Toronto City Hall is really starting to look like a garbage dump
As much as I am loath to use a personal anecdote to characterize the strike in Toronto, I thought I’d share my encounter with picketers at the local transfer station (read: dump) as we enter day 15 of the strike.
It’s taken a month for my family of three to accumulate enough garbage that our medium-sized municipal garbage bin can handle no more (one of the benefits of this strike is that it may be teaching people to stop being such wasteful hogs). Since I recently renovated our bathroom, I threw some dusty odds and ends into a bag, giving me a total of three garbage bags to haul to the dump today.
The dump (I used a transfer station and not a park to deposit my trash) opens at 7am. I got there at 6:45, hoping my “early bird gets the worm” disposition would pay off. I pulled up to a massive line. Or so I thought.
At precisely 7am, the line started moving. It wasn’t much of a line. It turns out that the line of cars in front of me belonged to picketers and municipal staff. I was third. A picketer approached me and told me about why his union was on strike. He wasn’t tense or annoyed. Just matter-of-fact. If I felt that I was being held to a different standard than cops, firefighters and City Councillors, that the city was cracking open my agreement and that thanks to a campaign of misinformation and the typical scorn heaped on union workers held by such dim bulbs as new Conservative leader Tim Hudak and the histrionic chief of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, I’m not sure I would be Sammy Sunshine or even Adam Apathetic.
Less than five minutes after the dump opened, two municipal employees were helping me unload my garbage. I looked around at the picketers and I saw some long faces, some apparently fatigued, maybe some worried about how they’re going to pay this month’s rent or mortgage. I saw neighbours and workers and members of the much vaunted but continuously chipped-away-at middle class.
People who weren’t even remotely responsible for the current economic malaise (much like most of you weren’t responsible) but are asked to pay for the avaricious and criminal behaviour fostered by our neoliberal system.
Maybe too many have bought into the absurd notion that we should be happy we have a job (incidentally, having a good, well-paying job allows people to buy stuff to make the economy go round). That social Darwinism, which under Herbert Spencer’s concept of “survival of the fittest” fits capitalism like a glove, is even passively accepted is shocking. Maybe there is a bitterness in all of this, some odd psychological, Schadenfreude-like condition where those who face uncertainty in their jobs wish the same misery on others.
Or maybe, too many have either woefully short memories or are sycophants to anyone with the patina of wealth that we have easily forgotten who got us into this fine mess in the first place. But we’ll focus our anger and frustration on the first easy target.
NB: The issue of sick days keeps getting raised as if it’s some kind of evil specter. According to CUPE Local 79 (the indoor people), 10,000 of its 18,000 members don’t qualify for sick days. And CUPE Local 416 (outdoor) notes that in order for someone, at retirement or resignation, to haul in 6 months worth of pay through accumulated sick days, that person would have to work for 18 years without falling ill.