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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Fine Print

In an effort to save some much needed money, my wife decided to cancel her gym membership. The timing was right; the membership was for eighteen months, which ended at the beginning of September. We assumed that it would simply expire. Just to be sure, my wife asked me to check the Mastercard statement online to make sure that no more payments were coming out.

Payments were still coming out.

I got out the contract and noticed a clause we had overlooked. It said that the membership would not expire unless we contacted the gym (which, for the sake of this discussion, I shall simply refer to as BODY BOOMERS).

Fine. We phoned the gym (BODY BOOMERS, in case you were wondering) and they said that we had to stop by and tell them in person. My wife was annoyed, but she agreed. So later that afternoon we stopped by to tell them in person. I waited in the car with the kids while she went into the gym (which, as you might recall, I've decided for the purposes of this discussion simply to refer to as BODY BOOMERS.)

About two minutes later my normally quite reasonable wife came storming back to the car in what I believe is technically referred to as an "apoplectic fit." "You deal with them," she said, presumably to me, as opposed to one of the kids.

So I went in to deal with them. Thinking, we're gonna get this sorted out right away, and not give a cent more to this... this BODY BOOMERS than we have to, especially what with me being locked out of my job and all. A woman was at the counter talking to this big, hairy looking character, both of them sporting name tags, and they didn't look especially unfriendly, so I launched right in. "Look, I just want to get this settled right away, what do we have to do, is there some kind a form to fill out? 'Cause we'd like to sign it right now."

The woman said, quite reasonably, "There's no form for your wife to fill out right now. First she has to provide us with two months notice, then she has to make an appointment, then she has to come in, swallow a live wildebeest whole with the entire club looking on, and then, if she's lucky, and we're in a really really really good mood, then maybe, MAYBE we'll stop charging your Mastercard our ridiculously overpriced fees." (WARNING: the preceding dialogue may have contained some slightly fabricated elements.)

"Look," I said, in my best Clint Eastwood, which on a good day sounds rather more like a really good Don Knotts: "Just give me the damn form."

"Hey, don't get upset at us, pal," the hairy guy said, quite reasonably. "We're just employees here. And anyway, the whole wildebeest thing is right here in the contract, plain as day."

"Where?" I asked.

He got out a super duper high falutin' electron microscope thingie and we took a really good look at the contract. And right there, sure enough, in a perfectly legible font really quite a bit larger than several subatomic particles put together, I spied the offensive clause. No doubt about it, my wife and I were sunk.

"That's... open to interpretation," I huffed, and stormed out.

"What if they get collection agencies after us? It could get really nasty," my wife told me later, after I informed her of my nefarious plan just to cancel the Mastercard and let the chips fall where they may.

"Hmm," I said, after which I informed her of my revised plan, which consisted mainly of her giving BODY BOOMERS several months notice, making appointments with BODY BOOMERS representatives, and quite possibly swallowing whole a certain kind of antelope hailing from the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania (sometimes known as a "gnu").

Moral of the story: I'm sure I don't have to tell you, except to say that it involves fine print and gnus (sometimes known as "Wildebeests").

Friday, September 30, 2005

A Day in the Life

Tod Maffin in Simcoe Park

We all know where we sit in terms of negotiations, there's no use in belabouring that, so allow me to quickly dispense with today's latest rumour before getting on to the meat and potatoes part of this evening's post.

Today's latest rumour: Managers inside are saying the best case situation is that we'll be back to work in a week, and the worst case scenario is that we'll be back to work in two weeks.

Yes, I know... yawn! We've heard it all before.

So on with the post, which today features a day in the life of, well, me. I expect you'll find it not too different than a day in the life of, well, you. (Feel free to skip to another blog if this isn't your cup of tea.)

I hit the line about 10:45am and signed in. I was about to write down "10:45am" when someone said, "Ten forty five!" as if I had been on the verge of lying about my start time and he bloody well knew it. Now, to be honest, I had briefly considered writing 10:30am, thus buying me more time, because I was flirting with the idea of signing out at some point and seeing a movie. But my conscience managed to beat the stern man hovering before me; I had already decided to be honest. Damn that pesky conscience!

I said, "What, don't you trust me?" The fellow mumbled something resembling an explanation for his gruffness, and then asked me if I would be a picket captain. Slightly irked, I said I would think about it.

Straight away, I ran into a television journalist with whom I had both attended High School and worked at two private radio stations before both of us joined the CBC within a couple of years of each other. He told me amusing stories about the writer Tom Wolfe (..."he gets so worked up about deadlines that he sometimes writes on the toilet") and then we parted ways when I ran into a retired producer who had just popped down to say hello.

These days conversations on the line don't often relate to the lockout. My producer friend and I discussed child rearing. "Used to be the mother would threaten misbehaving children with, 'Just wait 'til your father gets home!' Nowadays the father threatens the children with, 'Let's see what your mother thinks about that!' It's been quite a generational shift."

A few more laps and then it was time for Tod Maffin, delivering his Future of the CBC speech live in Simcoe park. It's a good speech, replete with lots of Penguin Cafe Orchestra music and good thoughts on our future. I didn't agree with absolutely everything Tod said, but it's a welcome addition to a valuable conversation by an intelligent, passionate advocate for public broadcasting. And my quibbles are just that, quibbles.

Afterward I did a few laps with the talented Laurence Stevenson...

...shown here with radio producer Steve Wadhams explaining our situation to a couple of interested young men. I was trying to get a picture of Steve and Laurence alone but these guys must have talked for... well, I don't know, really, I got impatient and left after about three hours (okay, maybe it just felt like three hours). It had been my intention to get a picture for a post entitled "Steve and his personal walkman, Laurence..."

Because, you see, walking with Laurence is like having your own human walkman with you, as he strums on his (I forget what the thing's called, but it looks like a large ukelele) as you picket around the building. It's quite pleasant; I highly recommend it.

Soon it was time for a break. I take my breaks here:

I try not to buy anything, because (obviously) I can't afford it these days. I'm not always successful.

Later, someone told me about a secret manager entrance... one of those places they sneak into to avoid the picket line. Feeling intrepid, I went for a look:

I found one here, on level one of the parking garage. Just for fun I snapped a shot of the security guards as they snapped one of me snapping one of them snapping one of me... or something like that. "I smiled for you, now you smile for me," one of them said to me.

Countless laps later, my brain was reduced to trying to figure out what used to be at this corner, the one where the condominiums now sit:

I'm sure it was a parking lot, but somebody told me it wasn't, it was something else.

It was a parking lot, dammit, stop screwing with my brain!

And wait a minute... is that... could it be... trees up there?

That's just bizarre.

Well, I would go on, but it's late and you get the gist. A day on the line, much like any other.

Allow me to finish with:

"D'uhhh... d'uhhh... d'uhhh? D'uhhh?"

A cheap shot, I know, but I just couldn't resist. Hey, he started it! ...umm...

Oh great, now I sound like my kids.

One of us needs a time out.

Outta Here

Okay, off to picket, so no new posts 'til tonight... or tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out Matt's latest... thank God for Matt or I don't think I would have survived this thing.

What do you mean you've already seen it? What do you mean you check out his blog before mine?!

Ah, it's okay.

I always check out his blog first too. :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tod Speaks

On the 1% chance you haven't read about this on Tod's Blog or elsewhere:

Hey folks!

Tomorrow at Simcoe Park in Toronto at 2 pm, Tod Maffin is going to be giving a brief talk featuring some really exciting ideas about how the CBC could potentially work in the future. Tod has worked tirelessly to help the nation's broadcaster. He's given a lot of his time, developed a website and blog to make sure we all have a place across the country to check in and see how our brothers and sisters in arms are faring. PLEASE if you can, come on down and support Tod, bring everyone you can, and even more importantly, let management see how much we all believe in creating a vibrant national broadcaster. He's got some amazing ideas.

Please come,


Cathi Bond

I'll be there, lurking anonymously amongst the crowd...

Blue Collar Blues

A teacher friend of mine was involved in a labour dispute a few years ago, out on strike for two, maybe three weeks. I recall hearing about it and thinking that I really should give him a call, offer my support. At the time I'd already been on a picket line at least once, perhaps twice. But time went by and I never picked up the phone. Too busy; they settled before I could call.

I try to remember this when I think of all the people that I haven't heard from during the lockout. Most of my family have checked in (except one sister, and I forgive her because, well, that's just her). This lockout is more public than the CEP labour disputes I've been involved in; as a result I've heard from a lot more people than ever before. Often it is the first thing out of people's mouths when I see them. But there are a lot that haven't checked in, and I can't say as I really blame them, having dropped the ball myself on that score.

There is, however, one batch of people that do have me feeling a little irked. And that's the people with whom I have a professional relationship, that are only too happy to lean on me when I'm gainfully employed. I can think of several writers, musicians, actors, freelance producers and more, all of whom have made money as a result of their relationship with me, some of whom have made a lot of money and furthered their careers, not to mention realized a dream or two, thanks to our professional relationship. And with the exception of two, I have not heard from any of these people during the lockout. You can bet your derriere I'll hear from them when I get back inside.

Of course, they live busy lives just like the rest of us, so I know that I will feel a little miffed for awhile and then forget about it. I'm confident that the two that I'm in touch with now really mean it when they ask me how I'm doing; I suppose if the others did the same it would represent no more than a mercenary gesture, designed to procure more work once I'm back inside.

Just the same, I plan to redouble my efforts to be supportive in the future when someone I know is out on the line.

Speaking of which, I wonder what giving 5500 broadcasters/journalists a taste of the picket line will do for the future of the labour movement in this country. For starters, I'm guessing a whole lot of blue collar workers might just have found themselves a bunch of new friends.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Latest Offer

Well, I've taken a good look at this much vaunted latest offer, studied it closely for a good two, three seconds, and the verdict is...

... hell if I know. That's what negotiating committees are for. They've spent months and months studying this thing and I expect they can tell at a glance if it's what we're looking for.

If it isn't a good contract, then we must stay the course. I haven't picketed for the last seven weeks for a lousy deal. We've won the public relations war hands down, now we need only hang in there.

For what it's worth, the negotiating team has the complete support of this blogger. I would like to see them secure a deal that will leave me feeling like the last few weeks have meant something. Something other than anxiety attacks and blistered feet. I know we'll never make up the lost income. But it sure would be nice to go back inside with the kind of warm, rosy glow that accompanies having drunk just a bit too much of your favourite single malt scotch. That, and the sure and certain knowledge that you've made some bastard pay for screwing you around.


It's starting to get a little chilly at night, and I've heard some people talking about setting up those old oil barrels around the Broadcast Centre. For the love of God, don't do it! For the following reasons:

1. I'm already slowly dying from having breathed the creosote soaked wood burned the last two times out.

2. They stink.

3. From what I understand, the man largely responsible for procuring them last time is now a manager on the inside

4. They stink, they really do, you'll have to throw your jackets and clothes out afterward, trust me on this one

5. You can achieve the same effect by simply dressing warmly (yeah, I know I'm a smart ass)

Mind you, if you can find some "artificial" oil barrels (like those artificial gas fireplaces) then be my guest. If they don't exist, perhaps somebody ought to invent them.

Just Plain Bizarre

Just plain bizarre, from our man back East, John Gushue...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Human Face

Thanks to the On The Line newsletter people for changing the advertisement. I apologize for my crankiness... and thanks for the newsletter, it's informative and a much appreciated read both "on the line" and at home.

A fellow blogger took a few potshots at some of the security staff recently. I understand the impulse behind the potshots (especially if one is feeling cranky) but I feel the need to point out a few things. Number one, the security staff aren't our enemies, and this lot is positively friendly compared to the batch we encountered the last time out (except for Lucky... anybody remember Lucky? Lucky was all right).

Having done a few stints as a Picket Captain, and having spoken to other Picket Captains, I know that this bunch of security guards has come to our aid on several occasions. They've even spouted our party line to passersby (they know it off by heart, having heard it often enough). They have complimented our picket line for its restraint and our good sense. Many of the security guards are in transition, on their way to becoming firemen, police officers.

One (figured prominently in my fellow blogger's photos) is a fellow who has completely turned his life around after kicking drugs several years ago, and is now raising an adopted two year old girl by himself, after rescuing her from a Bad Scene. This man has my respect.

I'm not completely naive... I know that they would knock some of our heads should we attempt to storm the building or do something equally foolish. But that's not going to happen on this picket line.

So let's keep our focus on the people responsible for this mess.

I'll give you a hint... it ain't the security guards.

Stursberg Invited to Film Festival... Not!

This morning I received an e-mail from a friend who has been working overseas for an international film festival. He asked me how the lockout was going, asked me if I was affected by it, and then confessed that he was contacting me on behalf of a colleague seeking contact information for one "Richard Stursberg, Executive VP of English Television, CBC."

I wrote back that yes, thanks to the likes of Richard Stursberg, I am affected by the lockout. "I must know," I wrote, "what could your colleague possibly want with Stursberg? If it's to tar and feather him, then I would love to help in any way I can."

My friend promptly replied:

"(We're) supposed to be inviting him to attend the film fest.

But now, we’re all thinking, hmmmm, maybe (the boss) is not in tune with the goings on back home. I suggested that my colleague go back to the boss and say “Can’t find an email address for him, but we did receive one request to have him tarred and feathered!”

Your words have brought much amusement to the gang here.

Keep up the good fight."

Hopefully he will not be invited after all. I suggested that my friend have his colleagues invite me instead.

Still waiting to hear back on that one.

Tar and Feathers

On the line today I got to thinking about Rabinovitch, and Stursberg, and yes, our old pal Smith too (you know, the guy from the Matrix), and my thoughts wondered, as they are wont to do whilst circling buildings ad infinitum on cold, blustery days, and I thought, gee, here we are just politely picketing, writing, advocating, bus riding, demonstrating and so on while they continue to stick it to us (and the Canadian public) day after day.

A couple of hundred years ago we would have just run them out of town. But not before a good ol' fashioned tar and featherin'.

Here's what Wikepedia has to say on the matter of tarring and feathering:

"Tarring and feathering was a typical punishment used to enforce justice in feudal Europe and its colonies, as well as the early American frontier. Both tar used in construction and feathers from edible fowl sources (e.g. chicken) were plentiful in the middle and western United States where the practice primarily flourished. The idea was to hurt and humiliate a person enough so they would leave town and cause no more mischief. Hot tar was either poured or painted on to a criminal while he (rarely she) was immobilized. If the tar is hot enough to burn the skin, it is a regular form of corporal punishment, otherwise it mainly falls into the category public humiliation."

Now, I'm not saying that we should (necessarily) resort to such means to deal with the aforementioned nincompoops, I'm just saying that the concept crossed my mind whilst thinking about them, sort of a "word association" type thing:

"What pops into your mind when I say Rabinovitch?"


"How 'bout Stursberg?"



"Tar AND Feathers."

Were the practice still in vogue today we would simply have tarred and feathered the bastards by week three and have been done with it. With few if any problems with subsequent senior managers, I would imagine.

Although one cannot help but yearn for the halcyon days of tarring and feathering, we live in a civilized age now (frequent genocides and a curious dearth of binding arbitration notwithstanding) and must perforce devise civilized means to settle our disputes (lest we wind up serving time in some other Canadian institution...)

So I'm thinkin' corn syrup and Rice Krispies instead.

Who's in?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Open the Door, and Let Us In

Ten hours on the line today, and ten more tomorrow.

Ye Gods.

What did we learn today? That we may not get paid until three weeks after we're back inside. That we will have to picket right up to the bitter end, because the bylaws state that in order to get lockout pay, we have to picket, and it looks like we'll sure need that money to tide us through.

In light of this and for other good reasons, we should be insisting that management let us in as soon as an agreement is reached, with ratification to come later. It's not unprecedented and it's an opportunity for management to show a little goodwill. For us to be picketing after an agreement is reached (well, anytime actually) is a waste of time and resources. And management has their work cut out for them restoring amicable relations; if I were them I'd leap on this opportunity to get a head start. Mind you, it wouldn't placate everybody (far from it), but it would be a major step in the right direction.

We don't have to do absolutely EVERYTHING the hard way.


Another quick note before I pack it in:

The newsletter On The Line has a bit (on page three of Saturday's edition) which says: "Tired of some of the questionable content in some of the Lockout Blogs?" and then goes on to promote a site which presumably has less questionable content.

Myself, I find this offensive. The blogs are not perfect but they are what they are and people know to take them with a grain of salt. And there are some damned fine lockout blogs out there.
The remark taints all the lockout blogs without acknowledging the good ones. It's bad form to promote your own material by denigrating that of others, folks.

Please change the advertisement.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Neutral Country

The CBC Credit Union in the Broadcast Centre has become a bit of a neutral zone. Locked out workers can enter from John St, and managers can enter from the orange elevator hallway. Inside, it is not possible to mingle, as the two areas are separate, but workers and managers can speak over the counter to one another. And apparently there have been a few heated exchanges.

As a result, staff in the credit union have begun locking the managers' door. If a manager shows up, they check to see who's standing on the locked-out side. If the locked out worker is a known hothead, and the manager is a known hothead, the door remains locked, and never the twain shall meet.

It is the managers who have to wait, though, not the locked out workers.

Note to managers:

Don't complain about being broke.