Against careerism: A postal worker speaks out

by Mike Palecek
National Union Representative, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

In 2012, CUPW ratified a collective agreement (under duress) that contained massive and historic concessions. The contract passed with only 56 percent of the vote. There was a large range of views and a heated debate about the best way to move forward. Before I announced my opposition to the proposed contract, I shared my opinion with a number of people and was told several times “That could be bad for your career.”

For me this was puzzling. I’m a letter carrier. That’s my career. From my perspective, what was bad for my career was that collective agreement.

Now, as Hassan Husseini launches his campaign for President of the Canadian Labour Congress, different activists from across the labour movement are telling me the same story. They are being told supporting Hassan might be bad for their careers. Again, this logic is puzzling to me. What is bad for my career is having a central labour body that is focused more on lobbying than fighting. What is bad for my career is having a labour movement that is more reliant on electoral politics than workers’ struggles.

But what is really bad for my career as a postal worker, and what is bad for the career of every worker in this country, is having a labour movement that is not conducive to a vibrant and sometimes heated debate. Having a labour movement where people are warned of consequences for expressing a different opinion, or challenging the status quo in a democratic process. What is bad for the career of every worker in this country, is having a labour movement where people are more concerned about the trajectory of their careers than the trajectory of the movement.

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3 thoughts on “Against careerism: A postal worker speaks out

  1. Mike Palecek nails it. We have to have open and honest debate about ideas and strategy. Labour obscures this. The last CLC convention had a mere 9 1/2 hours of stage managed debate at a time of deep crisis. The executive report saw a photo of a very deferent looking CLC President shaking hands with Steven Harper. That convention saw us lectured to by such class warriors as Ian Hanomansing and Wendy Mesley. For delegates it’s like being in church. Possibilities are great though.

  2. Since the introduction of the Rand Formula in Ontario and similar legal frame works to control labour militancy in other provinces, organized labour in Canada has been on a slow decline.
    It has become a bureaucratic ossified structure focused on electoral politics (electing the NDP) and stifling any attempts at workers’ militancy.
    The purging of socialists, communists, Communists, etc in the 1940s and 1950s played an important role in this effort.
    Today organized labour is in a dismal state evidenced by its focusing on organizing by “facebook”, “twitter”, robocalls, email blasts, etc.
    Most elected leaders are class collaborators.
    It’ll likely get worse before it gets better.

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