
🏉Labour power in major conglomerates is a major focus in a monopoly-dominated world.
🧙🏾Congratulations to rail workers on a historic milestone.
🌯Don’t watch revisionist Sorkin bullshit, watch this Chicago 7 production based on the actual court transcripts. It was way cooler and the lawyers aren’t the heroes.
📉Drunk with power, the editor puts his guest spot on Kino Lefter at the top of the list so you can all enjoy his treatise on testicles and Casino Royale.
🎧Halloween capitalism on the Alberta Advantage podcast. Check it out if you want some belated scares! Nothing is scarier than pooooooooooverttyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
🔇Habibti Please talks defunding the police with Vicky Osterweil!
🎚️The Progress Report talks about building a leftist podcast network in Canada. Hey, that’s about me sort of!
🧠A rally against increased police violence and presence in Saskatoon will take place on November 7.
🦿The BC Civil Liberties Association is hosting a webinar on police powers and misconduct on November 10.
🧙🏾FREE STUFF! Our documentary-film-making friends at Lost Time Media, makers of the CBC doc Above the Law and the upcoming feature-length No Visible Trauma, have supplied us with an all-access pass to the Northwest Fest International Documentary Festival. If you want it, you must 1) be a Patreon supporter (new signups are fine), and 2) email email@example.com and say "Hi, my name is ______, I'm a Patreon supporter and would like to be entered to win the film pass." We'll pick a name out of a hat in 24 hours.