Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Public reaction after the strike: Revisited

This blog has touched on anxiety related to treatment of OC Transpo bus drivers after the strike, now in its 35th day, eventually comes to an end.

On that note, a couple of concerning stories have appeared in local media over the past few days. The first example is a Jan. 12 piece in the Ottawa Citizen, and the second can be found on today's Ottawa Sun comment page (right-side column).

The Citizen story, entitled "A very different strike in 1919", compared the current strike to a labour stoppage 90 years ago that involved a few hundred striking members of Local 279 of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electrical Railway Employees of America (now known as the Amalgamated Transit Union).

As the title suggests, the article looks at some significant differences between the two strikes, and it includes the conduct of both drivers and passengers as service resumed. Below are the closing paragraphs (emphasis ours):

On July 18, union members voted 309 to 138 to accept the deal. "The sentiment was freely expressed among the strikers," the Citizen reported, "that it was better to admit defeat and preserve the street railwayman's organization than to fight on hopelessly and smash the union."

Service resumed July 19, on Peace Day, a public holiday. By 9 a.m., service was "as near normal as possible," according to the Citizen. The public mood was upbeat. "The average man stepped onto the street with a jaunty air again," the newspaper reported.

There was little ill-will toward the strikers, who received nods and smiles from their customers. "And nods and smiles were returned," the Citizen said.

We'll have to see if that proves to be yet another difference between the current walkout and the strike of 1919.

Now, on to the next story. The Sun ran an op-ed written by Algonquin College journalism student Andrew Sztein, entitled "Open minds will get buses moving".

Sztein rants for several hundred words in a half-sarcastic tone, but he included the following passage (again, emphasis ours):
Give the drivers their scheduling demands, but institute automated punch clocks on the buses. It's simple, if the bus isn't in motion for more than a designated time (say five minutes), the system automatically punches the driver out and their shift continues upon restart of the engine. (Let me be clear -- I'm not suggesting the driver be physically punched out, despite the wishes of several Ottawa residents.)
Neither of these stories incites any kind of violence, of course, but the above-quoted passages don't contribute much to any debate. The former quotation is speculative and baseless, while the second is -- in this writer's opinion, anyway -- flippant, given the very real potential for violence, even in isolated cases, after the strike.

This kind of writing isn't necessarily irresponsible, but neither is it very constructive.

What do readers think?


Anonymous said...

I think comparing the fattys dfrom the modern ATU with the children, teenagers and single mothers from 1919 is offensive.

WJM said...

There should be a "clear the air" session — a long one, not the usual 90 minute crap you get from the city where no one gets to speak for more than 20 seconds — at the end of this.

City council, OC Transpo, ATU, all on a dais. Open mics where the public can just vent their spleens.

That'll be my "inducement". Doucet can take his month of free transit and shove it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, let's just get on with it I for one have a good friend that is a bus driver and he is angrier than I am and I am still being docked for an eco-pass and have to walk over 12km each way to work and back and work 6 days a week some weeks. I don't blame anyone for showing frustration and really think overall we've shown a lazy attitude/approach. Why haven't riders rallied and protested. Maybe even blockaded some government buildings to prevent them from getting to and from work. I would be willing to lose a days pay as I know a lot of people out there have probably lost much, much more than that maybe perhaps even the roof over their heads.

Anonymous said...

Why haven't riders rallied and protested.

Because a lot of them either can't get to a good protest site without bus service there, or are too tired from their other walking to walk to one.

A lunch-hour weekday protest at City Hall would be the likeliest to generate turnout.

Anonymous said...

Those who are hurt the most can't even get downtown to protest.

Only ATU could afford to go to City Hall this morning.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Anonymous said...

If anything, public reaction has been extremely restrained.

The union has shown a callous disregard for human welfare. They are forcing Ottawans to walk long distances in weather that the Ottawa paramedic service is warning people not to go out unless it is absolutly necessary. The union is costing city residents eight million dollars a day in damages and is deliberately targeting students and the disabled.

Each one of these actions alone is an outrage against human dignity. Taken together, these are acts of violence against the people of Ottawa.

The union is not fighting City Hall for a better deal; they're waging war on us by any means at their disposal. It is absurd to expect Ottawans not to respond in kind with all the tools we have at our disposal.

Taken in this context, public reactions have been extremely restrained.

If union drivers return to work and find themselves treated like the human scum that they are, then they have only themselves to blame.