Monday 25 April 2011

Welcome - The 5 Dubyas

Who:  Sallie Caufield
What:  Opinions and some junk
When:  Whenever I have to scratch an itch
Where:  Winnipeg
1.  The Title:  I'm a member of CUPE.  So, why isn't the title "CUPE Doll"? There are enough CUPE blogs out there for affiliated locals; this ain't one of them.  I am a member, but my opinions do not necessarily toe the party line.  I believe in solidarity, but I am old school with an idealised notion of what that means.  My definition of unionism, solidarity and all those lovely labour movement buzz words tends to the old-fashioned,original grassroots trade unionism variety.

Somewhere out there, a "CUPE Doll" already exists.  She doesn't have a blog, but she may one day.  Unfortunately, when I searched for a blogger address, "qpdoll" was taken.  So, I defaulted.  Sorry, CUPE Doll, whoever you are.

Since I am a fan of Latin,QP has remarkable potential.  

For the "Q":  "Quid" (this); "Quasi" (as if, just as); "Quod" (but, now, because, whereas).

For "P": "Puto" (to clear, consider, think, believe, suppose, judge); "Presto" (perform, display, fulfill, offer, present); "Perdo" (ruin, waste); "Pendo" (value, consider, judge, esteem); "Proficio" (assist, help, aid).

So, at any point in time, the QP may stand for Quid Perdo or Quod Pendo or Quasi Puto or any other combination.  Labels are open to interpretation and change in nearly every context, including this one.

2.  The Blog:  Years ago, I attended a series of weekend workshops on Women in the Union.  Basically, where the heck were they all?  Women make up a huge percentage of CUPE, but are under-represented at higher levels.  CUPE National created a task force to investigate and make recommendations.

I didn't feel it applied to me.  I didn't feel marginalised or excluded and counted myself lucky to be surrounded by labour brothers who seemed immune to such nonsense.  They supported and encouraged my efforts and I shunned the notion that this could ever change.  "Old Boys Club"?  Pffft!

I was wrong, of course.  Interpersonal dynamics in a political environment can change on a dime; blocs form and close ranks without warning.  That is the nature of the beast. 

Men lead differently from women.  They process and react to threats differently, too.  There are exceptions, of course, but they are far more rare than I'd imagined.

In any political situation, women are often encouraged to "act like a man", but when we do, we may find ourselves suddenly outcast.  Men may say they like a strong woman or want you to act as they do, but a step too far into their world may constitute an unintended threat; or you may have given a strong, honest, differing opinion when it wasn't what tHEy wanted to hear; or perhaps you expected fair and equitable treatment across the board at precisely the wrong moment.

Whatever the case, suddenly the phrase "she brought it on herself" is applied to questions about your sudden disappearance from the Table and you may as well tie a bell around your neck to warn others to stay away, because they will do all they can to keep you and yours out of active participation despite your years of service to the cause.

Yes, it's wrong and it is counter to all the union movement stands for, but like any system of beliefs, those who pay lip service outnumber those who do not.  This is not unique to human experience, alas.

But I DO believe.

When abuses by priests started coming to light, I didn't stop being a Catholic -- my faith wasn't in the priests or even the Church itself, but in the Catholic interpretation of God. (Generally speaking, of course.  My mother and I have many lively discussions about my being too tolerant, but that's another post.  Perhaps.)

Just as my faith in God was not altered by the actions of representatives, my faith in the labour movement has not been altered.  The speed bumps may have slowed me down, but I'm still moving forward.

Before I was cast out, I did not blog.  When you are an active participant in a group, consensus is necessary.  I held my tongue more often than I am proud of in order to present a unified front for the good of the membership. I allowed the continuation of practices I did not agree with in the interests of maintaining a strong leadership to serve the greatest needs.

Unfettered now, I can state my beliefs and opinions openly.  When you are voted off the island, they no longer control you.

This is my island.  I have the talking stick, tho' I am willing to share.

Discover hope, all ye who enter here.


  1. The reason I left was because I thought that when the president changed, things would be better, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    I was told that I couldn't hold a 2nd vice president position on the table officers because it was far too important to give to someone from my work place. So instead it was given to a disrespectful verbally abusive person, because he fit the profile they were looking for!

    The president only has five units, and still couldn't get one of their name's right! He still doesn't know the name of one of them!

    The day I walked out was the day I realized that the people there would only fight what was politically acceptable, and all the other problems were ignored.

  2. That's very interesting, Anonymous. I was told I couldn't hold 2nd VP because it wasn't important -- you don't sit at the front table and my profile was better raised as RecSec. I said I was tired of a woman being stereotyped as RecSec, but they were adamant that it was better given to the person you speak of to have better representation across the units, to encourage participation from his unit and because the position was not particularly demanding.

    So it was too important for you, not important enough for me. End result? They got what they wanted -- and the Old Boys Club continues.

  3. And in my case, I am just getting involved with CUPE because I think there has to be a better response to an issue than "You made them mad!" I think maybe labour is supposed to "make management mad" if thats what it takes.

    Maybe the problem isnt that I made them anything at all. Maybe the problem is that they didn't answer my question until I asked someone more powerful than they are.

    And maybe my union rep should have asked the question to begin with.

    And one more maybe - Already i find its not just my rep or our unit president or any one person who is the problem. So a new question arises, one for me this time: is CUPE going to nourish my energy or drain it?

  4. An excellent question! The answer is: it depends.

    The best reason to get involved in Labour is to learn your rights and how to fight for them.

    The worst reason to get involved is to further your career opportunities or top up your pension.

    I have encountered far more of the latter than the former, unfortunately. My "What is a Trade Unionist" blog is accurate in that Tex Hughes knew back then what remains true today.

    I have always believed Labour's greatest asset is an informed membership - the more people who known their collective agreement and legal rights, the harder it is for management to trample them, unconsciously or deliberately.

    To that end, I have always believed that every member should take steward training. People tend to focus on situations that directly impact them while in training and a single steward for a workplace is seldom able to adequately respond to every question that may be asked of them. Personally,I never, ever gave an answer to a question without seeking input from others, knowing my interpretation of applicable articles may be limited. There are also legal precedents created all the time which impact us, for better or for worse. No single person has the answer to everything!

    Also, no two reps are created equal. I have worked with some very fine reps in whom I had complete confidence; others, not so much.

    My best advice to you would be to dip your toe in -- to test the waters -- and beware of sharks and shark oil salesmen. :)