Monday, May 29, 2006

TTC's Favourite Pastime -- Strike!

The play was on; my espresso was in hand. The man in 17th century garb, in grand theatrical style, started his soliluquy on the magic of theatre make-up -- which head was real, which not, he asked us. The first head started to speak. It was Nelly Furtado, and she looked just like her matching fake head. Then another head...Ring!...Ring!!! The sun had barely cracked the dawn, but the phone was ringing in my ear. Who died? Who was in hospital? My heart pounded. "Hello?" "Thought you should know there's a TTC strike on."

The birds hadn't started their morning gossipfest outside my window, lead-footed squirrels weren't yet bouncing on my roof, but I needed to know 3 hours before my normal wake-up time that the TTC was doing the obvious?! Radios apparently don't spread news after 7 am, phones don't work after 8 am, that's why my friend had to call me, lest I leave as usual in total ignorance with no time to make other plans, never mind the fact that there is no other way for me to travel round town. Can one reach through the phone and strangle said friend? "Go back to bed." was the solicitous good-bye. Not friggin' likely, I muttered.

So let's talk TTC....

When I saw Bob Kinnear -- a baby-faced 1950s wannabe thug who looks like he's alway itching for a strike to prove he's a real man -- last night on the news, I knew we were in for a strike. Last night, the reason given was because TTC management weren't helping the drivers with abusive patrons. I hadn't been aware that the attitudes of the vomit express patron had flowed over into the daily commute. True, daytime commuters are pretty stupid, doing things like standing smack in front of subway doors when they open, thinking, what?, we can phase through them to get out?! Or they can trample us to get in? But how does that affect the driver?

Has driver abuse risen? It wouldn't surprise me if it has. People who don't earn nearly as much as TTC drivers, are having a harder and harder time paying for tickets and tokens, while watching politicians cave to their strike threats and increase incomes and benefits resulting in steeply rising fares to pay for them year after year. Meanwhile, these same drivers become less friendly (not outright rude, just no smiles), don't call out stops, "forget" request stops such that people in the know park themselves right next to drivers and ask every few stops are we there yet, don't know their routes, mumble into the intercom on subway trains, etc. etc. You get back what you give out. Whereas in the old days, people in general supported the drivers so that there was an air of don't mess with him, now people couldn't care less, some may even silently cheer the abuser. Sad sad sad.

This hot, smoggy morning I heard a different story. Apparently, the strike came as news to many operators. They didn't even know what the issue was. (CFRB reports it's the maintenance workers, or something to do with the evening shift.) But they supported their brothers anyway. That's what I like to see: unthinking support of the disgruntled bad apples.

Our society traditionally frowns on workers who blow the whistle or break the line. It's interesting though that usually the whistle is blown on bad apples not people standing up for good principles, the line is created by bullies. Why do we as a society think it's necessary to support the bullies amongst us? Did this tradition start way back when so we wouldn't get bullied or because too many were afraid of the bullies and didn't like it when the lone courageous good apple stood up against the bullying, making the rest look like wusses? Would we have so many TTC strikes if the majority -- that is, the relatively decent, albeit overpaid, workers -- kicked out the bullies and strike-hunters at the first sign of crap like this? Would our society not work better if we stopped supporting the bad apples and started kicking them out? Then the whole basket would no longer rot.

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Update

Interesting tidbit from thestar.com:

"Miller also noted that fines and jail time are also remedies that "are available."" (not "will be imposed")

"An illegal strike by New York City transit workers last December led to jail time for the union head and fines in the millions of dollars for the union."

One city has the stomach to ensure commuters aren't held hostage to labour disputes. Our city does not.

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Update 2


Just a few of my previous rants on the TTC (I apologise for forgetting to put these in earlier):

The GTTA is Birthed

Subways: Toronto Needs Them

TTC Woes

Let's Compare the TTC

Fellow 'Passengers' on the TTC

Liberals Fund TTC

Moscoe and Miller Break Promise

TTC Fares Up

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Update 3

And what can out-of-pocket commuters do? Class Action Against the TTC Union

14 comments:

AutumnFalls said...

I couldn't agree more. President "Bob" has Grieve It! (whatever it is) written all over his face. This guy could have come from central casting "seeking an arrogrant bully, white, pot belly, big chip on shoulder, Napolean syndrome an asset".
The fact that our Mayor is beholden to unions helps not a whit when pissing contests like this one really take off. President Bob and his few like-minded lieutenants have taken commuters hostage to assuage their egos, a "take that!" to management. Commuters of course "take it" too and won't soon forget. President Bob's classic line was accusing management of provocation and therefore it is the fault of management that the public has turned against ATU 113. Ugh. What a sorry mess.

talk talk talk said...

You're right about commuters not forgetting! And thanks for pointing out that Bob is a "blamer" too!

I heard calls on CFRB for a Ronald Reagan move -- fire the lot. I can't imagine our politicians having the guts to do that, or even to fire the initial troublemakers, nor being able to figure out how to keep the system running if they do that.

Last I saw of Bob, he said they'd given a proposal to management to get the workers back to work, and they'd had the (unmitiagated gall) to reject it. Why should there be a proposal? You have your labour board order. Get back to work!

Of course, we all know eventually the threatened fines will be dropped in exchange for the TTC up and running by tomorrow. Bob just has to growl more, and the politicos will pale and snap at management to genuflect to the union.

And since they keep doing this, the union takes that as permission to wildcat and/or legit strike whenever they want. If fines were imposed, if suspensions and firings happened, you'd bet your high-priced token, the employees would think twice before striking again.

As for Miller being unable to see this coming...if I, watching the local news, having exposure to Bob only through the media, could see today coming, what's his problem? By being unable to plan for the forseeable, even if he thought it wouldn't happen, he has just proven his inability to lead this city when the pandemic hits.

AutumnFalls said...

Love how Mayor Miller is now a "hero" because trains and buses *might* roll by 5 PM. So all these actors "win" today. Miller gets to look like a guy who saved the end of the day, "Bob" gets to swagger into the beer store tonight with lots of claps on the back from his "ahhh screw 'em" brothers. TTC gets to walk away with smug self-righteousness. Losers: The environment and metropass card holders and then all of us once again they don't have 3-ply toliet paper in the TTC members only cans.

Too true re: pandemic. It terrifies me to think of our city council dealing with SARS to the power of a 10,000. The only thing scarier would be Leader Mel Lastman. He'd no doubt urge us to stock up on sofas and loveseats before bread and water. Let them eat cake.

talk talk talk said...

LOL!!

Not sure I agree with you about Lastman (though your sofa comment is pretty funny!!) -- he's looking spiffy again and fighting mad for his city now that he's healthy and off that mind-bending, physically-debiliatating drug.

AutumnFalls said...

Well then, good to hear it. I did vote for him but wondered what happened to his mind the second time around. I was mortified when I saw him on the news in the midst of the SARS crisis responding to the World Health Organizion warming by saying like..."WHO, who are these people...never heard of them." Here's to a healthy Mel.

talk talk talk said...

I second that!

When trying to find the name of the drug he was on, came across a new (to me anyway) feature of Wikipedia: Wikiquote. They have that famous WHO one, but I like one of the few he said that made any sense during his ill period:

"When have you ever heard the United States take the blame for anything? This is no different."
* when questioned on the origins of the 2003 US-Canada blackout

Mel certainly made politics exciting!

AutumnFalls said...

Thanks for wikiquote. I'm a big fan of quotes. Dan Qualye had some classics, here's one:

"For NASA, space is still a high priority".

Marion Barry, another brilliant political mind owns this one:

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country".

BTW thanks for the intro to blogging. You were my "first".

talk talk talk said...

Oh hey, you're very welcome! Never been anyone's first before. :P The blogroll on the right is a group of great bloggers you can join once you get comfortable with this whole medium. James Bow is the founder and posts thoughtful articles, as well as fun pieces. I hope you enjoy blogging, and if you're into photos, please feel free to click on the Flickr badge on the right to check out my photos and others on Flickr, a fantastic photosharing website.

Love the quotes! I'd forgotten about Quayle and his bon mots!!

AutumnFalls said...

LOVED the photos. Lots of flowers...beautiful...I'm a gardener...well trying to be one. And CATS too. Wonderful thanks.

James Bow said...

Thanks for the kind words!

It's been a long day. I've been covering the illegal strike over on Transit Toronto. You know, a lot of workers are legitimately angry, though I can't condone striking illegally. And now that the union has taken this politically stupid step, commuters are incensed. It's a little wearing to be in the middle of all that anger.

talk talk talk said...

autumnfalls, thank you! Glad you liked them.

James, I wish you much strength! It's not pleasant being in the midst of anger, but thank you for covering the story so well. There are better ways for the union to make their grievances known; striking just deafens us to their concerns. Politically stupid is right.

AutumnFalls said...

Hey, did you know you are on page 8 of National Post?

talk talk talk said...

NO!! I gotta go check that out. Thanks for telling me!

talk talk talk said...

I want to send a big thank you to all those who linked to this post, including but definitely not limited to http://www.paved.ca and the National Post staff who picked up on it. I especially want to thank Paul Tuns at http://soberingthoughts.blogspot.com/ for his very kind words today (Tuesday). I'm blown over!