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Volume Ten, Number Two   March 2005



Shooting the messenger

Last Saturday (Feb 5), the Vancouver Sun ran a column by Barbara Yaffe that criticized the labour movement in general, and CUPE BC in particular, for criticizing Israeli policy on the West Bank. Yaffe singled out the widely-read CUPE BC publication, The Wall Must Fall, for particular scorn, saying that such publications "only contribute to the negative climate on [university] campuses in B.C."
The following is the union's response:

Dear Editor (Re: “B.C. unions’ anti-Israel stance is troubling,” Feb. 5),

Trade unions deal principally with wages and working conditions, but we also serve as human rights organizations. As such, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has a long history of debating social justice issues. The point is to give voice to the voiceless, and the publication of educational materials on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by CUPE BC’s international solidarity committee, follows in that tradition.
The Wall Must Fall is a primer for interested union and community members featuring voices from the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements that are shut out of the mainstream media. By highlighting progressive Canadian and Israeli Jewish opinion, The Wall Must Fall demonstrates that this issue is not a Jewish vs. Palestinian question but one of basic human rights. The pamphlet’s main message is that peace requires the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the end to violence against all Israeli and Palestinian civilians. In fact, this view is entirely consistent with international law and reflects the general program of the federal Liberal and New Democratic Parties. It is not “anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish,”
as your columnist erroneously states.

The Wall Must Fall also quotes the words of Israeli Human Rights organization B’Tselem, and the Nobel Prize-winning South African bishop, Desmond Tutu, as saying that apartheid is alive and well in Israel/Palestine because different legal rights and privileges apply to Jews and Palestinians depending on their “nationality” or ethnic background and because of the overall treatment of Palestinians.
By irresponsibly tying CUPE’s promotion of fair coverage of this issue to the victimization of students on university campuses, your columnist is shooting the messenger. The reason students who support Israeli policy feel uncomfortable on their campuses has nothing to do with CUPE and everything to do with the Israeli policy itself, which is currying more and more disfavour with the student body in general.

The only people who should be “troubled” by The Wall Must Fall are those who, like your columnist, offer unconditional support for Israel’s violations of international law. Far more troubling, for those who respect human rights, is Ms. Yaffe’s defense of the building of the separation wall on occupied Palestinian territory; the fact she doesn’t even mention the recent International Court of Justice decision condemning the Wall; and her condoning of the demolition of Palestinian homes—a collective punishment in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention.

We hereby challenge the Vancouver Sun, and other Asper-owned media in Canada, to present fair coverage of The Wall Must Fall and other resources like it. We also invite the Sun’s readers to reach their own conclusions by reading the pamphlet themselves. It’s available on our home page, at

Barry O’Neill
President, CUPE BC

Letter To Stan Hagen

Dear Sir

I am a victim of your efforts to purge the system (Social Services) of naredowells and freeloaders. I just want to take a moment to let you know a little about me and why I’m in this situation.
I was born into poverty 54 years ago, my parents were good people and tried real hard to provide for us but it goes without saying they were caught up in the poverty cycle and therefore limited.
To make a long story short I have spent my entire life struggling to get out of the deep hole that is poverty. On occasion I have managed to live a relatively adequate lifestyle but I was always fearful of sliding back and in retrospect, for good reason.
I have a few theories why the cycle is difficult to break out of but I’m sure you don’t want to hear them, so on to my present situation

Ten years ago I made a break from the city and a condition of burnout. I had money and a partner and was moving to a home… a country home that I had dreamt of my whole life, a home I had worked hard for. The only thing that was missing was a trade; my previous trade (typewriter technician) as you might expect, was no longer viable. I felt confident though that someone with my qualifications would have no problem finding a new livelihood. My wife on the other hand didn’t, and left. My dream come true was quickly becoming a nightmare.

The nightmare has continued in spite of efforts that included two dismal trips to Alberta (in search of work), several “work experience” abuses and plenty of very marginal employment. This chaotic period has left me a disheveled mess, isolated, with little will and even less ability. I am now embarrassed to apply for a job, knowing that I will probably disappoint any potential employers and this might lessen the chances of employment when my health returns! I continue to look for work in spite if this apprehension and in spite of my PPMB status!

I have endured a great deal of insidious misery these last 10 years but the internal pressure of this misery is not great enough to spit me from the hole… holding me there instead!  Many hard working people think that the poor are that way because they are lazy. . I guarantee you sir that even if that thinking were valid; my plight is not due to laziness!  I am an “A” type personality, a description given to those with (driven) hyperactive personalities, more likely workaholic than lay-about

Recently I received a visit form a Compliance Officer, a surprise visit! They wanted to come into my house and snoop around! They wanted to know how I could manage to live a life of such misery on the pittance that I was receiving as benefit, a benefit that I contributed toward most of my life! This I suspect angered them, they have since cut me off and now they are making me jump through hoops for my penance. They are being difficult at every turn; making me wait seven days for an appeal package…seven very long days when the cupboards are bare It is my suspicion that front line minions have been instructed by your office to be as difficult, cruel and brutal as possible!

It’s ironic that since this attack I have not had the wherewithal to send out a single resume! This, witch-hunt, has derailed me, screwing with what little function I have left, It has sent me into an even deeper depression and one giant step closer to the streets or possibly the asylum!

I know that I am better off than some poor souls out there, I can only imagine based on my own horrors what the less fortunate must endure, and for what; so you and your boss can build a new highway to Whistler!

It is my suspicion that you sir, need a serious lesson in humanity!
Glen Peters

The medium has the rich man’s message

The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, but it is the rich who are taking the offensive.

If you ever had the mixed pleasure of taking an Economics 101 class, you would have run into the textbook, Economics, by the economist and Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson. Samuelson had a penchant for dramatizing what his general patterns meant, and in the 1948 version of book that I used, Samuelson wrote, “If we made . . . an income pyramid out of a child’s play blocks with each layer portraying $1,000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but almost all of us would be within a yard of the ground.”

By the end of the century, Samuelson found that although there were modest alterations at the bottom, the world had changed so much the peak would be as high as Mount Everest, and we were still within a yard of the bottom.

For the 20 years following the 1948 publication of Economics, some amelioration of this deplorable, inhuman situation occurred, and some sectors of the economy climbed a few steps of the tower. This small improvement of the lot of the vast majority was largely brought about through the intervention of progressive governments and the careful creation of social programs, labour law, and minor restraints on capital.

It has been all downhill since then, as successive governments of the Reagans, Mulroneys, Thatchers, and the tyrants they supported, answered the prayers and demands of the rich, and took it all back – and then some.

The media played a role. Look at The Vancouver Sun and The Province

These governments have not been able to do it themselves. It takes a lot of propaganda to convince people they need to have their wallets picked because the rich need more money. Fortunately, they have had their economists like Milton Friedman (the man who brought you the Chilean miracle on top of the graves of the opposition, and the Russian mafia’s purchase of most of the people’s assets) to displace Samuelson’s, and Canadian-born John Kenneth Galbraith’s understanding that economics should serve a public purpose, not a private one.

And they have had to have a willing media spreading the word. George Bush has hired his own reporters (six have been “outed” so far as receiving as much as $260,000 a year to spout his policies and call them news), but most governments haven’t needed to be so forthright; the media are owned by those same people wanting cutbacks, supporting “globalization,” and rollbacks of labour law and social programs. You can’t find a decent, independent reporter on any of Canada’s business pages, and their sophomoric grasp of economics would have not got through one of Samuelson’s classes without a laugh and an ‘F.’

The attack on COPE is a prime example

Take the recent coverage of the COPE annual general meeting. Both of our so-called newspapers delighted in quoting the intemperate remarks of Councillor Fred Bass when he went a little beyond calling a spade a spade and denounced Mayor Larry Campbell for ignoring the folks who got him elected. The Vancouver Sun and The Vancouver Province knew their headlines would make it more likely that the council that had done so much for the inner city, and oppressed minorities, would have a harder time getting re-elected. The City could be returned to their owners: the developers.

The Vancouver Sun even editorialized and suggested Campbell leave “the looney left” and run as an independent. The “looney left” really had only two major complaints about their mayor: he went against majority votes and supported the Olympics and a privately-run RAV line.

Gary Lauk was once a development minister in the Barrett, NDP government, and was known to all as a right-winger in the party and the government.
Years later, he said: “I was known as a right-winger, because I was a right-winger, and I felt pretty good. But now I’m seen as being on the left, and I don’t feel very comfortable at all.”

So the time has flown. A sober, practical, inventive, and socially-concerned group of councillors finally get elected against all odds in Vancouver’s city-wide free-for all. They embark on a modest agenda of bringing some comfort to renters, some sanity to the Downtown Eastside, some rights to minorities, but most importantly, some spending priorities to transit and infrastructure. They failed to deliver on their most important goals, in part because being socially concerned is now seen as being “loony.”

New Routes (Bus drivers’ newsletter)    4 February 2005

Hold Wal-Mart Accountable

To the Editor:

The world’s largest corporation is choosing to destroy the livelihoods of nearly 200 working families rather than accept a fair and impartial settlement with workers.

Wal-Mart announced, yesterday, it was shutting down the store where workers had unionized six months earlier to have a voice on the job. Workers at the Jonquiere, Quebec store had been in negotiations with Wal-Mart the last several months, attempting to reach a fair agreement on wages and benefits.
The company pulled the plug on the store when the workers appealed to the Quebec Labor Ministry to initiate a process that would establish a wage and
benefit settlement.   

An Associated Press story put it this way: As Union [Workers] Near Win, Wal-Mart Closes Store (February 10, 2005).

The message from the world’s largest and wealthiest corporation to consumers, communities and workers worldwide is clear: Wal-Mart would rather close stores, eliminate worker’s jobs and make the entire community suffer, rather than reach an agreement with workers for fair wages and benefits.
We need your help today.  Please sign our petition to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott. Tell Mr. Scott to respect workers. Wal-Mart can’t shut down stores because it doesn’t want workers to be paid fairly.

from the UFCW website:

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