Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gathering Place: Are staff being hired based on sexual orientation?

Are staff at the Gathering Place being hired based on sexual orientation rather than on their ability to do the job?

I have never set foot in the Gathering Place, a centre downtown which was modelled on Carnegie Centre, and set up by a former Carnegie Director, Diane Mckenzie.  It has more young people amongst its clientele than Carnegie though.  And it caters to many homeless and street people, a population that is predominantly male.

One would think that a primary criterion for getting hired at GP  would be to have a comfort level with the clientele.  But men who use the Centre are resentful about the contempt they're encountering there.   One man who regularly goes to GP  was telling me about a lesbian staffer. "She says "womyn" not "women", and when I talk to her she won't look me in the eye.  She doesn't want to look me in the eye because I'm a man".
Another man who uses the GP says that a butch lesbian who works there is gruff and hardened in the way she speaks to people when she's clearing out the dining area.  Like she thinks that getting paid over $20 hr. to work with the poor, is a license to treat them with disrespect.  These complaints aren't coming from women, all are from men.

These guys don't sit around gay bashing.  They don't care if a gay or lesbian gets hired, as long as they're qualified.  But they believe that the over representation of gays and lesbians on staff at GP is an indication that somebody is getting their friends hired.  They listed off all of the employees who were lesbian or gay.  One guy explained that to get a job with a City of Vancouver, people used to say that you had to have a relative working there.  Now it seems as if your sexual orientation can get your foot in the door.  (Having a relative can still help though.  Skip Everall at Carnegie reportedly hired his son to work under him.)

Hiring based on sexual orientation rather than merit damaged Ray Cam Community Centre when it opened it's doors years ago to cater to the youth in the social housing next door, a real ghetto.  The staff was predominantly white lesbians, most of whom had terrible people skills.  They were supposed to be offering  role modelling to the youth, many of whom were native, hispanic, and black males.  A few years later, I ran into a guy who used to lift weights there and he told me how great it was at Ray Cam now and I should drop by.  I told him that I had long ago stopped going there because the lesbians treated me like I was subhuman.  He knew instantly what I was talking about and said, "Oh, they got rid of that group".

I'm wondering if the City has shifted it's old Ray Cam hiring practices to the GP.  These practices are one step removed from a casting couch.

One thing that all the men sitting talking to me about GP agreed on was that, "The staff there have eeeeeasy jobs."  One guy qualified that assessment by noting that the woman who works in the laundry does work for her pay.  Anyone can take their laundry there and get it done for free.

One thing I noticed when sitting with these guys is that they feel the same powerlessness at GP as people at Carnegie Centre.  They knew that taking any kind of stand in the face of staff mistreatment would get them  nowhere because CUPE -- Cover Up for Poor Employees -- would cover asses.  And these guys don't read blogs.

Pivot Loses File of Downtown Eastside Man Allegedly Assaulted by Concord Security Guards

Doug King, a Pivot lawyer, has just announced that he is representing three low income men suing Fusion Security for allegedly brutally attacking them at Harbour Centre mall.  Security guards allegedly took the men to an area with no security cameras and beat them
Hopefully Pivot can keep track of the file.

Pivot lost the file of "J", a Downtown Eastsider who they were representing in a law suit against Concord security guards at Metrotown Mall.  "J." was brutally assaulted by the guards.  He had been out in Surrey working casual on the night shift in a warehouse -- topping up his welfare; he's allowed to legally earn $500.  When he got off in the morning, he went for a couple of beer with a co-worker and then went to the company office at  Metrotown mall to pick up his cheque.  He made the mistake of chatting to a security guard who may have smelled the beer on his breath.  The guard told him to leave the premises, which "J." did.  J walked quite a distance to a small park, thinking he was off the premises, only to hear a guard order another guard to jump him.  J's nose and teeth were broken and he had a long scab down the front of his nose.  He now wears dentures.  There were credible witnesses to the assault, people who had been walking by and yelled at the guard to stop.  An ambulance came but J. didn't use it.

King took the case.  He told J. he was optimistic about getting a settlement.

When J.A. phoned King for an update, he said the security firm was not being cooperative.  But Pivot had the police report and the witness statements.  King later announced that he was leaving the country for a year and he would pass the file on to another lawyer at Pivot.  The woman who was supposed to inherit the file at Pivot then told "J" that the file had been lost.

"J" phoned back several times to get an update but didn't get a response.

Where did all of this confidential personal information -- forms had been filled out at Pivot -- about "J"end up?  Did somebody leave it on lunch counter at Waves?  The statute of limitations on the case has now expired.

On their website, Pivot states that in talking to Downtown Eastside residents, "[W]e’ve heard a lot of stories about harassment and abuse by private security guards, and after hearing several similar stories about negative interactions between private security guards at Harbour Centre from both mall employees and low-income people, we knew we needed to take action on this case."

Myself and other contributors to this site support Pivot's decision to sue Fusion.  But the same stories abound about public security guards at Carnegie and other organizations on the Downtown Eastside.  Pivot doesn't even mention them.  It's almost as if public sector unions pay protection money so that Pivot will look the other way.  I wonder how much Pivot gets in donations from unions.

I wonder if Fusion could add to their defense the fact that Pivot is advertising for residents to bring them cases about private security guards, and demonstrating blatant bias by giving a wink 'n a nod to abuses by public security guards in the same neighbourhood.  Pivot activist-lawyers put up posters throughout the Downtown Eastside, even on the walls of Carnegie Centre just feet from where public security guards routinely verbally or physically abuse the poor, encouraging people to give them cases against private security guards.  ["J" never reads posters; he has complained in the past about missing events because he never reads posters.]  Maybe Fusion will have the money to expose Pivot biases because Downtown Eastsiders don't.