Thursday, December 18, 2008

A rift between ATU members and leadership?

The Ottawa Sun is reporting today that Andre Cornellier, embattled president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 has been pressuring striking union members to picket in greater numbers in the downtown core, rather than at OC Transpo headquarters on St. Laurent Blvd, to increase the effectiveness of their pickets. From the Sun:

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 president Andre Cornellier spent part of yesterday exhorting his union members to stop taking the easy way out, as picketing downtown was once again sparse at best.

[...]

"I came here the first day and there were 200 people here," Cornellier said at OC Transpo headquarters on St. Laurent Blvd., where a large contingent of workers were picketing.

"I wanted them to go downtown and nobody would go."
Although drivers and other members speaking out against their union are few and far between, this could be a sign of a growing rift between the union's membership and its members. In the face of intense public pressure, criticism, and--increasingly--hostility, drivers may be looking for a way to protest the city's hardline stance without angering the city's already-intensely inconvenienced publics. Of course, the Union's leadership, led by Cornellier, seems to be basing their decisions on what will create the largest impact on the city, and thus its citizens, in order to impress upon Mayor Larry O'Brien and the City's negotiating team how important OC Transpo and its drivers are to us all.

This decision, however, seems to be giving O'Brien more credibility and support in playing hardball (at least for the moment), while the drivers--many of whom would rather not be on strike--face the brunt of the public outrage. The citizens, after all, would be valuable allies in the ATU's fight against the City, but the union has been losing the battle of public opinion, to date.

3 comments:

Cold Commuter said...

At this point Cornellier and his posse would increase the effectiveness of the pickets by getting them out of downtown and stopping the severe congestion and traffic disruptions.

Also, seems Randy Graham, the ATU international VP, is doing much of the heavy duty work in place of Cornellier. It's never clear what actually goes on behind the scenes at the ATU, but a power struggle among the leadership could be a possibility.

As for the notion of "drivers--many of whom would rather not be on strike", remember that ATU 279 voted 98% for this job action. They clearly wanted this strike big time and they got it.

Cold Commuter said...

Well, since that last post, bus driver Mike Kouri has broken ranks with the ATU according to
Earl McRae's column in the Ottawa Sun today (Saturday 20th). Looks like the first major sign that solidarity is not forever in this case.

Anonymous said...

Yea well Mike Kouri is a big baby as I see it it's the mayor that's playing hard ball as reported not the union