Windsor, Ontario Going to Waste
July 30, 2009 The Transformation Has Begun
Mowing, or should I say, threshing and baling of the tall grass in city parks, as well as garbage and recycling pick up has begun. It will likely take a couple of weeks before the city resumes its pre-strike look. A drive through parts of the city today reveals parks crews have tractors out to deal with three-foot high grass and have put up chain link fencing to keep people out while work is underway.
A portion of the "meadows" that materialized in parks and playing fields during the nearly 4-month old strike will be kept as public opinion indicated that a great many citizen enjoyed the more natural look. In addition, birds that had not been seen in this area for quite some time were spotted nesting in the tall grasses.
July 25, 2009
WINDSOR'S 101-DAY CITY WORKERS' STRIKE ENDED FRIDAY, JULY 24TH.
Windsorites can expect their city to start looking a little less shabby Monday when outside workers are back on the job collecting garbage and recycling, and maintaining city parks, sports fields and other recreational sites. I know my family is looking forward to not having to organize trips to the transfer stations for our garbage at home and at work, and for friends who didn't have the ability to deal with their own refuse.
City parking will no longer be free as of monday and parking tickets will once again become a necessary evil on area streets and parking lots. (I'll definitely miss that!)
On Friday, July 24th, CUPE members voted to accept the latest contract painstakingly cobbled together during lengthy mediated talks this past week. A story in today's Windsor Star provides some details:
"Retirement benefits for new municipal hires — the flashpoint in a 101-day strike — are gone under a four-year contract between the city and its 1,800 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
CUPE workers have agreed to a 6.3 per cent wage increase over the life of the agreement — annual hikes of one, 1.5, 1.8 and two per cent.
But the city gains some savings in the agreement’s first year because it will go in effect Aug. 1 and will not be retroactive to Jan. 1... ."
For the rest of the article, go to
Windsor, Ontario Going to Waste was an on-going series from the vantage point of a Windsor resident living through the outside and inside city worker strike which began in Windsor mid-April. The series began with a reporting of "Mt. Francis", a pile of trash named after the city's mayor that appeared within the first week of the strike as garbage pickup service had been curtailed.
Topographically challenged Windsor, Ontario, thought to be flatter than a pancake, now has its very own mountain – Mt. Francis – named for City of Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. And this isn't any old mountain... this mountain is actually growing on a daily basis and is serving as kind of a Mount Rushmore for what some see as mismanagement, wasteful spending and a two-tier pension plan (the haves get more, the have nots pay for the haves) by Mayor Francis and the other top dogs at City Hall.
Every day over the last week, the citizens of this fair city have been bringing offerings to Mt. Francis, located at the city's landfill and waste station, which are being welcomed with open arms by Sherpas, aka, the striking outside City of Windsor workers.
With no one to pick up their garbage or recycling, nowhere else to put it, and negotiations at a standstill, Mt. Francis is destined to become a tourist attraction and could be a boon for this auto city, hit hard by the global economic crisis and years of wasteful city spending.
Mt. Francis is no more (cleaned up by private contractors) but the strike continues. Inside city workers are on strike too, having joined the picket lines a few days after the outside workers walked off the job.
The city is saving $300,000 a day in wages, so rumor is circulating that the mayor is letting the strike continue so that he can balance his budget.
Monday, May 11, 2009, Week Four!
People are really starting to get fed up. Between the rats, the smell and the sight of piles of garbage in alleys, in parks, and in front of people's homes, tempers are wearing thin. Fortunately, the union and the city administration are finally getting to the negotiating table. Needless to say, the people of Windsor have their fingers crossed that the strike will end very soon.
Wed., May 13/09
Negotiations broke down after two days of meetings and there's no sign as to when the two sides will meet again. Some citizens are concerned about the city's water quality and beginning to stock pile bottled water as the strike has put managers in charge of water treatment. The city is finally going to set up large waste containers in key spots so people have somewhere to bring their trash. This was supposed to have been part of the city's plan at the onset of the strike.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
As the strike begins its sixth week, with no end in sight, things are starting to get even uglier in Windsor. On Monday, May 25th, Windsor city council was told by the MOE that as of Wednesday, private waste haulers will no longer be allowed to accept residential garbage. This turn of events has Mayor Eddie Francis fuming:
“We do not want to turn our neighbourhoods into garbage dumps,” said Mayor Eddie Francis following a three-hour closed-door meeting.
He described the ministry’s action as “a twisted sense of logic” and the city would immediately take legal steps to have the order reversed.
Mayor Francis went on to say that he expects more "Mt. Francis's" throughout the city if the MOE get their way.
Last week CUPE leaders and Windsor City Council met for 50 hours to come to an agreement and end the strike but talks broke off. On May 24th, I received a press release from the Windsor Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Here are excerpts from the release:
The Windsor Branch of the IWW deplores the decision made by elected representatives of Windsor’s City Council refusing to take the present negotiations with striking CUPE workers to binding arbitration.
By this decision it is now abundantly clear that the unspoken goal of the City administrations (and now the City Councilors themselves) is two-fold:
1) To break the union;
2) To increasingly privatize services for all Windsor residents.
The demands and actions of the city of Windsor CUPE workers have throughout this strike been more than moderate. The Mayor has acted in ways to try and deliberately divide worker against worker, one group of citizens against another and divide the city. City Councilors have now bought in to a viciously right-wing agenda for this community.
By deliberately prolonging the strike, continuously refusing to negotiate in good faith, the Mayor, the administration and city councilors are now hoping that Windsor residents will increasingly turn to private services and pay out of their own pockets for such services as garbage collection, clean water, maintenance of parks, etc. This, in turn, will further divide the community between the haves and the have-nots, the wealthy and the increasingly poor. This is an agenda that will destroy any sense of community and destroy the city as a city.
In 1945 city autoworkers, organized by the United Auto Workers Local 200, struck against the vicious anti-unionism of the Ford Motor Company. The Mayor of Windsor, Art Reaume, had the courage to support those workers. In the end, even that vehemently anti-union company agreed to binding arbitration. It is a shame that the Mayor of Windsor today and City Councilors could not even bring themselves to take this step. Their action has set back history more than 50 years.
on behalf of the Windsor Branch IWW
May 29, 2009
Still no end in sight to strike. Local festivals will begin in a couple of weeks and there is much concern about the unsightly condition of area parks and public gardens which have two foot high weeds instead of grass. Some fed up local citizens are taking matters into their own hands and are picking up litter and cutting the grass themselves, much to the chagrin of the strikers. It is suspected that strikers are sabotaging efforts by scabs to do their jobs and have placed wire in the grass in Willistead Park, the site of the annual Art in the Park on the first weekend of June. (See my story: http://my.nowpublic.com/world/residents-cross-picket-line-mow-windsor-park)
Yesterday, I noticed an interesting story in The Windsor Star by writer Dalson Chen for his column, "Gonzo Chronicle" where he compares what's happening in Windsor to a Simpsons' cartoon. Thought i'd share it here:
We're a cartoon in the making BY DALSON CHEN, THE WINDSOR STARMAY 28, 2009
Through my wisdom, experience and many years of television watching, I have hit upon a useful insight about our community: Stuff that happens in Windsor would make a great Simpsons episode.
You think I jest. I jest you not. Indeed, I have previously written here in serious manner of my fulsome love of The Simpsons (best cartoon in the universe, bar none, forever, times infinity).
What you need to appreciate is that The Simpsons is not just a show about bug-eyed yellow-skinned buffoons. It's a show about community. Families, homes, jobs, church, government, taxes, public services, even media.
Just imagine what fun the show's writers would have with the doings a-transpirin' these past weeks in Windsor.
Take the canal project debacle. So like Springfield's various ambitious yet poorly handled municipal undertakings. Who can forget the Springfield monorail? I half wish Windsor's government would operate the same way as Springfield's -- one big town hall meeting where everybody just shouts what to do. We could even come up with a song. "Downtown canal, downtown canal."
"And that was the only folly the people of Windsor ever embarked upon," Marge would say later. "Except for the popsicle stick skyscraper. And the Canderel building."
Or take the Spitfires and their historic championship season -- without a doubt, an inspiring sports story. But the unofficial downtown victory parade last Sunday night? Ripe for a cartoon send-up.
People turned the streets into a parking lot and honked their horns for three hours straight as they basked in reflected glory.
It all brought to mind Homer's sweaty celebrations when Springfield's baseball team, the Isotopes, made it to their big game. "It's a great team, Kent. We never gave up hope. I wanna thank Jesus, and say hi to my special lady Marge. We did it, baby! Wooo!"
But the best storyline yet, the one that spews satiric potential from every orifice, is the city worker strike.
It's got it all. A besieged mayor. Belligerent unions. Growing garbage heaps. Failed negotiations, sabotage claims, name-calling, middle fingers. Comedic gold!
When A Channel aired that video of an apparent CUPE member tearing open a bag o' trash and kicking its contents over park property -- I guffawed like I was watching Homer himself.
Haven't seen it yet? Someone has helpfully posted it on YouTube. Just put "CUPE striker dumps" in the search box and it'll come up.
The wrathful yet rotund demonstrator is practically a cartoon already: built like a Weeble.
I'm not one to mock people for their weight, but watching her unsteadily boot at the refuse she just deposited on the grass -- the visual humour is undeniable. D'oh!
You could say I'm trivializing important community issues. But sometimes all you can do is laugh. I'm seriously eager to see what happens next.
Pretty soon, the theme music will be stuck in your head, too: "Dun, dun dun da-dun, dun dun, da-dun-dun-dun-dun."
June 15/09 Week 9 of Strike
Both sides are heading back to the bargaining table tomorrow and hopes are high that this will finally be it: the strikers will go back to work. One of the main stumbling points has been the union's position on benefits for retirees. The city's stand is that they can't afford them now or in the future due to the state of the economy. According to city councilor Fulvio Valentinis, Windsor and Vaughn or the only two Ontario municipalities that provide full coverage of retiree benefits. From today's Windsor Star:
"The City of Windsor as of the end of 2008 faces $291.1 million in accumulated retirement benefit costs as noted in an actuarial report by Mercer, an outside consultant, said Helga Reidel, the city's general manager of corporate services and one of its chief negotiators.
That figure reflects lifetime costs the city is facing for retiree benefits for its current employees and retirees. With skyrocketing medical and drug costs and people living longer, that number will keep growing. Some estimates show another $100 million will be added to that figure within a decade.
'It's not just a number on a piece of paper, but actual dollars the city will have to pay out in the future,' Reidel said."
Cupe strikers did not picket during this past weekend's successful Red Bull Air Races held for the first time in Windsor. See my story:
Sat. June 20, 2009
Despite some optimism that the end was near, talks between union leaders and city hall broke down this week after marathon negotiations. The strike could drag on for another month or more.
Carny workers and CUPE picketers clashed over garbage June 25th. The strikers were upset that carnies were cleaning up trash on the site of Windsor's Summerfest carnival area. In addition, it has been established that Windsor city hall hired security guards for "hot spots” such as the garbage drop off sites and the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant.
Article in Windsor Star, June 29, 2009 reporting on the Google Street View car being spotted taking shots of the city in all its glory. Many interesting comments from readers following the story. Here's part of the article:
"Windsor’s mountains of trash and weed-riddled parks will be preserved for all the world to see, thanks to the technology of Google.
The Google Street View car has been cruising the streets of the city, taking a steady stream of photos which will be posted to the California-based company’s global mapping website. The Street View feature allows website visitors to take a virtual stroll in the neighbourhoods that have been photographed."
To read the rest of the article, see the link below.
July 2, 2009: Week 12 is well underway and still no light at the end of the tunnel. I read in the local paper about some new trash mountains forming at the entrance to the CUPE union headquarters in Windsor. The garbage has been piled there by the union members; it apparently originated in the union office and their are youtube videos showing strikers adding to it from their cars. I decided to go have a look today and take some photos of the mess. For more on the story, here's a link to the Windsor Star website:
Strike Update: July 8, 2009
Week 13, When Will It End!??
How much more can Windsorites take? The city of Windsor inside and outside workers' strike is now in its 13th week and people are getting so frustrated they are picketing the picketers!! The latest trash mountain I reported on last week is still growing and neighbors are most upset because it's a messy, smelly eyesore. A couple of days ago, two women began picketing on the sidewalk in front of the trash which is situated at the entrance to the Union headquarters on a busy residential street. Jean Fox, the head of the inside workers union, attempted to give the women a "do not trespass" warning but the women said they were on public property and therefore were not trespassing. Since the story was reported in the local press, more people have come out to join the citizen picketers.
Yesterday, the local health unit ordered the mess to be cleaned up – again. An earlier request was misinterpreted. Here is the link to the story on windsorstar.com:
Strike Update July 10, 2009
After two days of talks, there is still no resolution to the strike. CUPE, representing the inside and outside striking city workers wants Windsor city council to vote re the outcome of the negotiations at Monday's city council meeting. So Windsorites have to wait three more days to learn if things will be returning to "normal" in Windsor.
July 17, 2009
CUPE SAID NO to city's offer yesterday. Strike continues. Windsorites continue to battle rats, snakes and other varmints attracted to the garbage and unmown city parks and pray strike ends before the snow flies.
July 22, 2009
CUPE and City of Windsor reps pulled an all nighter in an effort to produce a deal but failed. At 4:45 a.m., everyone went home home to recuperate. Talks to resume today at 2 p.m.
After nearly four months, Windsorites' spirits are up that both sides are close to making a deal and their city will return to "normal." Will their hopes be dashed?? Stay tuned....
For more articles and photos go to:
For more on the city of Windsor inside and outside workers' strike plus photos go to:
http://tomlucier.com/?p=610 (Garbage Strike Reflection)