Letter from Campbellford: a strike diary

Members of the Local 316 bargaining team hold OPSEU Developmental Services flag and give thumbs-up.

OPSEU staff representative Richard Bradley wrote the following report as members of OPSEU Local 316 began their third day on strike against Community Living Campbellford/Brighton.

Friday, March 24, 8:20 a.m.

The forecast for the weather in Campbellford this morning may be one with cold snow and plenty of rain, some of it freezing, but the plan today will be to continue making the employer feel the heat and humility.

The state of this union local is strong!

Yesterday, lines ran at five locations with the goal of continuing a combination of visibility, flexibility, and maximum pressure.

The established and maintained picket line access/egress protocol is 10 minutes’ wait, in or out, per person in a vehicle, on foot, or slithering like snakes – all are treated the same. The police were called to our Cobourg line yesterday when four scabs were given the picket line access/egress protocol and did not understand that they could go in one every 10 minutes until the last one was let in at the 40 minute mark. The police supported our reasonable arrangements and left.

Also in Cobourg, the neighbour across the road, who happens to be a chaplain of some sort, has left his home open for picketers to have a free access to washroom facilities. Yesterday, the line presented him with a thank you gift as their scab bosses looked on through the windows. Scabs are delivered often from the back door of vans bundled and wrapped so they are not readily identifiable.

Members of OPSEU Local 316 with OPSEU staff representative Richard Bradley (back right): Back row, left to right: Marie Kerr, Courtney Huycke, Ryan Yarrow, Leslie Coles, Richard Bradley. Front, left to right: Nicole Vander Veur and Shawn Devries.

Emotions for many pickets run high as they see their friends and often previous union brothers and sisters that moved into management go in to do their work.

But remembering that our members live and work in this community, and that the most vulnerable people here thrive because of them, the community is showing immense support for the strikers. This community continues to show its support each and every day, with the horn honks, the coffee, the donuts, the cookies, and some hugs. And they are listening to the message. They understand why these workers are on the picket line. The local police have also been bringing their share of the hot Tim Hortons cups – it seems they patrol there often!

Folks from the We Own It! campaign came by yesterday. The We Own It! hats are the item that everyone now desires for messaging and warmth, so please bring more on Monday!

Much of today, members will be prepping for Monday’s rally and our invited guests. The goal is to have enough signs for everyone to hold one at the rally. Other activities will also include pulling photos and videos from phones and sharing them on social media, as well as sharing the rally poster with friends and local media. 

We are also hoping to see a variety of stories from the lines, and testimonials about our members’ dedication to their work and the people they support in this community. Some of those stories, without names, will be posted throughout the day.

The OPSEU Region 3 van is now on site as you may have noticed from some of the photos from yesterday. The van was taken to all picket locations and provided a huge boost to the already strong lines. 

I am not sure that everyone out here understands the kind of solidarity and support that is going to manifest itself on Monday is this small town, but I doubt many will ever forget it.

The snow started around 6:30 a.m., and now it sounds like ice pellets on the strike headquarters’ window. The roads are not good, and we are encouraging everyone to avoid driving until such time as it is safe. Early in our day yesterday, Local 316 vice-president Leslie Coles and I began our mission to Oshawa, combined with daycare duties as we brought along with us Ruby, picket captain Marie’s daughter. Ruby sang her favourite song to us from her booster seat in the back.

I shall never feel the same way when I hear “Country Roads” again.

The roads are very slippery in town and it is raining, but I believe at least two lines are already up and running in spite of it all. I can’t say enough about the solidarity that I have seen from the local leadership, the bargaining team, and everyone out on the lines. We have no reports of Local 316 members crossing the lines and it certainly feels like 111 per cent participation.

Look forward to seeing many of you on Monday at the rally. I am not sure the employer would agree. Our message to the employer remains, “we will see you next Tuesday at the bargaining table.”

In absolute, unwavering, solidarity forever,

Richard Bradley
From the OPSEU Local 316 Strike Headquarters