Saturday, May 29, 2010

"We're fuckin' closed!": Courtesy of a Carnegie Cafeteria Cashier

Message from Dan Tetrault of the City of Vancouver: a man can abuse a woman at Carnegie and it's not a problem.

The attitude of Carnegie management is that we won't talk about abuse, we'll keep it quiet, keep it in the "family" -- successive Carnegie managements have actually referred to Carnegie members they are regularly stripping of human rights as "family".

A couple of months ago, I asked a Carnegie member if anything had come of her complaint about verbal abuse by a Carnegie cashier. "Nothing," she said. Unless something has been done since I last talked to her, the one year anniversary of the City stalling on that complaint is just around the corner.

The incident with the cashier occurred at the beginning of a long weekend last year. The Carnegie member walked into the cafeteria, the door was open; it wasn't closing time, but she had no way of knowing that staff were closing so that they could presumably sneak out early. A relatively new cashier, Brent, marched up to her and barked, "We're fuckin' closed!"

Since abuse by staff was becoming a recurring problem, she reported the incident to a security guard and asked that he ensure it not happen again. The security guard was new on the job and he was considering writing up an Incident Report. He opened up the black binder on the front desk where Incident Reports are filed, when Head of Security Skip Everall, came along and intervened.

Everall held the huge black security binder in the air -- it's attached to the front desk with a chain -- and slammed it shut by the ear of the female member. (She has become accustomed to physical aggression from Everall. Last summer, she walked by his office where he was on the phone and he got up and slammed the plate glass door closed.) Later, as she talked to Everall at his offfice, he scolded her for making a complaint to a security guard about Brent. "You shouldn't be talking to security about him!", he told her. She responded that if a man walks up to her and curses in her face, she had every right to talk to a security guard.

Everall told her that a complaint about staff must not be mentioned to a security guard, that it could only be heard by a bureaucrat, Dan Tetrault. Tetrault, the Asst. Director on the third floor, has a reputation for covering for fellow CUPE members. He after all stood on picket lines with them during the last strike. It's a situation of gross conflict of interest. I have never known one complainant who got a satisfactory result.

Further, to talk to Tetrault about a complaint, a complainant might have to wait days for him to come to work, especially if the abuse occurs on a weekend -- Carnegie is open 7 days a week -- or, in this case, at the beginning of a long weekend.

The female Carnegie member put her complaint in writing, got Everall to initial her copy, and got a verbal promise that he would pass it on to Tetrault. She was fair in the complaint, saying that this was the first time he had been rude to her. (She believes he was motivated by the fact that she had raised concerns about another staff person's conduct. It is common for CUPE members at Carnegie to mistreat people who have complained about one of their fellow CUPE members.)

Tetrault has never responded to that complaint. It disappeared into thin air. The anniversary of it's disappearance is coming up.

Tetrault's suppression of that complaint about verbal abuse by Brent, must be contrasted with his past conduct. Tetrault previously demonstrated that he supports the use of the draconian tactic of "barring" as a means of teaching a woman the lesson that raising her voice to an abusive man to tell him that she is tired of his abuse -- she talked back to Devor, the coffee seller, "Coffee Nazi", in the Seniors Lounge who yells at hundreds of people a year -- is not an acceptable response, even if he is yelling at her at the top of his lungs.

By not dealing with the abuse complaint, Tetrault sent the wrong message to Brent. Brent has been rude to her every time she has attempted to use the cafeteria since. City Manager Penny Ballem was told about Brent's conduct and the fact that it was part of a pattern of retaliation (which has more recently included assault) to deter members from raising concerns about staff. Ballem did nothing, except pass the buck to Brenda Procten who in turn did nothing.

Total bill: half a million dollars in salaries for these people.

Engulfed in Golf

I watched the Gulf oil spill out of the corner of my eye for the first few weeks, avoiding looking directly at so much harm being done. Then last week, with the spill going on and on and on, I started to look at some of the coverage.

I watched a YouTube video of Bobby Jindal talking about how the federal government wasn't giving Louisiana nearly enough boom to protect their coastline. And Jindal was waiting week after week for the Feds to give permission to build islands to protect the coast. I thought of all the money sunk into Iraq every day and Obama this month promising a billion to the Mexican President, yet the people of Louisiana seemed to be being shortchanged.

"Can Obama be this politically stupid?", I thought. Am I missing something? Why isn't he doing more. He could be bringing in boom from all over the continent, even British Columbia if need be. He doesn't seem to sense the urgency of the situation.

I imagined if Sarah Palin were President, she'd go down there with her fisherman husband and the two them would be living on a houseboat until this thing was fixed. She'd be mixing with the family of the killed workers and she'd be talking to them like those deaths meant something. Obama doesn't do that; he's coming across like a detached preppy kid who was raised, as Mordecai Richler once said of his own sons, "with too much privilege".

It will be a decade before I'll eat any seafood from that Gulf region. I was listening to Coast to Coast a few nights ago and Howard Bloom was interviewd -- he comments on science and space exploration issues -- about the oil dispersant being used by BP in this spill. He said that dispersant was so toxic that after the Exon-Valdez spill, Alaska announced they would never use it there again. In fact, Bloom said, it was banned in the U.S. by the FDA. The ban was lifted on May 2 of this year. I felt exasperated that hundreds of thousands of gallons of that poison were being dumped in the water by BP. And maybe it wasn't even necessary.

It sounded to me like the dispersant was partly a political ploy. Bloom said that all it succeeded in doing was ensuring that the oil wasn't visible, that it didn't surface. The result, he said, was a massive accumulation of oil under water. I wonder if it would be better to let it surface and then suck it up. But Obama doesn't have the tankers there to do the job, unlike the Saudis who used an American company, WOW Environmental Solutions, to suck up oil spills with tankers and super tankers.

I was talking to a guy at Carnegie last night about the machines that actor Kevin Costner helped finance the development of, machines that can clean up oil spills by using centrifuge to separate the oil and water, spewing out water that's 97% clean on one side and oil that can be salvaged on the other side. The guy at Carnegie has worked for an environmental clean-up company and he knew about that process, but he didn't seem worried about the effect of the oil spill on the coastline.

He said that was not a pristine coastline to begin with, that environmentalists have been complaining about agricultural run-off from Mississippi poisoning it. He also told me that in Alaska, they found that the areas that did best after the spill were those that had not been cleaned up, areas where the bacteria had been allowed to work on the oil. I don't know what to think.

Today I saw a video of a fisherman out on the water. He dipped a bucket into the water and showed the greasy thickness of it. He was talking about the fish banging up against his boat, out of their heads jumping and lurching trying to get enough air to survive.

I was relieved today to see a YouTube video of James Carville, a spin-doctor under Clinton, forgetting about spin and speaking the truth about Obama's utter "political stupidity". Carville grew up in Louisiana, in a place named Carville after his grandfather, and demanded that Obama get "down here" and get on top of this thing.

I thought of comments a former preppy buddy of Obama's made last year. This guy had gone to an expensive private school with Obama in Hawaii. He knew him as "Barry" and had lost touch with him, but recognized him when he turned up as a presidential candidate. He mentioned Obama's lack of work ethic. He said he and Obama would go surfing everyday after school and hadn't done much homework. He said they had done the work assigned to them, but just enough to get by.

You can still see that "just enough" trait in Obama. During his brief experience in government before running for President, he had a record of simply showing up and voting, "Present" on serious issues that he should have done some homework on. And now, as the biggest environmental calamity in U.S. history unfolds, Obama doesn't even show up much; he showed up yesterday after Carville made such a fuss on television that he had to put in an appearance. Obama's preference isn't surfing now though. He was photographed golfing.