ATU Local 1587: "That Wasn't Us"

Yesterday saw the striking YRT drivers reveal a new tactic in their ongoing attack on transit users: At Richmond Hill Centre they began boarding the 99 line headed to Finch Station and occupied those buses for (I believe) the two hours a ticket normally lasts, making them difficult if not impossible for regular commuters to use. We've seen picketing every morning this week, just as the union promised, but before this nothing so aggressive as to attempt to deny service along an entire route.

Predictably, the response from riders was almost universally negative with many criticizing the union for its outrageous behaviour.

Following this I began to notice an interesting pattern in comments around the Internet. To my blog post yesterday about the occupation, a commenter using the alias YRT Driver wrote:

Please do not keep grouping all the drivers together. First off, there are 2 unions involved here.. 113 and 1587. It was Local 113 that was doing the occupy YRT movement this morning. I don't even believe that 1587 was out there today at all! Each local and each group of drivers (with each contractor) all have different demands – which I won't get into.

From a commenter named Adam posting on a CP24 story about the action yesterday:

I would just like to state that the drivers that are doing the riding strike and picketing at night even though their was already a picket during the day is the Local 113/Viva.

The YRT Drivers (Local 1587) Is not doing this. They are only picketing during the days. They did monday and Tuesday at Hill Center - though buses are detoured around there. - and they are not picketing today…

The drivers for the Local 1587 also have no clue where these people are getting the fact they want $30 an hour. they don't. [York Region CEO] Bill Fisch said for some reason - must have been full of hot air - said they wanted parity with TTC they are not. They are asking for parity around York Region.

The notion of wage parity with other GTA workers doesn't originate with Mr. Fisch; that was introduced by Local 113, as I am quite confident anyone as familiar with the strike as Adam would be aware. This is the very first time, nearly seven weeks into the strike, I've heard anyone claim the strikers are interested only in wage parity across the Region.

Incidentally, that CP24 article is itself careful to distinguish between the two locals, but there's an indication it may have been told to do so:

After staging rallies and picket lines off an on during the seven-week strike, workers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 crammed onto some YRT buses that haven't been halted by the strike…

Employees represented by ATU Local 1587 don't have any plans to picket Wednesday, officials told CP24.

Finally, this comment from a woman named Cate Cummings attached to the announcement on the Region's Facebook page that the occupation of the buses had ended:

Seems Larry Kinnear and his local 113 did another assinine thing. I know for a fact that Ray Doyle and local 1587 had nothing to do with it.

All of this stands out to me because I have so rarely seen a distinction made between the two locals in articles and comments about the strike, outside the context of negotiations with specific contractors or quotes from individuals. Yesterday it felt like I was suddenly seeing this distinction made everywhere. And while I don't know for a fact the comments above are from Local 1587 members, they don't read to me like the sort of thing a typical rider would post. (How many ordinary people affected by the strike even know there are two separate locals involved?)

Although I'm definitely reaching here, I'm tempted to think Local 1587 realized what a bad PR move the occupy stunt was yesterday and has since been trying to distance itself from it. It may be concerned about the damage Local 113 has done to the public's opinion of the strikers, or it may be worried that for some other reason the action could have an impact on negotiations with its employer. Judging from the comments by YRT Driver and Adam, it also seems interested in making sure the public realizes Local 113's demands are not its own.

Whatever the reason, if my suspicions are correct, this could be a significant event. The union is normally very careful to present a unified front—solidarity is the term they use—and throughout this strike representatives from the two locals have spoken with a unified voice. If this is changing and one local is starting to doubt the other's actions, it could signal an early end to the strike. If either local were motivated to settle with its employer early it could drastically weaken the other's case and quickly lead to service being restored everywhere.

Then again, this could turn out to be nothing. There were apparently pickets at Richmond Hill Centre and the bus yard in Vaughan again this morning, but I've heard nothing about another occupy stunt. Perhaps Local 113 simply agreed it was not a wise move and we won't hear about it again.

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