Hate Mail From CUPE! (And my response…)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) &quo...

I got the most lovely letter today from Rob Chamberland, president of CUPE Local 2073. It sounds like he is angry and vindictive- could it be having to repeat “oh ye brothers and sisters” too often each day, or is there something more to the story?

Here’s the letter, filled with all of the exaggeration and anger you’d expect from a labour executive- followed with my response: (click the image to expand)

Dearest Rob,

Wow, that’s quite an angry and overblown posting you made! What’s going on- did you not see that I sometimes use satire in my articles, did you miss it in this one? Perhaps seeing the video I posted reminded you how Olivia Chow turned you down after the cocktail social after her security guy showed her your Facebook profile?

Silly Rob! I guess you haven’t seen Olivia’s opinion on this issue- she seems to know a thing or two about the Black Bloc

The Haymarket image on your profile appears to many as an incitement for violence- and, it is generally seen as a moment where labour was sent a few steps backwards. Considering all of the impressionable young people who may read this as an acceptance of Black Bloc tactics, and the rumours that have gone around about CUPE’s possible involvement in this sort of violence, is it not slightly irresponsible to still use this image? We’ve already spoken on this issue- now that you are El Presidente, isn’t it time that you grow-up?

Oh, and what’s up with the revisionist history in this article? Back to the impressionable young people I was mentioning…

Okay, that’s enough fooling around let’s dig into the meat of the conversation. First, I’ll respond to some of the issues you brought-up in your comments:

1.)  “This article is a complete misrepresentation and has made up my mind about Greg’s unreliability and dishonesty”

Your words are deeply disturbing Rob, I expected better from El Presidente. That a CUPE executive believes they can base such a serious judgement on a single paragraph (89 words) must be music to the government’s ears. Rob Ford & McGuinty must be giggling right now- the next round of negotiations are going to be so easy for them!

2.) “There were plenty of occupiers on-hand to welcome us.”

Of course there were Occupiers on-site! We’re not government workers Rob, nor do we “work-to-rule“, so we’d not be so irresponsible as to leave the place unprotected. It is insulting that you would insinuate this.

3.) “…we were filling their buckets with $20 bills.”

First, how do you know they were all putting $20 bills into the buckets- was this one of those charitable donations I’ve heard unions force their members to contribute to, or are you just blowing smoke out of your ass?

Next, Occupy Vancouver had big problems with non-occupiers walking into camp and soliciting donations for their personal benefit- how were you sure you were giving the money to the right people? I sure hope you don’t handle your membership dues like this!

4.) ” Greg makes it out to be a conspiracy, intimating that certain people “in the know” knew in advance about the rally.”

I used the word coincidence, not conspiracy Rob. The key difference between these two words is that the former says “I don’t know”, and the latter says “I believe but am not sure”.

I’m glad you have informed me on that now- because, I did feel a bit uncertain, and (as I say at Occupy ad-nauseum) a lack of transparency is like a petri dish for discontent. But, we’ll get to that in just a moment…

5.) “We’re all familiar with the general assembly and were under no allusions that it was a general assembly, as Greg makes out here.”

Wow! Are you telling me that the entire crowd had already been to an occupy General Assembly? But, it was only two weeks into the Canadian Occupy movement, and some of those people came from cities without occupations. How could you all be familiar with a GA? And, have you forgotten this is a satire site?

6.) ” So at no point were we playacting that it was”

Of course not Rob- I’m sure you keep the playacting for times you put on your balaclava trying to impress Olivia…

Indeed, I made a bit of an exaggeration on that one. That said, those people who can read between the lines understand what I was trying to say. During the rally before you arrived at the camp, you had CUPE people chanting Occupy slogans and such- had you been going to a First Nations rally, you’d probably have been more respectful of their culture. And, I’m sure as hell that you would if you were visiting the Hell’s Angels. So, why not Occupy?

Okay, now that I have covered what you’ve said, I have some questions for CUPE that I’ve been hoping to get answered:

1.) The video begins with someone making a comment that “we want fairness for all of us!” A question on that, did the speaker mean all CUPE members, or for all of the 99%? If the latter, does this mean that your union would be willing to go on-strike if the government refuses to increase the minimum wage?

2.) Also in the Video, Paul Moist yells out “they can keep their god-damned hands off them!” in his speech. Considering there are many religious people in your union, and in society in-general, isn’t it somewhat insensitive to use god’s name in-vain? Perhaps it is time for him to get some anti-oppression training?

3.) In the clip of one of your members says “we’re standing up for the atrocities that the rich are putting upon us”. Do you not think this is a bit divisive of a statement to make? Do all of your members vote in federal & municipal elections?

4.) When the editor cut-in the clips of CUPE members high-fiving the homeless guy, was this not slightly exploitive? Hmmm, sounds like your editor and the people who approved the final cut may need to join Paul Moist in that training…

5.) At the beginning of the Canadian Occupations, Paul Moist made quite an impressive statement: “Their dedication to a fairer, more equitable society is very much in line with the values of CUPE members and of CUPE as an organization.” I must tell you I was genuinely impressed at the time.

But, on the last day of Occupy Toronto, it was CUPE employees who were used to remove our infrastructure from the camp. And, yes, I’ve heard the story, that the employees of CUPE 416 & CUPE 43 were forced to do this. But, what happened to CUPE’s dedication to a fair & equitable society? Has Mr. Moist Suddenly changed his name to Mr. Jobsworth?

Because, the only support CUPE  brought to Occupy Toronto on the last day was a group of people to parade with your flags in front of the TV cameras! If you were truly behind us, and as dedicated as you say, you would have done more than just talk-the-talk. If you walked-the-walk you’d have told the government  all of CUPE would strike if members of 416 & 43 were forced to work.

I’ll understand if you tell me that would be too much sacrifice- but, wish you’d have said that before we spent so much time planning to support the 416 in their recent issues with Mr. Ford!

6.) I have one last question for you about CUPE’s relationship with Canadian Occupations- but, will leave it to someone who can say it better than I can:

Thank you for your attention to these issues. I look forward to CUPE’s official response. And, don’t worry, I hold no animosity towards your unsubstantiated attack on my character, and won’t make any judgement on CUPE’s character until you have had an opportunity to respond.

Solidarity Oh Ye Brothers & Sisters!

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24 responses to “Hate Mail From CUPE! (And my response…)

  1. Rob Chamberland

    Hi Greg,

    I was hardly expecting a full blog entry about me in response to my comment correcting the record. Perhaps you feel like you’re exploiting something, having learned through simple research that one of your blog commenters is the president of a union local. It seems like a big deal to you. Don’t be so surprised, given that there are about 6000+ locals under CUPE alone, and quite a few other unions in Canada, it’s bound to happen that when you run into a Canadian, you’re going to run into someone connected in some way to a union.

    Sadly, you further demonstrate your own lack of integrity. Look more closely at my profile pic – it’s not Haymarket, as you state. It’s a famous Banksy painting of London protesters, only they’re throwing flowers – so hardly black bloc, as you make out. Thus, someone with this as their profile pic might be considered to support non-violence. Sorry to disappoint, but in this you’ve failed to establish a connection between CUPE and the black bloc via my profile pic, doubtful as it was to start with. You might have saved yourself the embarassment by asking me about the pic or even looking more closely at it, or wondering about its origins and history, but it doesn’t seem like that’s how you operate. I don’t think you really care what the pic was, so long as you could use it to put forth your unfounded beliefs.

    As you don’t seem interested in verifying or truth finding, and seem more interested in drawing tenuous and dubious connections to support your far fetched beliefs, I have to wonder whether you’re really interested in what answers I might give to your questions here.

    See you in Toronto, if you’re not there already.

    Rob Chamberland

  2. Rob, (Any relation to Rob Ford?)

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    I tried to fit this into a response in the comments section, but I wouldn’t have been able to add all of the pretty pictures! And, besides, your ad-hominem attack was so spectacular that I thought it would be better to share it with the world than to hide it down in the comments.

    Funny thing about doing that is that it brought four different Occupiers to come to me and say: “I’ve been attacked by that guy before! Right after I asked critical questions about CUPE! So, interesting to find out that you are experienced at attacks like this- because, you just keep striking out!

    Thanks for telling me about how many CUPE’s there are. To be honest, I hadn’t a clue before you pointed it out- isn’t that incredibly inefficient? Your operating costs much be out of this world! Are there shared services between the different fiefdoms,or does each local have its own staff and infrastructure? Has CUPE ever considered the savings that could be achieved through consolidation? Let me know if you ever need assistance with such a project- with my experience as a big-5 management consultant, I could probably save your members millions each year! Or, you guys could keep the money and get better catering!

    As for the artwork- I know it is Banksy, silly! But curious that you focus on the trivial parts of my questions and not the real meat of them. What’s up with that? I have the feeling you are trying to deflect!

    While it is based on a famous painting of Haymarket, I was more interested in asking why you thought that this was an acceptable image to use as part of CUPE’s image. I’m an art lover, and have seen a lot of Banksy’s works, and I know it is a flower. But, there was obviously still some confusion on my part- so, imagine those impressionable young people I was talking about! Regardless, follow these links and you will see what I am talking about:

    http://weheartit.com/tag/anarchism
    http://www.knocksteady.com/haymarket-riot/

    Remember when I was talking about your needing to grow-up and to start acting responsibly? Because, I doubt Olivia Chow would be impressed by your behavior- I’ve sent her a link to this article, we can see if she is able/willing to give her opinion.

    Oh, and one last thing. After reading what you said about CUPE’s labyrinthine of bureaucracies, I noticed that your’s is specialized in social services- I’m quite disturbed to see we may be more closely linked to each other than I expected.

    A member of CUPE 15 told blatant mistruths about me to a number of people on Cortes Island, despite the fact we don’t even know each other. The connection between you & her, and both of your long-distance attacks against me, leave me profoundly worried. Is this attack in retaliation, or is it simply a coincidence?

    This is just way too eerie for me. Can you agree to step back now please?

    Solidarity brother, and hail Marx!

  3. Ye Jolly Activist

    Wow man. This guy won’t stop will he? Who knew CUPE could be so vicious. I didn’t and am unhappy to be paying my union dues when I see stuff like that.

    Good luck Genuinewitty. Hope this guy realizes how ugly he is being.

  4. Hi! Don’t worry about me- I’ve got used to the fact that when I ask hard questions people may come and attack me. It is all part of the cost of not being lackadaisical about things I care for.

    Just a note to everyone. I apply satire when attacked by people, or when someone is clearly in the public sphere. Now, El Presidante isn’t high-profile enough, but this isn’t the first time he has attacked me, and you aren’t the only person who has told me he’s done the same to them.

    I look at it this way. If he is coming to me with ad-homenim attacks, either he is unstable, or I am doing something right, or both!

    Cheers,
    -Greg

  5. I have been following this discussion and blog now for some time , as well, have read here and in other places the meaningless drivel that these unions like CUPE put out when they are confronted by the truth and facts. these unions have no agenda save for themselves and only themselves and only themselves. These unions bully people into thinking that the unions are looking out for the average person when in fact, nothing is farther from the truth. unions are nothing more than an adult version of the school yard bully who will attach anyone and everyone who has an opinion that differs from their own. these unions and the leaders of them are simply the loudest of the bullies, people who have no ambition, no real skills and certainly no ability to speak the facts.

    I have seen the attacks against Greg here and in other places and these attacks are based solely on his ability to expose the truth , reveal the facts and make a genuine case for his well researched and documented position. It appears that the unions and their brain dead leaders are so fearful of what he has to say, his facts, his meticulous documentation and his ability to clearly articulate his proven findings. the actions of these unions and their leaders is clear indication that they have been caught with their proverbial pants down and are using that one last act of desperation of trying ( but failing ) to discredit the person or persons who have exposed them, exposed the truth and called out the leaders as nothing more than self serving dictators. If anyone wants to see other example of what union dictatorship looks like they need not go very far but look at some of the locals in and around Toronto. the only thing missing from their act is goose stepping.

    With respects to the letter posted by Rob Chamberlin as an attack on Greg, Rob has nothing good to say about anyone who questions his own ideas and thought processes. I have had , on more than one occasion, discussions with him and his arguments are weaved in a very tight circular pattern where anyone with a grade three education can easily and logically make him go in circles and confuse him. Rob, if you have something intelligent to say, we are still waiting. To unions and union leaders, once again, we wait for something, anything even remotely intelligent to come out of your mouths or on screen.

  6. undercoverkity

    I would like ad to my earlier comment about would unions are and what they really do, and mo so what CUPE did.

    It appeared that during the occupation here in Toronto, the unions where quick to jump onto the occupy band wagon, waving flags, chanting pointless loans supplying their cronies with whatever was asked for . One fla with that was this was done only when there seemed to be media cameras nearby . Y’all made a great point of showing up and hamming it up for the cameras , getting sound bites and so forth. Rob , I could not help but notice that when the park was evicted , you union people were the first to run away and distance yourselves from the park. why was that Rob? All talk and no action ? Did you tell the others in the park that you union people ( the Ontario federation of labor ) were going to out up only key facilitators at the Sheridan hotel for two weeks, all expenses paid? What ? You forgot to mention that ? Oh rob, and here I am being told about union values and union integrity, by you . Rob , tell me about the yurts. These yurts were donated to occupy am I right ? If this is true, came you tell us where they are so we can get them and re-use them now. Oh , right the are no longer here are they because in typical union lies,you took them back and gave them away to some one else . Rob, now, lets talk about an event shall we . Tell us about the Robin Hood march and who organized it. Umm, sorry, can you speak up a little your voice is fading . It was a CUPE event . Just wondering why you failed to share is with anyone.

    Oh Rob I have another question for you. Tell me , who was leading the black bloc during the G20 riots? What, puzzled by my question ? Oh come on now, don’t be , I have the pictures that show who lead what and did what . Rob, dud, know I have come down hard on you here today but look at the bright side, you ( not you personally but you as in unions and union leaders ), will once again get to prove those of us who think that unions are nothing but a bunch of aimless and underachieving thugs and bullies, correct.

  7. I just found this video- it appears that Eric Hamilton-Smith spoke at this event- and, as usual, he did a great job talking! So, why didn’t CUPE include him in their video? More to back-up what I’ve been saying..

    Also, I should mention, that Occupy Vancouver was very firm on their NOT wanting politicians to be speaking at our camp at that point in our history. I remember how incredibly offended people were to see Olivia speaking there. More betrayal…

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  11. Holy Fuck People! Why cant we all just get along! This nitpicky nattering is not going to solve anything! Occupy movements across North America are having to deal with real problems not which progressive movement is more progressive than another.

    Unions have been the backbone of many social justice actions and movements and you need to respect that and at the same time hold their feet to the fire so that it continues.

    Oh ya do you know what Hate Mail is? Usually its starts with “I hate you, you fucking *enter racist, sexist or prejudicial term here*!! You will burn in Hell and I will piss on your grave” I don’t know about you but to me that’s hate mail. What you got was more of a comment you disagree with and I feel your well thought out response(albeit a little over the top defensively) is seriously lacking credibility because of the sensationalism of the title.

    Obviously I probably don’t know enough of this back story to be commenting on it however is this really what you think we should be expending our collective brainpower debating? or wouldn’t it be prudent to get on with finding a way to unite resources in away both sides are comfortable with instead of focusing on what divides us? Do the unions really need to apologize for not having enough people to warrant creation of their own video media in support of the occupy movement?

    I will no longer follow you on social media as I feel you are divisive and inflammatory which is not constructive and this is beginning to outweigh your ability to cover a lot of varied information.

    • Yo, Pavlov, hold back the growling!

      As with my comment about money, we also need to have transparency with our interactions with outside organizations. The flashmob was not transparent- quite the opposite. Very few of us knew what it was about until it was over. I know, I was in the Action committee meeting, and there was no discussion of even the what & why.

      I understand the need to protect the issues of when & where thought- obviously that information could cause the action to be blocked by the target. But, not discussing the politics beforehand was a serious mistake. This can only lead to suspicion and mistrust- don’t you think?

      p.s. Great derailing technique with the “I’ll not follow you on social media…” Unfortunately, I’ve seen that one used so many times against so many people that it makes your intentions a bit too obvious. So unnecessary…

      • after all your reasoned and rational sounding rhetoric, I still don’t understand why you have a problem with progressive unionists showing their support for occupys?

        • Perhaps I should pull-out a milk bone so you can drool instead of growl. I didn’t write to you with anger, please afford me the same thank you.

          Did I say I had a problem with progressive unionists showing support for the Occupy movement? Thinking you misinterpreted…

          What I said, is that there needs to be transparency in dealings with outside organizations. If this explanation doesn’t work for you, please read this comment, and come back to me:

          https://genuinewitty.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/united-steel-workers-made-me-feel-cheap-today/#comment-594

          • Ok so I’m pretty pissed off Oliva Chow was given a spot front and center to speak and I can see how this would have been seen as a hijacking to occupy Vancouver in a lot of ways but I still don’t see it as fight worth fighting! These are allies not infiltrators and if your parents were unionists that took leadership roles then you know already that unionists that show up and go out to these rallies and events are usually 2-10% of the actual memberships which means these are the union members most devoted to change and solidarity across all spectrum’s of social justice. Perhaps they should have spoken with the OccVan action committee beforehand but this is not worth the time and coverage you’ve put into it. When you bash on the unions you only solidify the narrative put forward by mainstream media and these are our teachers, nurses etc, if they don’t have a stake in the 99%’s future I don’t know who does.

            Their video was for unionists and if that didn’t include enough occupyrs then tough titty, make your own and don’t include the CUPE Prez(oh wait that’s been done) Why is a Union video mutually exclusive to an Occupy video and vice versa?

            Can you clearly express what you are so worried about with unions? I personally feel the non-hierarchical structure and much higher consensus threshold to pass proposals of occupy groups gives us progressive power far beyond that of unions that cannot be co-opted because of its ability to be constantly progressing towards a better world, an inclusive world. This bickering about recognition and airtime is petty and shallow. I’m not sure I understand why the USW owes occupy an apology for lack of collaborative recognition, the name of the video is “Occupy Toronto & Steelworker Flash Mob: BMO Help End Infinity Rubber Strike!” If you feel used every time another organization attempts to push forward your agenda I would refer you to a therapist because that is self destructive.

            Transparency – Yes! long diatribes about how the unionists are a bad influence – probably not constructive.

            • Guess the milk-bone must have worked- thanks for the reasonable response!lol

              We are in the early stages of trying to build a new way, and a new future- quite a daunting task, and probably a bit self-righteous of us to consider this. But, that’s probably what I like about it. Rather than just sitting back and acting on the sidelines, we Occupiers are digging-in and getting our hands dirty.

              My graduate degree is in Ethics- so, probably more than others, I tend to look into the details of how decisions are made. This can be a risky business, sometimes people take it personally when they see decisions being analysed. Like the Maytag repair man,this can leave me feeling lonely at times. But, ultimately, when people get to know me, they will see that I do this not out of being aggressive or insistent- but, out of a love for the truth that I am certain most occupiers share with me.

              Unions are complex beasts, and in this current age, their complexity is only growing. One of the biggest contemporary issues I see is the lack of transparency in their missions. As the Boomer’s age, many unions are becoming unbalanced between their responsibly of supporting the needs of their working members and the pensions of those who are retired. In some ways, unions have become banks!

              The problem is that if we don’t hold any organization that serves the people responsible to be honest and transparent, the laws of human nature will undoubtedly cause the organization to not be true to the people it serves. As you were writing this, I ran across this posting on Facebook, an example of how the lack of trust and transparency is hurting working members at CUPE:

              CUPE-Message-from-Facebook

              As you say, the CUPE members in this video are not representative of the majority. The split between union leadership, and union leaders is a well-known issue. This Facebook posting is a great example. Personally, I believe one of the reasons the split has become such a reason is that we are so focussed on solidarity that we forgot that it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t criticise when we see things that aren’t right. As an ethicist, this is one of the things I focus on in my work and my life.

              One of the first things I wrote for the Occupy movement was a paper called ‘Yellow Card’, where I discussed a tactical mistake we made at Vancouver during our first planning meeting. People who were on the defensive side told me I was being ‘divisive’ and not productive. That said, twice as many people who talked to me breathed a sigh of relief. Here’s a link:

              https://genuinewitty.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/yellow-card-undemocratic-behaviour/

              The problem to me was not so much the issue that was being discussed- more, it was the feeling I had that (on the first day of our Re/Evolution) we lost sight of the fact we all came together to create a better, more honest & transparent world. The decisions we make at this early stage of the game are not nearly as important as how we make them. Had we not had that discussion at that point, we would have seen a lot more people thinking it was okay to bypass the will of the collective.

              Many of us believe that transparency is an incredibly important value. Personally, my feeling is that one of the reasons the people have lost trust for our world’s current systems of governance (outside of Switzerland, their direct democracy is pretty nice when they aren’t banning minarets) is that we no longer see what is happening inside of them.

              The first conversation I had with a Toronto occupier was their explaining to me that they were very unhappy about the lack of transparency with the unions. Then, as I experienced what appeared to be a lack of will to share the idea behind the flashmob, it left me a bit uncomfortable myself. So, it was obvious the issue needed to be examined. But, as in other occupations, questioning relationships with the unions is like questioning the existence of god in a Catholic Church.

              But, as Abbie Hoffman once said- sacred cows make the best hamburger. And, as we are here to get our hands dirty, and dig-into the meat of things, I don’t feel this is wasted time. At the minimum, we will find out that things are okay, and ultimately quell any feelings of discomfort some may have. Not doing so would be the equivalent of a maths teacher moving onto the next level without confirming all of the students understood the previous one. Some will get discouraged and will drop-out.

              I think it was Jefferson who said that Democracy is a dirty business. From my experience, consensus is ‘tar-sands’ dirty. We need to learn to accept that better as a movement. If we stop asking questions because we are afraid to offend each other, our movement may not grow and bloom to its full potential.

              If you think that USW engaged us out of philanthropic love for the Occupy movement I’ll ask you to reconsider. They got much more value out of that action than we did- because, it was their cause that was being promoted, not ours. And, yes, they did include our name on the Youtube text when they posted it but all of the graphics, banners, etc, didn’t mention us. And, when they share the video outside of Youtube, it is likely our name won’t be on it at all. I’m not the only person who saw it this way- including one occupier who is quite active in their union.

              I’d also add that occupiers should have had the opportunity to at least be told the politics behind the issue- but this was kept secret. So, back to the transparency issue- it bred a certain amount of mistrust with some of us. There were grumblings about this issue with a couple people in the Action committee even before the video was released. My personal feeling is that there may be more to this story- there is a long history of dispute between BMO, unions, and other progressive leaders about their hiring procedures and gender balance within their leadership…

              So, I have to dispute your suggestion it was unproductive to discuss the complexities of this issue. If people have questions, and concerns about intent, it is essential we enter a dialog about it. We discuss the minutiae of far-less urgent issues, like which videos we will play during downtime on the Livestream! lol

              One last point. My first article on this subject was only 89 words long- hardly a diatribe. But, Rob’s scathing attack on my character took a few more than 89 words. And, I raised a few other questions I had- but, Rob has yet to answer them. And, they are important ones in the views of many…

              So,how was that for a long diatribe? 🙂

              Hope it helps you better understand my position, and can see that I come from a place of sincerity…

              Cheers,
              -Greg

            • I take it back, that’s what I get for not following politics close enough, I thinks its awesome Olivia Chow spoke at occupyVancouver, I was thinking this was the fascist Ida Chong.

            • For many of us at Occupy Vancouver it was never an issue of who spoke, but of the fact that CUPE brought a politician on our stage from any party/affiliation. We had a very strong consensus against this. CUPE betrayed us when they brought her…

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