Union Label

Posted: October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Last week was CFSW in Saskatoon. This is my sixth year at the festival. Four of those were as a member of the Capital Slam team – 2010 I was Slam Master – this year I worked as a member of Sean McGarragle’s tournament team.

It was great. One of the best festivals ever. Was it perfect? Of course not, but it was very, very good. Next year it is in Montreal. That will certainly be cheaper, but the excellent festival bar is quite high.

CONTEXT: July-August, 2011

I am not sure everyone realizes how anti-worker the current government has been. They have systematically dismantled workers rights to collective bargaining. If a union is not allowed to strike as a bargaining tactics, then they have no rights at all. There are only two things that keep everyone from working at a minimum wage level: demand for your abilities and the right to refuse work.

Demand for your abilities only works if there are alternative emplyment opportunities for your exact skill sets. Look at the postal workers for example. If what you do is deliver mail, can you tell CanadaPost that you will go deliver mail for their competition if they don’t give you a raise?

Oh right… there is no competition.

Now look, I am not always in agreement with strikers demands, but you HAVE to give them the right to strike. Otherwise they have absolutely no power at all and yet more basic rights are shifted in order to give more power to the most powerful.

I had the bare bones of this poem last July but didn’t finish it up until August as I wanted to make sure I had the exact details of my grandfather’s union time correct.

I slammed this right before I went to the festival, but it did not do that well. I think the union label reference has slipped in recognizability.

    Union Label

“Look for the union label”
I didn’t know what Paula Green’s
Words meant between
Mid-seventies Saturday morning
Cartoon marathons or
After-school syndication spins.
I didn’t know that there was a
Battle being fought as the
Country was being labelled
Consumer and not producer,
The textiles union watched
As mass-produced, miniscule wage
Sweatshops tore the
Hearts out of their communities.
The label was there
To remind us what we were
Really buying – every time
We passed cash,
Ratcheting the capitalism a
Little further up the food chain.
A war lost
But the principles survived.
The idea that ‘I’ am never
As strong as ‘we’.
The power of ‘community’
Dropping a philosophical
Elbow drop on ‘economy’.
Reminding us that strengthening
The bottom line needs to
Benefit those on the bottom
And Reagan-style
Trickle-down economics
Don’t work
For anyone other than
The sandbaggers who
Hold the purse strings.

Yet the public is told
That asking for a fair wage
Is greed
While the Big Bosses
Notching up record profits –
Well, that’s just capitalism
At its finest –
A mindfreak slight of hand
That leaves that standards doubled
With common sense none the wiser
Because it is the commons that
Is left overworked and rotting
By that ‘greed-is-good’ mentality –
As long as it is top down,
The bile is fought down
As we swallow an
Stone soup
With the workforce bedrock
Backbone taken for granite.

My grandfather worked the docks.
A proud member of the
International Longshore and
Warehouse Union For 26 years
Back breaking but never
Bending, standing shoulder to shoulder
Knowing their strength
Came from a plurality of
Voices with unity of purpose –
The power of contradiction
As each benefits from
Helping each other
And selfishness has no meaning
When on the business end
Of the lever.

Unionists were once called communists
When the whole they worked for
Were only stakeholders
And not shareholders,
Landowners or slaveowners
Who hope we all forget
That need goes both ways
And a worker without a job
Is no worse off than a
Factory without a workforce.

Each works for the
Betterment of self.
Each works for the
Betterment of all.

Breathing, bleeding –
Climb to the top of
That pyramid
But without a base it
Will not stand.
So STAND UP if you
Realize the country is
Built on sweat and toil
Instead of money and oil.
STAND UP if you think
That fair wages mean more
Than 7 figure CEOs
And minimum wage payroll
“Look for the union label”
Mine’s not hard to find.
CSFO for 10 years.
Where’s that union label?
I wear mine right here.


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