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We Support Our Postal Workers

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
CUPW strikers wave to honking traffic at the community support rally on Thursday.
CUPW strikers wave to honking traffic at the community support rally on Thursday.
Donna Mendes, First Vice President of Nova Local, and Nadine Kays, employee of Canada Post.
Donna Mendes, First Vice President of Nova Local, and Nadine Kays, employee of Canada Post.
Brad Leights loves his job, but notices a "toxic" atmosphere at the Canada Post plant in Halifax.
Brad Leights loves his job, but notices a "toxic" atmosphere at the Canada Post plant in Halifax.
Devo and Mike, at the community support rally for CUPW.
Devo and Mike, at the community support rally for CUPW.
Canada Post recently spent $2.5 billion on "modernizing" Canada Post.
Canada Post recently spent $2.5 billion on "modernizing" Canada Post.

I arrived late at Thursday's community rally to support postal workers, but the sun was out and fifty or so people milled about, some wearing Locked Out! CUPW Nova Local placards, some dancing or eating; a dj spun beats and two jugglers entertained.

I had the opportunity to speak to Donna Mendes, First Vice President of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Nova Local. Mendez seemed very pleased with the rally.

"This [rally] is what the labour movement is all about," she said. "It's about acknowledgment and support from the community in our quest for fair and equitable negotiations."

Nadine Kays, who worked for four years as a casual letter carrier part-time on the midnight shift before she moved up in the ranks, agreed that the union's actions are part of a larger labour movement in Canada. She expressed that public criticism directed at the union for its insistence on maintaining a living wage for its workers is an unfortunate reflection of a society whose expectations as a workforce are too low.

"We want this [living wages, fair working conditions] for all Canadians; that's what this should be about for people," she said. "No-one should live paycheck-to-paycheck. What's wrong with making a living wage coming out of high school or university?"

Nevertheless, the women said public support for the striking workers' demands has been strong. By the number of "We Support Our Postal Workers" signs visible in the windows of homes in Halifax, I have to agree. However, Mendes and Kays both expressed their dismay that this sentiment is not being reflected in media coverage of the strike, the lock-out, and the back-to-work legislation.

"These are wages & benefits that we've fought for," added Mendez, explaining that CUPW is working within a firm understanding of the labour movement through time.
"It's the future [too]. We're willing to come out here to keep the sick leave program and wage parity with new workers.

"Routes are going to get bigger because the machines sequence the mail. Carriers will have a bundle of sequenced mail and a bundle of manually sorted mail, and that means they'll have no hands free." Mendes was talking about the effects on letter-carriers of new mail sorters Canada Post recently invested in. "[Workers will] spend less time inside sorting the mail, and more time on the street. In bad weather, that will mean more injuries." The new, larger routes are slated for July 18.

"The injuries postal workers deal with are not what the usual worker has to deal with," she continued, "four-to-six hours walking, up & down stairs..."

Kays explained working the sequencing machines. "Workers spend their shift continuously sweeping the machines. They're loud and noisy... it's a different world in there now, and a very physical job."

"I love my job," said Brad Leights, who worked for Canada Post for 18 years. "I love my co-workers, and the people on my route. But the atmosphere in the plant is totally toxic: there are people with anxiety who have never had anxiety before. There is more depression. There are 140 cameras in the plant--more in the Halifax plant than in the casino downtown."

The strikers explained contradictions in some of the recent changes Canada Post has implemented.

"They've spent $2.5 billion on 'modernizing' Canada Post," said Leights, "buying the letter mail sorter, even though they say letter mail is dropping..."

"...And that's just letter mail, that's not packages, or flat mail," said Kays.

"...And a new fleet of vehicles, even though transportation costs have gone up..."

"...That's real good for the environment--more vehicles on the road. And they say they don't have money to pay us."

photographs by Moira Peters


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