Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I can hear my grandpa rustling...

Well...for those who have not heard, the public school teachers of BC have gone on strike. After contemplating my options, weighing my alternatives, I picked up a picket sign last Friday and walked the sidewalks around Summerland.

As my feet shuffled down the concrete path, and vehicles hummed past me, I gave a long sigh. After growing up in right-wing Rosenort, where the words 'union' or 'strike' were the most vile swearwords, I wondered what my grandpa Dueck might have thought of my actions. I surmized that he probably shifted from side to side in his sleep, but I stoppped short of assuming that he made a full turn.

Earlier that morning, just after slipping the plackard over my head, I proceeded to listen as the previous shift of picketers told of the marvelous support they had experienced. They spoke excitedly as they recounted how many times they had seen people toot their horns and give them the thumbs up. Energized, and less fearful of the rebuke I had assumed would plague my morning, I set out down the street. I had not taken more than 10 steps down the sidewalk, when I was startled by the sound of a honking horn. Realizing that I too could now share in the warm and supporting atmosphere of my new hometown, I wheeled around, ready to bask in the glow of justification. Behind the wheel of a GMC extended cab, sat a burly man sporting a jean jacket and a cap that sat high on his head. I noticed his bushy beard, but not for long, as his extended middle finger suddenly filled the frame. He honked again, and made the up and down motion with his extended digit. This was not the support I had anticipated.

Back to my grandpa...

As I walked, still reeling from the sign language of the GMC man, I thought about Rosenort. I thought about the town in which I grew up, and how I never would have dreamed that I would walk a picket line. I wondered if I was perhaps the only member of my extended family that had ever taken job action. What would my grandpa think of me?

To answer the question I thought about what I would tell him of my actions, and how i might justifyy or explain my motives. As I formulated an arguement, I was reminded time and again why so many of my childhood mentors hated unions. I could hear them in conversation: 'Troublemakers' 'weak' 'stupid' were the terms that immediately came to mind. 'Always protecting the weakest link' was a line that I heard before. I paused at this line for a while as it tumbled in my brain. 'The weakest link'. I thought back to my employment experiences in Rosenort, and more particularly, I asked myself, "Who was the weakest link?" In short order a name came to mind. For a whole variety of reasons, there was a person who undoubtedly fit the criteria. He constantly botched things up, fought with his boss, displayed his deep dissatisfaction, and openly slammed the very people that signed his paycheck. If there was a person to fire, a person to cut from the team, this was he. In the Rosenort spectrum, he was the person who required protection, he was the union-type in a world void of a labour movement. So was this person fired? Did the very people that loathed unions step up to the plate and axe his ass? Nope.

He worked for years stewing in anger and I am certain he still holds his job to this day. As I see it, he was protected. Not by a union, but by the church he attended, the hockey team he coached, and the family to which he belonged. If he was to be fired, the ripple that would swell through the commmunity would be worse than the slow drain of keeping him on the job. From a certain perspective, it seems to me that although Rosenort does not support the union movement, it is a union. 'Rosenort - Supporting the Weakest Link'. Goodnight Grandpa.


Blogger Heather said...

Hi Myron. I like your post. Although I'm slightly upset by the fact that my niece Emily is forced to stay home right now due to the strike. But I can understand it.

You've really put the Rosenort union thing in great perspective. I've been working for my dad for five years now, and I've seen this unfold before my eyes so many times - it just hurts after a while. My dad is more worried about reputations, state of mind, and the well-being of his employees that he would rather keep a bad employee on the payroll and lose customers than lost that bad employee. I've seriously sat down with him and discussed this at length. Is the employee ever going to change, just because my dad chooses to keep him on - but never confronts the issue? No. I've seen both sides of the argument... and I haven't entirely decided what side I've taken. However, I do know that I truly respect the amount of love and patience my dad has - but I really disrespect the amount crap he'll take from employees, and how he'll let his business go down because of it. I could go on and on, back and forth on this... sorry. But I can really appreciate what you've said here.

6:39 AM

Blogger Myron said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:55 AM

Blogger Myron said...

Hey Heather,

I guess it is common to reflect on one's own backround on these things. Perhaps it is overstated, but a person's 'roots' form the lens through which we weigh these issues. Our frame of reference is based on our experiences, and for most of us that is Rosenort.

Your observations of your dad will no doubt cause you to be a little divided on something like this.



7:59 AM

Blogger its me said...

would I recognize this person walking down the street

6:25 PM

Blogger Jeremy said...

Man, grim experience to get the finger from some backcountry Summerlander...my sympathies.

I've done some thinking about our very right-wing heritage and how to come to grips with it. Through university, I probably veered way left, and since then I've always thought of myself as a hardcore left-winger. But I seem to contradict myself constantly on that front now.

I've felt like I'm picking and choosing between the old political poles more now. So I care about the environment, want to limit corporate power, don't mind legalized pot or gay marriage, and think we could do better in creating a more equitable society...but on the other hand, I have a harder time supporting union stances and I don't really trust governments to solve problems in education, health and social programs -- taxing/borrowing more and spending more just isn't going fix things.

I'm finding that my emerging political philosophy is aligning well with the Green Party, especially as it seems to shift fiscal policy further to the right.

Anyway, great post.

9:04 AM


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