“Critical Times”

“Both David Kidd and his running-mate Helen Kennedy have held executive office in the Communist Party, and have demonstrated a willingness to use their positions in the labour movement to advance communist interests not just in Canada, but internationally as well.”

Jeff Goodall, “Fight Back”: October 28th, 2002.

These are critical times for CUPE Local79, as the City of Toronto’s inside workers prepare to elect a new executive. Nominations took place last week, and the ballots will be mailed out within a few days if not already on their way.

Essentially speaking, Local 79 members have a choice between the established leadership of incumbent president Ann Dembinski, or a slate led by committed Communists, or the doubtful capabilities of Steve Kenney who has raised eyebrows by including left-wing activist Tim Maguire on his slate.

Ex-president Anne Dubas has allied herself with Kenney, and recently issued an unpleasant and misleading leaflet criticizing Dembinski. In it, she says: “Unfortunately, the current President is invisible at City Hall. During the last set of negotiations it became embarrassingly clear that the current President had no profile with the power-brokers at City Hall or with the media. Local 79 took a back seat to Local 416 and their issues. The current President did not lead Local 79 into a cooperative effort with Local 416, she just stepped aside and let Local 416 take the lead. Through legislation, an appointed arbitrator determined the final outcome of this round of negotiations… Local 79 needs a President who can stand on their own, one who does not need to be carried by others…”

This is a well-written piece and may well have influence, so let’s take a look at propaganda versus reality. Firstly, Ann Dembinski has spent a good many years in City Hall (and Metro Hall) monitoring issues affecting Local 79 and lobbying politicians to act in the best interests of the members. To suggest that she is “invisible at City Hall” is untrue. With regards to co-operation with Local 416, it is unlikely that the two Locals will get under each others feet on bargaining issues. Other than that, there is a great deal of historically based ill will and little likelihood of “co-operation”, certainly not with the media. Local 416 did as it wished untrammeled by any concern for the inside workers, and Ann Dembinski appeared in the press and on television many times, and acquitted herself well. I watched her myself on several occasions.

I particularly dislike the implication by Anne Dubas that Ann Dembinski is somehow responsible for the provincial appointment of an arbitrator. Other than submitting to the employer’s terms, there was no choice, and Dembinski took the perfectly reasonable approach that an appointed arbitrator would weigh the concerns of both parties. The correctness of her decision is supported by the details already available, including 3% pay increases effective January 1st of 2002, 2003 and 2004. There are many other day-to-day improvements as well.

All in all, I think that Anne Dubas’ smear-job on Dembinski will backfire as the membership looks at the facts, and once-upon-a-time president Dubas may well find herself ignominiously cast back on the trash heap.

Both David Kidd and his running-mate Helen Kennedy have held executive office in the Communist Party, and have demonstrated a willingness to use their positions in the labour movement to advance communist interests not just in Canada, but internationally as well. As I wrote last week, Kidd’s attendance at a Cuban Solidarity convention was paid for by Local 79 members after a motion by Peter Marcelline, who refused to identify who would be accompanying him. The motion passed anyway, and I only found out that Kidd attended by requesting a copy of the registration forms. In 1999 I wrote an article exploring Helen Kennedy’s involvement in obtaining Labour support for the communist guerilla FARC-EP, the “People’s Army” in Colombia. As I said at the time, “Both Helen Kennedy and Elizabeth Rowley are members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada. Kennedy, also a member of CUPE Local 79 and a delegate to the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, wrote a signed article in the June, 1999 issue of People’s Voice: ‘Last month, as hundreds of thousands of workers in Bogota walked off the job, delegates to the Canadian Labour Congress in Toronto debated a resolution to strengthen ties to the Colombian labour movement…CLC delegates heard an historic discussion on the courageous battles of our trade union brothers and sisters in Colombia, and on the central role played by the FARC-EP in the negotiation for peace with social justice…Locals and affiliates can also educate themselves and their membership about the historic role played by FARC-EP…” Richard Foot of the National Post has pointed out that the Washington-based Human Rights Watch has labelled FARC a ruthless and violent organization that has killed hostages in the past.

So there you have it: a choice between giving control of the Local to communist activists who will feel morally justified in spending the Local’s resources on ideologically-motivated issues; the doubtfully-qualified Steve Kenney with his accuracy-challenged sidekick Anne Dubas and leftist Tim Maguire; and the proven abilities of veteran Ann Dembinski.

Jeff Goodall worked for the Metro Treasury and City Finance Departments for 25 years, and served as a member of the CUPE Local 79 Executive Board for 14 of those years.

See original here.