In what looked outwardly as a mercurial development, management of the union local that represents Toronto Transit workers was itself subject to discipline and it didn’t involve the proverbial requisite remedial form that unions promulgate to employers. Incestuously, this was Big Brother telling a younger — and foreign — sibling to ‘leave the sandbox’ immediately: “TTC union heads fired in power battle with U.S. union.” The Globe and Mail, 3 February 2017.
The immediate reaction is to default to the usual paradigm in labour relations: grieve against unfair conduct of the overseer; ‘rage against the machine’. But ironically here the machinery is internal. A palace coup of sorts; the ultimate discipline — termination — precipitously borne of a parent’s anger. The global union expelling the “Local” allegedly for conduct untoward. Observers note that precipitous disciplinary behaviour is the very subordination that unions seek to eliminate in the employer-employee dynamic.
Of course the action at hand– the immediate removal by the US-based global union of Local 113’s ‘brass’ fits comfortably in neither conventional employment or the corporate parent-subsidiary matrix, albeit the latter is more analogous than the former. Here Global said to Local ‘you sit at our pleasure and our direction’ and with apologies to Elizabeth II, Global is “not amused”.
The backdrop for this ‘disturbance in the force’ (sorry Obi Wan) is historical, complex and beyond the scope or point of this piece. Suffice to say parent is not happy with this particular offspring, suggesting that it has “cause” to expel for alleged disloyalty and disobedience. That dependant understandably wants autonomy leading the Local’s directorship — democratically elected to represent the workers — to cry foul. It demands the freedom to shop for supportive national and global oversight.
While not completely novel, the allegedly Dickensian act of the global union is sufficiently unusual and newsworthy that it will take a Judge to sort it in proceedings already underway. No mediation or arbitration this; it’s ‘to the mats’, brethren against brethren; brothers and sisters un-united. Dickens: “Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door”. The Courtroom door.
Regardless of outcome, it is clear that unlike Darth and Luke, this parent prefers “[Local 113], I am [not] your father”.