Fear and loathing in a center near you
I got lots of jobs to low wages. Warehouseman, employed in call centers or customer service, concierge, diver, clerk, assistant cook, seller fir, House painter, speaker, name it. In all cases, I always had bosses with varying degrees of shit.
One who we called moumounes when we refused to work at 10 meters in height without harness; another who always said that it was taking too long between two surveys; one who we spied remotely via cameras; others who harassed or tolerated harassment.
My first union experience has been with the Teamsters, at the Montreal Bus Station as an attendant to information. We were a new team about 10 people hired by a outsourcing company. A summer job that finally lasted six years, at 40 hours / week at minimum wage with executives too disdainful hypocrites.
As long as having a boss, as much to defend oneself, this is which is why I later joined the IWW, a Wobblie. But initially, I was not a convinced trade unionist. This first experience with the Teamsters has me even rather disgusted with unions.
By entering, I knew my hourly rate, but not much more. Nobody said anything to us. This is our boss, One day, who told us we would be unionized with the Teamsters. It's funny, because I don't remember ever signing a membership card. AT the time, I have found that strange, even suspicious that it is our boss who finds us a union; now I understand that we were fooled, big time.
Un an (or two) later, a colleague, no longer lit at his rights, and I started to chat . Sometimes with other colleagues. Our working conditions were really harsh. We wanted more than the minimum wage, at least 3-4$ Furthermore. Especially since half of the staff had been there since more than 10 years. Many had children. We knew that if we structured, we could go get some money. And respect.
This colleague my request if we had a copy of our collective agreement. I was not even sure what it was. We went around, no one had it. To my memory, our boss gave us a copy.
After having leafed through our convention, we understood that had to elect delegates and that many of our working conditions were not respected. We contacted Teamsters offices, so that we explains a little how it all works. We were given the number of our union advisor, the one who had to answer our Questions, help us to organize and defend our rights. Joining him was painstaking. He was very busy he said. We were obviously not on his priority list.
It looked like a whole union crooked. Not too interested in we. To send us a paid guy 3-4 times our salary, that got us made very unfriendly.
We contacted the CSN, see if we could not embark with them. It couldn't be worse and maybe the idea losing our dues would wake up the Teamsters. It was very complicated for I don't know what to have a frank response from the CSN. We were however in time for the change of accreditation. After some exchanges, it fell to the water. A young friendly adviser tells us that the plant was not very interested, among other things because would not pay much in contributions.
After this episode, our negotiations arriving, even if we didn't feel supported, we tried to organize meetings by ourselves. We had to get organized and obviously nobody would do it for us. We had to talk to our colleagues and ask questions : who stands with who? Who wants what? Who is potentially trusted, who would vote for leverage, for a strike? It was messy. What now at the IWW I call from "Restlessness, education, of inoculation, you social mapping, etc. " Unionism.
We put up posters to announce an assembly. We spent small leaflets. I was really funny to put on posters with quotes from Karl Marx. Mon boss, his, laughed less. We didn't have the right to talk about a union at work. Of their edge by cons, our bosses pretended to meet individual about the schedule for threaten colleagues, know who said what ...
They used oldest used to obtain information, to spread rumors that the company is closing and that lose our jobs if we go on strike.
Our advisor union presslessly returned our calls and was rarely, never there. At our first meeting, during which we refused the boss offer, our counselor spoke aggressively, repeated the same rumors that executives were circulating, said we should accept the 50 proposed increase signs or go out with the right pegs.
We stopped trusting him the day we saw him by chance in a restaurant not away eating with our boss, looks like two good boyfriends. I was in tabarnak.
During the second Assembly, the boss’s offer made us climb by 1,50$ (about) /h. The more combative small group but inexperienced that we were tried to push for more, but the assembly voted in favor. Our advisor says that in 3 years, we might be better ... this same guy who had more in common with our boss treated us like kids, idiots. It made me hate trade unions.
Gang of sold me said to myself. The power plants and their platform managers employees, more concerned insurance companies by industrial peace that the working and living conditions of my class.
I have rediscovered unionism in a better light meeting Wobblies. When I was told that a real union, it is the workers who train it and who give it its colors. That the legal model of insurance company, it’s a resounding failure. That it is certainly not by accepting the status quo that we will avoid the wall towards which the capitalism makes us sink.
From my first experience with a corporatist union, I’m remember this : must speak to our colleagues; ask them what they do and how to get more, know what pisses them off, remind them that a boss is a boss, even if he has a smile; understand that it will not be simple, that our colleagues (and ourselves), waves complex pathways.
Still unionized with the IWW, but also by a “legal” union, I keep in mind that we have to protect ourselves from the boss, but often also from the heavily paid union, who's afraid of losing control. Especially if we don't want to be content to sign an agreement, but put the power back on the work floor.
Un memre du SITT-IWW.
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