Thursday, April 12, 2012

Something Stinks at the Lincoln County Humane Society

On Friday, April 13th, 2012, workers at the Lincoln County Humane Society (LCHS) will have been on strike for fifty (50) days.  They are fighting to prevent a two-tier system where new employees will be paid less and have no benefits, and to protect benefits and full-time employment for existing employees.

Financial records from the LCHS, despite what they've told the press, show that the LCHS consistently runs surplus budgets.  Funding sources for the LCHS include the municipalities of St. Catharines and Thorold, as well as private donations.  In the past year, private donations have been funnelled from general operations into the construction of a spay/neuter clinic which sits unused.  Workers are essentially being asked to pay for the construction out of their salaries and benefits.

Meanwhile the LCHS, which insists it's running deficits, has found the money since the strike began to install a keycard entry security system, as well as a network of video surveillance cameras.  When an agency asking its workers to take pay and benefit cuts can spontaneously come up with the money to install high-tech security, it belies any claims of financial hardship.  It also demonstrates irresponsible use of public money and private donations.

What really stinks at the LCHS, though, is their management.  Until the Mayor of St. Catharines intervened recently, Executive Director Kevin Strooband was piling the carcasses of dead, diseased skunks in close proximity to the picketing workers.

Anyone who would behave so despicably has absolutely no business being in a position of authority.

The Board of Directors of the LCHS has been negligent in allowing such behaviour from their Executive Director.  They need to be seriously reconsidering his employment by the LCHS.  His actions damage the reputation of LCHS, as well as the reputation of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), which the LCHS is affiliated with.  Of course, the OSPCA isn't helping its own reputation by providing the LCHS with scab workers.  Lack of integrity clearly isn't limited to Kevin Strooband.

The Board of Directors also needs to seriously consider that someone who would stack skunk carcasses beside his employees is quite likely to be the source of much of the labour unrest which LCHS is currently experiencing.  Firing a recalcitrant manager who has publicly demonstrated his animosity towards workers could quite likely lead to a quick wrap-up of the labour dispute.

What can you do to support these striking workers?

Begin by filling out the online petition here.

Follow that up by sending e-mails to the Board of Directors.

Show up at the picket to support the workers.  Pickets are going on 7 days a week from 8:30am-4pm at the LCHS located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Louth Street in St. Catharines.

Finally, you can financially support the workers.  Cheques can be made payable to the "CUPE Local 1287 Strike Fund" and mailed to 133 Front Street North, Thorold, Ontario, L2V 0A3.

Updates: Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks Strooband should resign (if not the entire Board).

The Niagara Regional Labour Council is hosting a Solidarity Fundraiser for the CUPE 1287 LCHS workers on June 8th, 7:30pm, at the CAW Hall at 124 Bunting Rd.

Friday, March 30, 2012

65 is old enough!

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has decreed, without public consultation (indeed, against the public outcry when he floated his trial balloon in Davos), that the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (and Guaranteed Income Supplement) will be raised from 65 to 67.

Independent sources outside the Conservative party, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, agree that Old Age Security is a sustainable program with an eligibility age of 65.

If you oppose raising retirement age to 67, change your Facebook profile image to the "65" image.  Let it be a symbol that tells Stephen Harper that in the next election, you'll be voting for the party that promises to restore your retirement security.

If you're less than 54 years old today, why should you have to work 2 years longer than the older generation?

If you're not one of the privileged, the gap in Canada between the haves and have-nots just grew by 2 years of retirement freedom.

If you don't have a workplace pension (like most Canadians), if you're struggling to get by as it is, then Old Age Security is not a luxury.  It is one of the pillars of retirement security that Canadians rely upon.

For most Canadians, Old Age Security isn't a bonus cash cushion that kicks in ten years after they've retired.  It's the cash cushion that allows them to retire.  For many older Canadians that have had to retire earlier due to health problems, Old Age Security and its accompanying Guaranteed Income Supplement for those with low incomes is what lifts many seniors (barely) out of poverty.

Ignore the seniors who complain about OAS "clawback".  That's a red herring.  OAS repayment only begins when a retiree has a net income in excess of $66,000.  I'll probably never have an income that high in my working life, let alone my retirement!  OAS is not meant for these people.  It's meant for the average Canadian that's simply struggling to get by.  And that, of course, goes to the heart of why the Conservatives are seeking to raise the age of eligibility.  They don't believe in helping those who have the least.  They believe in consolidating wealth at the top.

In contrast, other parties advocate raising OAS and GIS benefits to help those most in need, and to gradually double Canada Pension Plan benefits.

If you don't want to work another two years, if you don't want your children and grand-children to have to work another two years, then support the "65" program.  Above all, make sure you VOTE for retirement security.  Young people have a historically low voter turnout, which is likely why the Conservatives think they can get away with taking away two years of our retirement!

If you don't vote, your voice carries no weight with politicians!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Harper Conservatives living in imaginary dystopia...

I finally have some insight into the Harper government.  Apparently, they're living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia of their own imagining.  Take this quote from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson recently:

"Why is it so difficult for the Liberals to figure out who the real victims are?" he said.
"If somebody is coming onto your property, [setting] fire to your car, breaking into your house, or attacking your family, Mr. Speaker, those are the bad guys."
Statistics Canada reports:
"The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued its long-term downward trend in 2010, declining 5% from 2009. At the same time, the Crime Severity Index, which measures the severity of crime, fell 6%."
 Of course, there are statistics for everything, but they all pretty much agree that crime rates are low in Canada, and have been declining for decades.  If you want a warm fuzzy feeling, just compare Canada's crime rates to those in the United States.

Given that Canada has low crime rates, a federal deficit, and deficits in most provinces, why is the Harper government pushing through tough-on-(nonexistent)-crime legislation that's going to cost us billions of dollars?  We especially can't afford this, since Harper has given $13 billion per year in tax cuts to corporations.

Legislation should not be based on ideology.  It should not be based on knee-jerk reactions to rare tragic events.  It should not be based on irrational fears, nor cater to or inflame those irrational fears.  Just laws must be based on logic and facts.

Unless, of course, you believe you're living in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future.