March 15th, 1991.
“The whole exchange showed me how naive I was in Tuesday’s column to ask why there weren’t more union members like Jeff Goodall – who’s on the executive board of CUPE Local 79 – willing to take on their unions when they presume to speak for them on political issues.”
David Bulmer figures he’s going to pay for this column with a ton of grief from his union. He’s probably right.
He’s a fifty-year-old assembly line worker at the GM van plant in Scarboro who is sick and tired of having the Canadian Auto Workers shove their NDP politics down his throat.
And so, when over the last two weeks two union pamphlets from CAW Local 303 were distributed down the line urging workers to attend a trash Brian Mulroney and the Tories rally at Queen’s Park tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., he called the Sun to complain and told me I could use his name.
“For the first time that I can remember, they’re offering union members $10 each to show up to cover their travelling and expenses,” noted Bulmer. “I figure if they have to rent crowds to come, they must be getting pretty desperate.”
Bulmer says unlike the union leadership, many if not most of his fellow workers don’t support the NDP. But anyone who tries to point that out to the union is in for a very rough ride.
“On bread-and-butter issues the CAW does an excellent job and I fully support them,” Bulmer said. But he gets outraged every time the CAW tries to tell him who to vote for and uses his union dues to further its own NDP political agenda.
“Before I came here I sold life insurance, I managed a finance company and I managed a bank and I’ll put my financial knowledge up against theirs any day of the week,” said Bulmer, who added he was also appalled when CAW president and NDP demi-god Bob White spoke out against Canada’s participation in the war against Iraq.
Bulmer noted he’s no fan of Mulroney or the Tories, “but the alternative is even worse.” He also predicted his union local was just going to go berserk when it learned he’d been talking to the Sun. He was right. Indeed, when I contacted Local 303 plant chairman Bob Ryan – one of two names on one pamphlet – I initially ran into a flood of obscenities during which Ryan asked me how dare I question a $10 expenses fee for demos when Mulroney had cost jobs and wrecked the economy.
He later apologized for the obscenities but went on with a number of abusive epithets against the Sun, Mulroney, the Tories, me, the banks, landlords, etc. In between, he argued that the vast majority of Local 303 supports the NDP, that the union is supported by its membership in its NDP activities and that it was acting within its rights.
He didn’t seem to know who Bulmer was when I mentioned his name, but he did ask me to confirm the spelling after he initially got it wrong. Needless to say, Ryan was not a happy camper – not with me and, obviously, not with Bulmer.
The whole exchange showed me how naive I was in Tuesday’s column to ask why there weren’t more union members like Jeff Goodall – who’s on the executive board of CUPE Local 79 – willing to take on their unions when they presume to speak for them on political issues. Frankly, it’s easy to understand. Who needs the grief and abuse of going against the NDP flow?
Maybe that’s why the CUPE workers who phoned to tell me they supported Goodall – and were outraged that their national union had presumed to speak on their behalf in opposition to Canada’s role in the Gulf war – all requested anonymity.
CUPE Local 79 members, incidentally, will be pleased to know that in addition to opposing the Gulf war they were also, according to a Sept. 21, 1990 letter to Mulroney by their local union president Steven David, also outraged that the Canadian forces had been sent to “occupy Mohawk land” at Oka.
Finally, ranters like Ryan are, of course, a dime a dozen.
It’s guys like Bulmer and Goodall who have the real guts.