Radio — An unusual local and an unusual lockout?

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Saira Chhibber talks about Local 1281 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and about a long but recently ended lockout experienced by some of their members.

We are living in a time of generalized attacks on unions and workers, both in the context of specific workplaces and by right-wing and neoliberal political parties and governments. At the same time, every instance of struggle around these attacks happens in a specific context, to specific groups of workers, facing very specific challenges and opportunities. Local 1281 of CUPE is in some ways a little bit peculiar, as union locals go. It is a composite local that represents people in many small workplaces across southern Ontario, with a particular presence in not-for-profit and social justice-oriented workplaces. Between October 1 of last year and February 28 this year, the four CUPE 1281 members who are staff at the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson Univeristy (or CESAR) were locked out by their employer. The union and the workers remain somewhat mystified by why this lockout happened — it is quite unprecedented across the many workplaces in which members of the local work — and the fact that it did happen seems in part due to some fairly quriky decision-making by the employer. Despite that, though, the union has worked hard all along to make it clear that even given these very local and specific features to the lockout, it was also part of this larger pattern of attacks faced by many different unions and many different workers.

Chhibber is the president of CUPE 1281. We had originally hoped to include at least one of the CESAR workers in the conversation as well, but as it turned out, the same day that we had planned to do the interview ended up being the day that the oddly uncertain and protracted back-to-work process for the locked out workers finally came to a resolution. They got, at long last, to return to their jobs, so they weren’t available to talk to me. But Chhibber generously talked about both the local as a whole and about the long, difficult struggle of the CESAR workers.

For more information about CUPE Local 1281, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.

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Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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