Alberta’s One Day Wildcat

The morning of October 26th, workers at health-care sites across the province of Alberta walked off the job. What happened, and how has the broader labour movement responded? Join Team Advantage as we discuss the wildcat strike and the Alberta Federation of Labour’s response. If you’re interested in the AFL’s campaign, check it out at standuptokenney.ca.

A full transcript follows the break.

[bird call]

Crowd chanting: Solidarity! So-so-so-solidarity!

[intro music begins]

Kate: The Alberta Advantage is a proud member of the Harbinger Media Network. Check out our partner shows at harbingermedianetwork.com. This independent listener-supported podcast is possible thanks to listeners like you. If you think what we do is important, support us with a monthly donation at patreon.com/albertaadvantage.

[intro music ends]

Joel: Hello, and welcome to The Alberta Advantage. My name is Joel, and I’ll be hosting today’s episode. Joining Team Advantage today is Roberta. Roberta, thanks for joining me here.

Roberta: It’s great to be here.

Joel: I wanted to get together to discuss a little something that happened a few weeks ago — a wildcat strike that happened on Monday, October 26th at 51 different sites at 35 different cities and towns across Alberta. So, first of all, Roberta — what is a wildcat strike?

Roberta: Well, that’s a great question, Joel. A wildcat strike is any strike that happens without the consent or the support of the union leadership. So, basically, if the members decide to take strike action and it’s not supported by the leadership, then that would be considered a wildcat strike. They usually will happen outside of the normal times for strike action, which would be when a collective agreement has expired, at the end of a negotiating period. There’s usually a very small window within which legal or acceptable strikes can happen, and so wildcats usually happen outside of that framework but, usually, against the positioning of the leadership.

Joel: So, for the most part, those on the picket lines were members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, or AUPE. The number of sites that went out on wildcat in rural Alberta is quite impressive, and I just want to read the actual list of sites. I realize that it’ll be naming 51 sites, but it’s actually very impressive when you consider Alberta. So, from the top — and thanks to the Progress Report and Duncan Kenney at Progress Alberta for compiling this list. The South Health Campus in Calgary; the Foothills Hospital in Calgary; Peter Lougheed Hospital in Calgary; Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary; Sheldon Chumir Health Centre in Calgary; Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton; Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Edmonton; Alberta Hospital, Edmonton; University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton; Food Service Centre, Edmonton; Northeast Community Health Centre, Edmonton; Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, Red Deer; Westlock Healthcare Centre in Westlock; Athabasca Healthcare Centre in Athabasca; Lethbridge Home Care, Lethbridge; Whitecourt Healthcare Centre in Whitecourt; Cold Lake Healthcare Centre, Cold Lake; Leduc Community Hospital in Leduc; WestView Health Centre in Stony Plain; Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital in Fort Saskatchewan; High Prairie Health Complex in High Prairie; Slave Lake Healthcare Centre in Slave Lake; Northwest Health Centre in High Level; Claresholm General Hospital in Claresholm; Claresholm Centre for Mental Health & Addictions in Claresholm; Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre in Wetaskiwin; Okotoks Home Care in Okotoks; Edmonton Remand Centre in Edmonton; Evansburg Health Centre in Evansburg; Strathcona Community Hospital in Sherwood Park; Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge; Canmore General Hospital in Canmore; Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Grande Prairie; Cardston Health Centre in Cardston; Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre in Ponoka; Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, Ponoka; Drumheller Health Centre in Drumheller; Peace River Community Health Centre in Peace River; Lamont Health Care Centre in Lamont; George McDougall Smoky Lake Health Centre in Smoky Lake; St. Therese St. Paul Healthcare Centre in St. Paul; Boyle Healthcare Centre in Boyle; Elk Point Healthcare Centre in Elk Point; Strathmore District Health Services, Strathmore; Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray; Devon General Hospital, Devon; Claresholm Health Unit & Home Care, Claresholm; Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre in Claresholm; William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre in Lac La Biche; and Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre in Rimbey. AUPE president Guy Smith came out in support of the wildcat strike early that morning, stating that, “Across this province, working people are rising up against Jason Kenney’s job-killing policies and are joining the fight in solidarity. This was a decision taken by the members themselves; AUPE is a democratic union, and we respect the wishes of our members.” I also went to the picket line at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary on the 26th, and here’s a bit of what things sounded like here.

[recording starts]

[crowd sounds, cars honking throughout]

Joel: I’m here in front of Foothills Hospital with Steven Michaud. Steven, welcome to The Alberta Advantage.

Steven: Thank you very much! Good to be here! Well, not good to be here, but we have to be here.

Joel: Right on. So, can you tell me — when did this start this morning? What happened?

Steven: This actually started just after 7:00 this morning. Shift change, pretty much, is when things started happening. Last Friday, the government, who we have an arrangement with to suspend bargaining because of COVID until March the 31st, turned around on Friday afternoon — when they always seem to do things — and started looking for contractors for replacing our personnel. So, I’m going like, “Well, that’s stabbing us in the back.” One minute they’re saying, “Good job! Kudos! Thanks for being part of the team and being AHS staff and being caring,” and then they turn around and do that.

Joel: So, there’s a sense of betrayal from —

Steven: They’ve been betraying us, in my opinion, for a while. This was just, in my opinion, the final slap in the face going, “They’re not going to change, they’re just going to keep pushing us.”

Speaker 1: …let them give us a bad deal?

Crowd: No!

Speaker 1: Are we going to fight for our dignity?

Crowd: Yes!

Speaker 1: And respect?

Crowd: Yes!

Speaker 1: Yes, brothers and sisters. We’re going to fight and fight and fight. But we must remain strong until shift change, and we have to encourage our brothers and sisters to join us on the line. So, if you know people who work evening shift, reach out to them, make sure that they are coming here. Okay? And then stay as long as you can. If you’re able to stay all night long, stay with me.

Speaker 2: …president of CUPE Alberta. We are here today because you’ve taken this brave step and are standing up against Jason Kenney, UCP, and you’re standing up for public healthcare, and we’re going to stand with you. I know how tough this battle is, but we are going to win it because we’re on the side of right. You guys have been heroic throughout this pandemic; you’ve stayed here, you’ve worked as hard as you can in incredibly tough conditions, but now you need to know, and you need the government to know, that now is not the time to lay people off and make cuts! And we in the union movement are going to stay with you. We’re happy to be here today — we’ll be here every day that you are here, I promise you. We’ll stand strong with you, and we will win this fight. Well done, sisters and brothers [inaudible].

[cheering, applause, honking]

Speaker 1: Because we are being bullied, brothers and sisters. We are tired of being pushed around by a government that does not care about the quality of services provided to Albertans, a government who does not care about the people providing those services, a government who does not care about how popular they are. These decisions are being made by the top officials of our government. The people of Alberta who provide these services deserve better. You deserve better. You deserve to be respected as the frontline workers that you are! During a pandemic, when everyone is tired and work is short, the government is following through with their plans to privatize healthcare services. They want to continue that attack that will Americanize our healthcare system — a system where only the rich can receive the treatment that they need in a timely manner, where profits are put before care. They tell us that there is no need to worry because everyone who’s laid off will be rehired by contract, but what about your wages? What about your benefits? What about your quality of life, brothers and sisters? Things like your vacation time will be lost, most sick time for workers who have the highest risk of becoming ill. Brothers and sisters, there’s more to this than just our jobs. This is our dignity. The government said they are not cutting our frontline services. Well, I disagree, because, on the front lines of healthcare, alongside the nurses and doctors, are thousands of general support service members diligently working to keep the wheels of healthcare turning. You are frontline workers.

[cheering, applause, honking]

Speaker 1: Solidarity. Now, we can be expected to be pressured to return to work, and we must expect that the government will attempt to bully us through legislation as they already have. They will file injunctions. They will threaten to fire us. Growing up as a boy, I was bullied, and running from a bully is never the answer, I can tell you that. We must stand together in solidarity to ensure that our voices are heard, to ensure that our healthcare system — that we all depend on — remains intact and protected from the greed of the few. None of us go back in unless we all go back in. None of us go back in unless we all go back in — right, brothers and sisters?

[cheering, applause, honking]

Speaker 1: We must stand together; we must remain strong. Reach out to your coworkers. Let them know. Evening shift, let them know; they come here, they join us here on the line. Amen, brothers and sisters. Stay strong! Stay strong!

[cheering, applause, honking]

Joel: The folks that are walking the line today, what kind of jobs do they have inside the hospital?

Steven: Okay, we have a variety of people here today. You have porters, and that’s what I do; we do patient transport, equipment transport, blood transport. We have, out here, housekeeping, who cleans the ORs, who cleans the rooms. We have surgical processors who clean and sterilize the equipment for the surgeries, which is a crucial job. We have people here from the kitchens, from food services, who have to have educations in dietary and what the patients are allowed to eat and restrictions and all the stuff that goes along with that. We have support here from other unions; I’ve seen some members from the nurses, from the lab technicians HSAA. I’ve seen some others as well. A lot of solidarity from a lot of different groups.

Joel: What does the government plan to do to people’s jobs? What are the grievances here?

Steven: They want to basically privatize, contract out, pretty well everything: laundry, food services, and housekeeping at present. I’ve heard talk about others that they are considering such as, I believe, clerical. And nobody’s safe, first of all. They’re looking for finances, money, because they spent too much money on other projects they had that haven’t come true, haven’t paid off, and now they want us to pay for it. They want the patients to pay for it. They want Albertans to pay for it.

[recording ends]

Joel: The Alberta Labour Relations Board issued a ruling late in the evening of Monday, October 26th ordering workers back to work. Local chairs of AUPE voted to end the wildcat strike the night of October 26th, 2020. The next morning, picket lines were down. So then, if you fast forward a couple days, on Wednesday, October 28th, the Alberta Federation of Labour had an announcement and press conference. Here’s some of what was said.

[recordings starts]

Gil McGowan: In a nutshell, we’ve come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to fight Jason Kenney, and we’re asking all Albertans to join us. The premier wants to frame opposition to his government as a battle between the UCP and so-called union bosses and union NDP surrogates, but the truth is that the UCP has picked fights with an unprecedented number of Alberta groups and individual Albertans regardless of their political stripe. They’ve also launched an attack on many things that Albertans hold dear. So, it’s not Kenney against unions, or Kenney against the NDP; instead, it’s Kenney against healthcare, Kenney against education, Kenney against parks, AISH, and the environment. And it’s even Kenney against a responsible response to COVID. In short, the Kenney government has launched a war on Alberta, and we think it’s time for Albertans who also think that he’s launched this war to start preparing themselves to fight back. The healthcare workers who walked off the job on Monday showed us what’s possible. They showed us that citizens working together can stand up, speak out, and push back. But the end of the wildcat also showed us that isolated groups of workers can’t do it alone. The fight back has to be bigger, and it has to be sustained. That’s why we’re here today. We’re asking all Albertans to join us in building towards something bigger. To get the ball rolling this morning, we’re launching what we call the Stand Up To Kenney campaign. Through this campaign, we’re asking all Albertans — union and non-union, working or not — to do three things. First: we’re asking people to visit our campaign website at www.standuptokenney.ca and take the “I’m ready to stand up to Kenney” pledge. By taking the pledge, people will be indicating that they’re ready to take part in province-wide protest actions. These protest actions will include rallies, demonstrations — both in person and online — and they may include work-related protests like workplace strikes and even a province-wide general strike. Second: once enough Albertans have taken the pledge and joined the campaign, we’ll see who’s with us, then we’ll create a coordinating committee of all of our allies. That committee will finalize a list of demands, and then we’ll demand that the Kenney government sit down and negotiate with us to address our concerns. Third: if the government doesn’t respond to our concerns, we’ll begin a series of virtual, regional, and province-wide protests that could include work stoppages. These actions will be separate from individual contract-related actions organized by individual public sector and private sector unions in the context of their contract negotiations, but they will be mutually supportive and they may coincide.

[recording ends]

Joel: So, the leaders of AFL affiliate also spoke, from CUPE, the Health Science Association of Alberta, the Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of Alberta, and the United Nurses of Alberta. So, Roberta — what do we think of this plan?

Roberta: Well, Joel, I appreciate that there’s a plan. That’s exciting. It’s good that we have a plan and that labour organizations are now starting to do something. So, I have visited the website and taken the pledge to see what this might look like, and so that they, I guess, can count that there’s support for these ideas around. So, there’s that start. What are you thinking about it?

Joel: Well, what strikes me is that there’s a lot of — haha, “strikes me” —

Roberta: Haha! Good one.

Joel: — is that there’s a lot of barriers between now and then whatever action may be taken in the future. So, initially, what people are supposed to do is visit the website, take the pledge indicating their readiness to take action. Once enough Albertans have joined the campaign — how many Albertans is enough? We don’t know — a coordinating committee with allies will be formed by the AFL and that committee will formulate a list of demands, and then, if the government doesn’t respond to those concerns, they’ll begin organizing province-wide protests. So, to me, there’s quite a timeline to doing anything, and the timeline’s also not very well-defined. Like, how many people do you need to sign up to this newsletter before you decide to do the next thing? Do you need a committee to formulate demands? We already know kind of what needs to happen — you need to stop all these ridiculous cuts, you need to stop bailing out pipelines, and you need to stop huge giveaways to the corporate sector while you’re making massive cuts to the public services. I don’t need a committee to come up with that, right?

Roberta: A hundred percent. And I also wonder — I mean, it’s October of 2020 when this news conference happens and this list is started and these three steps are initiated. Jason Kenney was elected leader of the PC party in 2017, and we’re now in 2020, and it concerns me somewhat that the labour organizations are only just now initiating these three steps that I feel like, at least since when Kenney was elected in 2019, they should have been working on these strategies, don’t you think? But even before that, when he was elected leader of the PCs and we knew these sort of strategies were coming. So, I agree with you that it’s concerning that it’s such a long time from launching a website to the end of this, but also, why are they just starting it now?

Joel: I mean, cynically, they might be trying to time it with an electoral campaign that would happen in 2023 if they’re this slow to launch things, which is the very cynical take.

Roberta: But I think it makes sense with this idea of trying to collect people’s names. When you try and create lists of supporters, there’s usually some sort of ask coming as part of that, and maybe the ask is donations to political campaigns [laughs] or an election strategy. But we can’t wait until 2023. I’m sorry, but we couldn’t even wait until 2020! This should have been happening right when Kenney was elected! So, this is concerning.

Joel: Yeah. Another concern that I have is that the list-building that they’re doing with this website and the sign-up thing is targeting the Alberta public very generally, at large, and trying to get feedback from them. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the reason that labour organizing actually has power is because it talks about workers, usually concentrated at a particular site at a particular time, disrupting production at that particular place, and that’s how they’re able to make demands and leverage things is because they are able to actually interrupt the status quo, interrupt how capitalism works on a day-to-day basis by taking action. When you have a strategy that’s so diffuse, like trying to get people interested across Alberta — I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s hard to re-concentrate that into an actual action because these people work in all different places. They have very different lives.

Roberta: Well, and I think it’s indicative of a larger shift that’s happened in politics, especially left-wing politics, where there’s been a real abandonment of community organizing and of door-knocking — although, during a pandemic, I understand we can’t knock on doors — but grassroots organizing, that people don’t suddenly understand union issues or have a perspective on how we could structure our society differently when they’re inundated all day, every day by consistent neoliberal messaging. And I think this kind of strategy, of just getting people to sign up for a list, assumes people have already done the work to learn about these issues and to develop a perspective instead of labour organizations doing the hard work of teaching people and educating them and organizing them on the ground day to day. A list is, I feel — and I hate to say this about my labour colleagues, but I feel like it’s lazy. It’s asking people to do the legwork ahead of time and you’ll just send them some information as you put it together.

Joel: List-building is a part of any kind of political outreach and organizing as a very basic first step, and so, again, I don’t want to demonize it completely as just a tactic, but it’s not really a high-engagement activity, right?

Roberta: Yeah, and should have been done two, three years ago. [laughs]

Joel: Another thing that really struck me about this press conference that happened two days after the wildcat strike — it kind of displayed a lack of organizing that probably should have happened earlier, as you said. Let’s say, in the future, there’s 51 sites at 35 cities and towns across Alberta that go on strike. Probably the most useful thing that an organization like the AFL could do is have done some strike readiness prep beforehand so that they can actually join the picket lines when that happens [laughs]. Expressing solidarity and support for people on pickets is great and nice and I’m not knocking it, but it would be better or more effective if you could just muster people to join those picket lines and maybe even have sympathy strikes or refusing to cross the lines that go on with that strike that is ongoing. You have to be able to spring into action at an opportune moment, and it feels like the legwork to do the organizing beforehand to be able to be ready for that just hasn’t happened yet.

Roberta: Yeah, I think this shows one of the weaknesses of labour organizing in Alberta, in Canada, and elsewhere. And, again, not to criticize my labour colleagues — they have a lot of limitations on what they can do — but there is a real limitation on how ready the unions are to move quickly. And, as I think this strike showed us, when workers are ready to go and when they’ve reached their limit of what they can put up with at their work site, things happen quickly, and labour unions need to be able to respond very quickly right at that moment when the workers are ready to go. And so it sort of shocks me, that, when unions don’t have ready, on the go, a phone tree or some sort of communication technique that they can use to instantly get ahold of their members and tell them to get down to a line. Some of them, it was going to take a day or two to mobilize their workers even if they were going to do it, and, by that point, the pickets had broken. And so I think it shows us how fast these issues move and how quickly we need to respond and that our large labour organizations should be ready to go on the dime — when it happens, they should be ready to go.

Joel: And when these things happen, they escalate very, very quickly. As we saw, it quickly got to a point on Monday the 26th where workers had a choice of continuing to strike. Workers basically had to deal with going against the Labour Board’s ruling and potentially seeing things escalate up from a legal point of view. These are not workers with huge salaries; they’re really putting themselves on the line trying to stand up for what they believe in and stand up for themselves, and it’s very difficult for them to do it alone, without support from other workers.

Roberta: And I think this is one of the frustrating parts about this strike action that happened and the lack of response, or the particular response, of some of the large union organizations, is that the people who went on strike on the 26th of October are the frontline workers who are at the bottom of the pile of our labour union structure, and they are the people who really have nothing left to lose, that they really have to go to the lines or it’s over. I mean, there were 11,000 people getting laid off, and so, when they had no choice, they went to the lines, but I think what this shows is that some of the other unions are somewhat complacent and have reached a point where they aren’t ready to do the kind of work necessary to defend those workers who really need it. And it really is on the shoulders, I think, of the other unions to support the people on the front lines who really are at the end of what they have and really do have nothing left to lose. And I wonder the AFL or the nurses or others had really mobilized their people on that Monday afternoon and gotten everybody out, maybe the vote would’ve gone differently because the support would’ve been clear, and who knows the situation we’d be in at this point? And the Labour Relations Board was always going to rule that it was an illegal strike — most strike actions are illegal [laughs] because the only effective things are strikes and the society will make them illegal if they work well — and so we’re going to have do illegal strikes at some point. Waiting for legal action is ridiculous, and so I think that the leadership needs to have the backs of these workers who are on the front lines and really feeling the pinch in a way others seem to not be.

Joel: Another thing that I think is worth considering for affiliated unions is: what is your limit? What’s the boundary? What is the action that this government needs to take where it’s suddenly unacceptable, what they’re doing, and you’re going to be suddenly sprung into action? Is it laying off 11,000 workers and privatizing their jobs? Is it healthcare cuts during a pandemic? Is it going to war on doctors? I’m just curious; what’s that final boundary that gets you past the red line to make you actually take action? Because, to me, it seems like this government is doing everything to antagonize working people in this province, and I don’t see a commensurate response at this point.

Roberta: And it doesn’t seem to me that the usual strategy in this province of being in the board rooms and being at the table to talk about issues with the conservatives who are in power — it doesn’t seem to me to be anywhere near an option at this point (not that it ever was, and it’s a terrible political strategy anyway), but, in this province, it’s how people work, and maybe it’s hard for some of these leaders to change that mentality, but this is a government that has been clear from the beginning that they are gutting our public sector and that they have an agenda. It’s not incompetence, it’s not stupidity — this is the plan, and so unions need to be ready to fight. And I think, from my perspective, the boundary was broken long, long ago when they started tearing up contracts and passing legislation to limit workers’ rights. But, really, I think you asked a good question — just as the question is “How many people need to be on a list before we move to the next step?”, also, “When are we going to actually do this? What’s going to be bad enough?” Because, for most of the Albertans I know and talk to and see in the world, it’s already far too much, and something needs to happen. And, honestly, I think there’s a lot of support for the strikes and for the workers, and I think, if there had been a couple more days of picket lines, I think we would have seen a lot of that. I think people were ready to fight. I know a lot of people who were excited that, “Wow! Somebody’s finally fighting back! Let’s do it!”, and it’s so sad that we left it to the most vulnerable workers to be the ones to inspire us to do it. But there was a lot of excitement and energy there, and the fact that they could break so easily because they just didn’t have the support of the leadership really, I think, deflated what could have turned into something really possible.

Joel: And just on the note of something you said about being in the board room — Heather Smith, head of the United Nurses of Alberta, in that press conference with Gil McGowan, had this to say:

[recording starts]

Heather: Despite stereotypes and myths to the contrary, unions exist to compromise and reach deals, not to engage in strikes or confrontation. The proof of this statement is in the simple numbers. Over the last ten years, 99% of union-negotiated collective agreements in this province have been reached without recourse to strikes. For us — and I’ve been on picket lines — for us, picket lines, protests, and strikes are a last resort, not a first choice.

[recording ends]

Joel: So, to be charitable, there are certain reasons a union leader might say something like that: trying to present themselves in a particular way to the public, trying to counteract some depictions of themselves and the work that they do and that their members do as being always confrontation, all this kind of stuff. To be charitable, there are reasons someone might take such an approach and describe themselves in this way. But is this the right time and place to be making such a characterization of unions and workers within unions?

Roberta: Well, this is the big question, is: you may have a perspective on unions, that their role is to negotiate contracts and that’s sort of it, and so we try and make agreements as much as possible, but, also, the only real power, the ultimate power a union has, is a strike. It’s really the only thing, at the end of the day, that workers can use to effectively shift policy and practice, and withdrawing their labour is really their only power. And so to say that a union is not going to engage in strikes and confrontation is incredibly problematic because you’re just taking away your final power, your real power, in one statement saying, “Well, we’re not going to use that one, so don’t worry.” I mean, what are our opponents going to do then, in that case?

Joel: It also comes from a very different era and a very different set of economic conditions. The business unionism approach of saying, “Unions are here to make deals and make sure that our members get little increases every year,” that “We all share in this economic growth because our entire economy, nationally, is seeing massive growth year after year and there’s a tight labour market,” bla bla bla. That’s all post-war Keynesian economics and is a context that no longer exists. So, to take this business union approach decades deep into neoliberalism is very, very unwise to me.

Roberta: Absolutely. I mean, I, in my writing, will often critique the decision of labour union leaders in the post-war period to give up a lot of their power in exchange for certain benefits from governments — so, the adoption of business unionism — but it made more sense, at least, in that perspective or at that time when governments were providing a very healthy social safety net, workers had access to good services like healthcare, education, dental care, back in the day, all sorts of different social programs. So, many of those became something unions didn’t have to worry about anymore, and there was this sense of a constant growth, as you said, and people benefiting from this system as a whole; so, everybody’s income was going up. But that ends by the 1970s when neoliberalism and its governments and its institutions start gutting those social programs that had created that context and start pulling away all of the supports and the legislation and the various, quote, “benefits” that unions had achieved in those years of compromise. And so, when you’re not getting the benefit anymore, you have to stop doing the process that led to that, and so I think the context of today and neoliberalism is so different, and so this idea of compromise just isn’t enough. It’s necessary to fight.

Joel: Another thing that I found in the AFL press conference that was a bit odd was: both Gil McGowan and the other union leaders that spoke used the language of “Trump is bad, Republicans are bad, Americans are bad, and Kenney is trying to act like Trump or a Republican governor or bring in American-style healthcare.” Again, there are understandable reasons why someone might resort to making that link between what Kenney is doing and Republicans or Trump or Americans, but, to me, it strikes me as very lazy political education, because you’re relying on a whole bed of knowledge about American politics that people are going to automatically translate to their Canadian context. And there might be something to the argument that people paid a lot of attention to American politics, but you need to explain people’s context to them in a different frame. To rely on people watching Fox News and CNN and then making those links to their current context seems very torturous to me; it seems like a very roundabout way to get people to understand themselves and the situation they’re in. And, again, it’s just lazy to say, like, “Trump! Orange man bad! Kenney is like orange man, therefore Kenney bad.” You’re not really doing the kind of political education that people need to be equipped with in order to respond to their situation here and now.

Roberta: Absolutely. And the Canadian context, the Albertan context, is so different from the American context in so many different ways that, if we frame this as “Kenney is just like Trump,” what that means is that we have to frame the fight against Kenney as the same as the fight against Trump, and those two fights are going to be very, very different because of the different contexts within which we all live. I mean, some of it’s the same — there is a general tendency among the two to move towards fascism and, really, the implementation of this neoliberal agenda in a real, fulsome way — but if we’re going to try and defeat Kenney and the unions in Alberta are going to organize, properly and effectively, to defeat these horrible policies, we need to understand our context and where Kenney is coming from and where his power is coming from and how our system works and the way to be able to overturn that, because strike rules and union rules and other sorts of issues in the US are quite different than in Canada, and the way our systems are funded and operated are quite different. And so it worries me when we just compare Kenney straight to Trump that we are, then, undercutting our own fight against our particular and very specific leadership (or lack thereof) in this province.

Joel: Another thing is that Trump has relatively high approval ratings in Alberta. It’s not something I like to brag about or whatever, but Ipsos put out some polling recently: 4 in 10, 39%, agree (13% strongly, 26% somewhat) that more Trump would be a good thing. So, to have 39% of Albertans generally agreeing with Trump really limits your options when it comes to using this “Trump orange man bad” frame to characterize what Kenney is doing. You’re basically excluding 40% of your potential population right off the bat with that kind of lazy metaphor.

Roberta: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, it’s incredibly concerning that 40%, approximately, of Albertans think Trump’s not horrible and it would actually be good to have more of it — that’s already very concerning — but what that means is that, if you’re labour organization and you’re comparing Kenney to Trump, you’re actually telling those 40% that they should support Kenney when, in fact, I think, if we properly politically educated people in the province and really helped explain to them why these issues matter to them and that a different way of structuring our society is possible, many of those people might actually change their minds and might actually not support Kenney in our particular context. So, it’s, first of all, lazy to make a comparison that doesn’t hold up, but, also, you’re then not allowing people to understand their own political realities and how they might change them.

Joel: So, that’s it — that’s our strike update, our wildcat strike update from Team Advantage, at least for now. Hopefully, we have much more reporting to do on the matter. But, for the moment, I hope our listeners found our brief analysis of what happened on October 26th and afterwards useful, and stay safe out there! Bye!

Roberta: Bye!

[outro music begins]

Kate: If you liked today’s episode, you should check out the Harbinger Media Network, featuring shows like 49th Parahell, where ideological influencer and Twitter titan Rob Rousseau explores the hellish nightmare world of modern reality together. Find out more about the Harbinger Media Network and the entire cross-country line of podcasts at harbingermedianetwork.com.

[outro music ends]

[bird call]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.