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I am a union staffer. I work for an organization, recognized under a legal code as a representative of workers’ interests. I am a negotiator, bargaining with management to write joint agreements. I am an advocate, campaigning for improved working conditions and higher wages. I am a politician, brokering deals, managing political support, selling policy. I am a counselor, offering advice and support, drying tears, referring to specialists. And I am a unionist, arguing with bosses, fighting discipline, seeking more money for less work against managers who seek more work for less money. I work in an environment of contradictions. But make no mistake about it – I work; I have a boss; and my job depends on my ability to serve the interests of that boss. (more…)

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Some days the realities of work appear in all their nakedness.

Far as jobs go, mine ain’t all that bad. I mean, I generally get treated relatively well, I make a good wage, I get benefits and lots of vacation time, and I have the flexibility in scheduling to facilitate the demands of parenting. On top of that, I work for a union, so much of what I do is stuff I believe is important, and never do I have the concern that my labour is lining the pockets of some vicious corporate entity.

Still.

Working for unions involves its own collection of compromises. Some are general – y’know, unions are part of the labout relations regime, they are organizations that ultimately serve organizational interest rather than class interest, they are full of all the contradictions of any formal leftist group, and more than their share of compromise and sell-out. Not the union I work for, in particular – but all unions, by their nature, by virtue of what they are and the history of struggle and conflict and sell-out on which “the union” is based.

But all of that I deal with on an ongoing basis. All of that is par for the course, and common among union staffers the world over – and among union members and elected reps, too. Sometimes, however, the conflict between supporting worker struggle and representing workers in a legal process just smacks you right in the face.

Here’s today:

a group of part-time, non-tenured faculty who have collectively organized to push the university to fund more stable, more permanent positions. They did this on their own, because the union has no collective agreement language to help them. They organized, they fought, they won.

but in winning? Aha, there’s the rub. The employer gives them some of what they want. Comes up with some money and some proposals to address the concern, but not enough to fix matters for everyone. You part-timers want full-time stable work? OK. But there’s X numbers of you, and we’ll make Y numbers of positions. Solidarity put to the test, as is always the case in these scenarios.

so here’s where I come in. Workers come to me, cause they want to stand together as a group, tell the employer to piss off until the matter is resolved for everyone. They want to go bigger, involve more people, cause some disruption, move to more colourful protest.

me personally? I love it. They are fired up, they are ready to fight, they have shown that a litle collective action can get movement from the most instransigent employer, and I am encouraged by this fire and want to see it build and spread.

me as union rep? I know it’s taken years to get to this point. I know that at some point they will push too hard and the employer will push back. I know that if the boss gets fed up and simply pulls the money, or gives it to someone else, I don’t have a damn thing in the union stable I can do about it.

Caution restraint, and take the little gain you’ve made, hoping to build on it later. That’s my job, and in practical terms it really is the most reasonable and safest response. To do otherwise would be at best risky, at worst irresponsible. But to send that message, I simultaneously must dissuade the group from its collective, autonomous action. And that is a hard thing for me to do.

The workers want to fight on, risk the loss just to build the movement for another day. I need to manage the risk, find the compromise, somehow keep them just engaged enough that the spark doesn’t die but with enough of a damper that we can control it, pull back into retreat as need be, make sure we hold onto the little gains that have been achieved.

So I sit here now, after they’ve left. I managed to find a few places to suggest they can still push while warning them about what’s to be lost if they move too fast or push too hard. And I think:

if those folks never came to ask my advice, we might just see a major confrontation here that could inspire others.

if those folks talked to me like a stranger on the street, I would’ve been a whole lot more encouraging, and may well have wanted to be a part of whatever action ensued  myself.

if I didn’t spend my days on the minituae of collective agreements and labour relations, I would speak far differently to a situation like this.

But I am a union rep. I do know the system well. I do find myself thinking in terms of written agreements and potential risks, and what the law would do with this case should it somehow get there. And I do speak to them from that place – indeed, that’s exactly why they sought me out.

Yeah. It’s  a union. The union thing is what I do. And that means compromise. That means providing the answers the union needs to give, not the answers I am inclined to give myself.

But if it came natural, and if I didnt have to face these issues, they wouldn’t have to pay me to do it.  That is the nature of work, after all.

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Workday Fantasies

Crazy busy at work this week, which has meant no time for the blog at all, and a general frustration with the mounds of paper on my desk that seem to never shrink and the ever-growing folder of emails needing follow-up.  Really seeming like there’s a complaint-a-thon happening at the university these days, cause I’m getting new formal investigations to deal with almost daily, whereas typically these only come up a few times a year. Main cause seems to be a new policy on Respectful Workplace, which essentially makes discourtesy and hurt feelings cause for formal procedures – a super bad idea in my opinion, and I understand something frowned upon generally by practitioners in the harassment and discrimination field, who find that policies to police simple bad behaviour only generate work without actually achieving anything, and make it more difficult to identify which issues result from structural inequities and which from just plain asshole-ness.

Anyway. No rant. I’m just really fucking busy and real tired of this whole work thing right now. And in moments like this, my mind strays to fantasies of non-work, to fantasies of deepening crisis and the collapse of this infernal order that structures our lives as nothing but economic relationships.

And when I feel like this, I like to pull out a little comic Meg sent to me some months back. Just a little something to fantasize about – doesn’t help me get work done, but sure as hell makes me feel better.

 

the_office-11

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Y’know, doing the union thing can be mighty strange, particularly when you come to it as a radical. The way various emotions are triggered, the competing and conflicting ideas and analyses and reactions you feel – it involves living with and in multiple identities. And I don’t mean putting on a game-face or playing a role, though there’s certainly lots of that. No, this is something else. You really do become different kinds of person in the process. Responsible and reasonable negotiator. Expert advisor. Enforcer of the law. Radical troublemaker. Pissed-off worker. Hurt employee genuinely wanting to be valued for your contribution. All of these come into play, often simultaneously. And that can be not only hard to manage, but hard to live with emotionally. It can throw you into some real turmoil.

Being a radical in the trade union movement ain’t easy, and it takes its toll. It is a constant struggle to hold onto one’s values, one’s critique, one’s politics while working in an environment and for a labour-relations regime whose very premise is the sell-out, whose foundation is opportunism and self-serving justification, and whose daily work involves the search for what is overwhelmingly a fiction – common ground with the boss.

But there’s another challenge as well, which has a more personal dimension. We remain workers, and though we may critique and rail against notions like ‘productivity’ and ‘value’, somehow still we carry those within us. Much as we know these concepts and the culture they arise from belong entirely to the boss, we somehow still feel pride in our work, and want our contributions to be recognized. We can scoff at this stuff on a collective or abstract level. But individually, it still matters. Alot.

I wrote here last Spring about a moment in which I faced all this in my own working life – in a conversation with my employer about my job, a dispute between us, my decision to quit that particular work, and the emotional toll it took on me. Well, last night it was the girl I love dealing with these kinds of feelings, that mix of rage and hurt, of fight-back and defeat, of seeing the boss act exactly as we know bosses do and yet still being floored by it, by that personal hurt that comes when one’s work isn’t valued, one’s dignity doesn’t matter, one’s contributions are not deemed worthy of any real attention. It hurts.

Cause though capital’s shit about values and teamwork and contribution is just so much garbage, the struggle of us as workers does indeed start from our labour, and the desire to re-define ‘value’ and ‘worth’ in new ways, collective ways, life-giving ways.

.

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It’s been a union-centred life of late, even more than normally. Meg spent last week in Ottawa bargaining and rallying to express offense at the flat-out shitty offer the government has made to its workers, so I was thinking about her and her frustrations alot. And here in Vancouver I was getting settled into my first week back as grievance rep from Executive Director and working on drafting a first collective agreement for our staff union (part of CEP Local 467, which brings together union staffers from a number of union-employers).

I work with collective agreements all the time, but it’s been a long while since I’ve worked with one that applies to me, and never before have I been involved in writing an agreement from scratch. So it’s an exciting thing to be doing, and taking the edge off any lingering resentment I have about being forced out of my old position – well, perhaps not taking the edge off, but providing me a productive outlet for my anger at the kind of shit positions my employer has taken with regard to its own staff.

Collective agreements are strange things. They are peace treaties, really, promises by a union to do what it can to control workers in exchange for some commitments from the boss and legal recourse for the union should the boss renege on those commitments. Agreements, then, really are the union. Though it wasn’t always that way. Radical unions like the IWW originally refused to sign collective agreements – the attitude being, “No, the boss signs an agreement. The boss makes concessions because otherwise we don’t work and his business is fucked. We don’t make any promises to be satisfied or pretend we’re satisfied, because we’re not after a bigger piece of the pie but the whole damn bakery. And we don’t make any promises to control workers’ anger because workers’ anger is exactly what we’re all about.”

Unions haven’t been about that for a real long time, however. And so I am finding that the whole process of organizing my workplace, setting my “will-do” / “won’t-do” boundaries and writing a first agreement is leading me to think alot about the relationship between all the shit I hate most about unions and the day to day work that I do.

Unions as managers; unions as employers; unions as bosses.

In 1951 eighteen workers employed by the US Air Line Pilots’ Association (ALPA) embarked upon an organizing drive, and for the first time in North America, staff working for a trade union sought to unionize themselves. And the employing union challenged their right to doso, presenting to the US Labor Relations Board two central arguments:

all union staff should be seen as managers, as they deal with confidential membership information;

a union by definition cannot be an employer as that term is defined legally, and so the right to organize does not extend to employees of unions.

ALPA lost. The Board ruled that the union was indeed an employer, whatever its self-defined “class position” might be. And the significance of all this wasn’t lost on unions or union staff – or the public for that matter. On January 15, 1952, the New York Times printed a story on “Union as Employer”, suggesting – quite rightly – that something had dramatically changed in the way unions should be understood politically, economically, and socially:

The increase in number, variety and complexity of

issues has subordinated the local union and has

compelled the national unions to engage experts,

technicians and professional employees, and the

union structures have tended to fit their new functions.

Within a few years, many of the largest international unions were confronted with staff organizing drives – the Teamsters, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the International Association of Machinists and more, so that by 1961, the AFL-CIO leadership was actively and publicly engaged in the battle to halt unionization of labour staffers. Staff who sought certification were vilified for promoting factionalism, seeking to undermine the growing strength of the workers’ movement, and for promoting –  yes, get ready for it…communism! The message was simple – staff either submit their interests to the good of the union, or they actively undermine the union and so serve instead the interests of corporate America or Bolshevism or both. Here’s then-ILGWU President, David Dubinsky:

We have always had a concept of the union leader as a

leader of masses and not as a paid mercenary or as one

engaged in a business for self-aggrandizement.

I spent time in a Czarist jail because I was part of a struggle

to free people, not because I was paid to agitate. The founders

of the ILGWU starved themselves into sickness and death,

faced beatings and crippling, gangsters and prisons because

they felt that this was their responsibility to their consciences

and to their fellow workers…We chose to stay with the labor

movement not because it paid better, not because it offered

more security, not because it offered greater leisure, but

because it was our dedication, our struggle, our belief – our

very lives. What a bitter joke that we are now characterized as

‘management’

Dubinsky went on to lament the ‘materialism’ of union staff, intimating that it was in fact their unionization that caused the bureaucratization of labour. Staff insistence on higher wages and benefits created a “class of super-citizens” within the union, and by organizing they made the union a business rather than a ‘movement’.

I’ve heard variations of this line a whole many times – every time, in fact, staff at a union take issue with the crappy behaviour of their employers. The Telecommunications Workers’ Union staff strike in 1999; numerous job actions by BC Teachers Federation staff; pickets by employees of the Canadian Labour Congress and the BC Government and Services Employees Union – in each case, the debate arose again, and in each case a significant part of the left leapt up to defend the “real” working class from these pretenders.

At the TWU, for example – where I was an elected local rep at the time – the Executive went through various responses – initially declaring at a local meeting, “We’re the employer in this situation and we intend to behave like an employer”, later recanting and hiring an Executive Director precisely because “we don’t want to be bosses” – as though establishing an intermediary could make the conflict disappear. The BCTF, for its part, wrapped itself in the professional association flag, lamenting staff’s “old-style trade unionism”. And the CLC and BCGEU strikes each generated considerable debate among the left generally, the former on a left-wing electronic bulletin board, the latter causing such a schism within BC’s Solidarity Notes labour choir that performances and practices were cancelled after a number of its members suggested a trip to the picket line to sing in solidarity with the strikers.

So, yeah, it’s an old story, but a current one, too.

“Union staff shouldn’t be allowed to organize – they work for the working class.”

“Staff unions just divide workers – how dare these people undermine the credibility of unions when labour is in so much trouble.”

“Union staff have no loyalty – we all volunteer our time, why shouldn’t they?”

It goes on and on.

Really though, the power dynamics at play in union staff/ union executive relationships are variations of general tensions at play within the union as an organization. Whatever is happening with staff at a union is probably happening with members as well.

Now, I’m not whinging about how bad I got it. Union staffers aren’t victims any more than union members are. Professional staffers like me have significant power – we are the drivers of the machine, even though we often find ourselves crushed beneath its wheels and even though we spend every day convincing workers to give the machine their trust. We are often the most critical of the labour movement, but we’re also the most responsible for its continued operation as partner in the industrial relations regime. Staff like me, in short, embody all the contradictions of the labour movement. We are uniquely positioned to reveal that the emperor has no clothes and yet our jobs depend on loyalty – whether genuine or phony – to that emperor. So going to work is alot like walking a maze, and though many of us understand that the only way out is through or beneath the walls, we continue to walk, searching for a door marked exit.

I am a union staffer. I work for an organization recognized under a legal code as a representative of workers’ interests. I am a negotiator, bargaining with management to write joint agreements.  I am an advocate, campaigning for improved working conditions and higher wages. I am a politician, brokering deals, managing political support, selling policy. I am a counselor, offering advice and support, drying tears, referring to specialists. And I am a unionist, arguing with bosses, fighting discipline, seeking more money for less work against managers who seek more work for less money. I work in an environment of contradictions. But make no mistake about it – I work; I have a boss; and my job depends on my ability to serve the interests of that boss.

So I am not, in my work-life, part of a working class movement. I am not, in my work-life, charged with organizing workers against capital. I work as one small part of a regime designed to maintain, if not increase, productivity, to satisfy workers’ immediate and specific demands, and to dampen their long-term and general aspirations. I serve labour peace, industrial calm, and good citizenship. My office is a workplace like any other, in which we as employees give up our skills, our experience, and our labour to an employer who directs that labour in its interest. In return, I get a salary, a pension, benefits.

It’s not a bad job, as jobs go. But make no mistake – it’s a job.

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We didn’t watch much TV when I was a kid. An old Sears black and white, 14 inch screen and no cable would’ve kept us pretty limited even without the strict parental controls -one hour per week plus all the news you want. Every now and then, though, mom and dad would be out on a Saturday afternoon, and my brother Dennis would twist the rabbit-ears around to get access to something besides the CBC – Stampede Wrestling, out of Calgary.

Stampede fucking Wrestling. That was the shit. A family operation, run by Stu Hart and peopled by his many many sons who dominated the roster of referees and wrestlers. (The daughters would all marry wrestlers.) Bruce Hart, Keith Hart, Wayne Hart, Smith Hart, Dean Hart, Ross Hart, Owen Hart, and the one who would one day be the most-recognized Canadian in the world – Bret Hart, champion of champions, second only to Hulk Hogan as public symbol of the wrestling world, and second to absolutely none in that world, recognized for his skills, his storytelling in the ring, his professionalism, his commitment not just to the sport but the subculture.

I loved wrestling because I loved Bret Hart. Without him, I quickly lost interest.

So there I was one November morning, sitting in the Ottawa airport after a weekend of union meetings, dreading the flight home. I browse the little bookshop and find, lined up on special display, Bret ‘s autobiography, Hitman. What the hell, I think. It’ll take me back, and provide some good time-wasting shlock for the trip to Vancouver.

Wow. What a fucking book.

Most of it is pretty standard autobiography, and what you would expect of an entertainer/ athlete, though better-written and more reflective, I think, than most. But what I really noted as I read through was an underlying political sensitivity that I was not expecting. In talking about tours in India, the focus is the starkness of inequality, the splendour of the Taj Mahal amidst a sea of homelessness. In Northern Ireland, the centrepiece is the cab driver who points out sites of noted police brutality and the security officer most notorious for beating the shit out of Catholics. In Isreal and Palestine it’s the Palestinian kids who follow the bus on their bikes who merit the most attention.

Now I’m not pretending here that this is a book about oppression or struggle, nor that Bret Hart is a radical. But these are not the sort of things one sees in these kinds of memoirs generally, and there was just enough here to make me take note.

But what really stood out was the discussion of wrestling as work. Training and the lack thereof, health and safety, salaries and working conditions, and the transfomation of the industry from a network of family-based operations to an international financial heavyweight, based entirely around one company, reaching into every corner of the globe, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. And a site, apparently, of pitched struggles for unionization.

Holy shit. This is something.

Bret talks about attempts by wrestlers to organize, the most significant campaign taking place in the 1980s in the World Wrestling Federation and under the leadership of later-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura – a campaign that by many sources only failed when Hulk Hogan ratted the plan out to owner Vince McMahon. Ventura and a few other key figures (though minor wrestlers) were promptly fired. But the idea never died, and would break to the surface on a number of occasions over the next couple of decades.

Why would wrestlers want a union? Well, here’s what I’ve learned after a little research.

Average salary for a pro wrestler who’s on TV every week – $35,000 – $45,000 a year. Subtract from that the fact that wrestlers often pay their own traveling expenses, hotels, food and US health care premiums. Not a hell of alot left to retire on when a good pro career is about five years, an exceptional one ten to fifteen.

Wrestlers are 6 times more likely to die before age 40 than the general population. Ah, the steroids you say. No. Pro football players are just as likely to abuse steroids, but their pre-40 mortality is significantly lower than average. In fact, compare wrestlers to footballers and the former are 20 times more likely to die by 40. Yeah, thats right – 20 fucking times.

Wrestlers are not considered ’employees’ of the companies they work for. They are classified as independent contractors, which explains why they are so often responsible for their own employment costs from travel to costumes. And the first step to any unionization is a change in status, and a recognition of the employment relationship.

Wrestlers can’t catch a regulatory break. Actors’ unions consider them athletes, and don’t cover them, though they do represent announcers on the programs. Athletic commissions aren’t responsible any longer, since the industry outed itself as “entertainment” rather than sport in the early 1990s as a way to avoid government oversight and certain taxes.

And the wrestlers? They tell an interesting story about this last item. When the wrestling industry kept up the illusion that it was all for real, the public came to to watch wrestling – choreographed, yes, but basically real wrestling comprised of holds, pins and the occasional leap off a ring-rope. Once the veil is taken away, no one is content to watch a 2 minute headlock anymore – there’s no contest here, so the public shows up for a different kind of entertainment value – chairs to the head, blood-letting, crashes through tables from as much as 20 feet. In short, the public demands stunts, and they demand those stunts to be not simulated but real. All of a sudden an industry that was already dangerous but at least peopled by well-trained athletes whose bottom line was ‘take care of each other in there’ is a circus of stunts and competition among the biggest bodies, with the few real technical experts – the Bret Harts of the world – a vanishing breed.

Athletics to circus-stunts, technique to body-building, a few days travel a month to whole lives lived in hotels, self-medication for depression, loneliness, physical pain, exhaustion, and a steady increase in deaths resulting from the combination. Run through a roster of wrestling deaths in the last 15 years and you’ll be stunned at the numbers – indeed, at a point it becomes more surprising that some of them are still alive.

Anyway, I read Bret’s book, I’m fascinated and I want to know more. An email to the host of his website, some brief correspondence back and forth and I’m ready for an interview with the Hitman.

God, that was a day. I was buzzing, the whole office was buzzing, waiting for the phone call. And then, an hour and a half of questions and answers, some names of other wrestlers and commentators, and I was off on a new project.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, a few reasons I suppose. One, I think this is really fucking important, and has the potential to raise awareness around unions generally – if some of the top wrestlers and youth heroes of the day start talking union, that can have a tremendous impact on public sentiment toward worker’s struggles more generally. Two, it’s been a few months now, and after an initial flurry of interviews and note-taking, I’ve fallen out of the work lately, and hope this might get me back in line, or at least provide the basis for one of the articles I have planned (the goal being a popular piece and an academic one). Third, I think it’s worth telling people what I’ve learned, that there is so much more to wrestling than the shit we see every day.

There’s a microcosm of the more generalized conflict between workers and capital. There’s a hell of alot of courage and athleticism, particularly as one looks farther back historically. There’s big-time union politics, corporate politics, state politics. There’s questions about heroism and folly, masculinity and strength. And there’s spin-doctoring like nowhere else – case in point, when tensions resurfaced after the death of Bret’s brother, Owen, as a result of a stupid stunt he was ordered to perform, the company made the workers’ discontent and public criticism into part of the show, a gimmick featuring the evil owner and his cronies “The Corporate Ministry” versus the rough-and-tumble good’ol boys, “The Union”. Yeah, if that isn’t the society of the spectacle I don’t know what is.

There’s a hell of alot here. And most exciting for me, it’s not academics watching it and making up this shit. This is all straight from the wrestlers who produce it, who know what kind of boss they’re facing, who know the difficulties getting workers to stand collectively as a class, who are themselves afraid of the kind of masculinity they promote, who watch friends die weekly and just pray they can get out before the same happens to them.

And Bret Hart? He was named one of the greatest 50 Canadians of all time on that big CBC project a couple of years ago. After a devastating stroke and nearly ten years since he wrestled regularly, he can still walk into a classroom or gymnasium anywhere the world and be the kind of a hero he always wanted to be. And he quite frankly gave me one of the best conversations of my life, and a whole new area of research to explore.

Oh, by the way: at the top of this post you’ll see the insignia of The Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers. Not a union, but a company, whose whole promotion is based on the conflict between workers and bosses. The gimmick lives on, yes. But that gives me hope, too. Cause gimmicks only work if they resonate somewhere, if they play on tensions and struggles that still ring true.

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Stepping Down

A busy day yesterday, and strange. Reflection, grief, anger. There’s lots happening in my home life, with uncertainties and conflicts with my ex, so that’s all hanging in the background as a generalized anxiety and exhaustion. Right now, though, at the forefront has been work.

Yesterday was the last day I am performing the duties of Executive Director. Come Monday, I am officially returning to my previous position handling grievances, working with members. And while it was my choice, it was also not my choice. As I’ve mentioned here before, my employer has decided that its Executive Director must be willing to cross staff picket lines and discipline staff if necessary. And that’s not what I do. I’m a union rep, and that job has plenty compromise enough for me as it is. Working as a supervisor? Fine. Providing guidance and advice? Fine. But don’t make me take on the role of boss, cause it’s a line I won’t cross.

So, here I am today after this little experiment in changing the structure of the workplace has come to an end. We had a good run, we union staffers. A few years ago, we were all close to quitting, some on sick leave, entering and leaving the workplace in silence, sitting at computers behind closed doors. The last while we’ve been having potlucks, sharing personal stories and struggles, laughing. 

Now I certainly won’t pretend to have performed particularly well in all aspects of my job – the work on budgets, in particular, was never something I could muster much interest in, and there were definitely times I was not available for people to consult with. But in co-ordinating the grievance and policy work, in facilitating some organizational up-dating, in pushing for a deeper (or any!) democracy, and in building a unified staff – these things, I think, did improve substantially.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I announced my return to the ranks, with organizing our internal union stuff, sorting through the implications of my decicion, constant discussion with members of the union leadership about what the problems are, why I won’t change my mind, what other options we might have had – it all takes its toll. But as the effective date of my resignation has ticked closer, I’ve increasingly felt something I can only describe as grief.

There is loss here. As a staff group we are losing a workplace culture, and moving from a sense of camraderie based on general support to one based on a specific antagonism toward the employer; I personally am giving up some respsonsibility, and though I didn’t really want all of that there is loss there, too. With that, I am waiting for the word to go out and the questions from members and the university community generally; and though I know this is a political dispute, and I know the choice I made was the right one for me, it comes with a lot of discomfort and insecurity because most people will simply presume I wasn’t up for the job, or was “removed”. It’s hard to know that a political decision will be invisible to most, who will seek explanations in personal or professional failure instead.

In the grand scheme of things, though, I can’t really complain.

One of the many things I’ve been aware of through this is the IWW card in my desk. Though I confess I haven’t paid my dues for a long long time, if I’ve ever second-guessed my decision because a new boss might be worse than me, because I’m worried about the loss in pay I’m taking, because I am afraid to face questions or gossip about my shortcomngs – though all of this, that wobbly membership keeps me pretty fucking clear on what I have to do. And if this little bump in my own job causes some emotional distress and some confusion, it’s a pretty minor event in a pretty tiny union and with few consequences other than the immediate discomfort and adjustment. I’ve said, “I’m standing with the union”, and for that I’ve taken a bit of a financial hit and faced some professional uncertainty. But I’m not getting chased out of town or locked up indefinitely or hung under a railway bridge for my commitment to union membership. Perspective, perspective.

So, I’ll take most of the next week off, let myself adjust to my self-imposed demotion, focus my energies on the staff union I now officially belong to and preparations for bargaining a first agreement this summer. And I’ll try to remind myself that it’s just work, and without all the personal turmoil in my life this might not be nearly so hard to take. Again, perspective, perspective.

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