Can Canada’s mail carriers be trusted to deliver the mail to Israel’s embassy in Ottawa, its consulate in Toronto, or any other location affiliated with the Jewish state?
It’s a valid question: At its national convention earlier this month, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers passed a resolution that included the following provision: “CUPW will … support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.”
I’m no labour expert. But doesn’t this mean that a mailman who, say, slips the new Eddie Bauer catalog through the mail slot at 180 Bloor Street West here in Toronto would be violating union rules?
Of course, Western labour unions pass “boycott” resolutions against Israel all the time, and nothing ever comes of them. Our cell phones, computers and supermarkets are full of gizmos developed in Israeli science labs. Your average Canadian Union of Public Employees hothead may enjoy the symbolic thrill of bashing Israel at a union convention, but no one seriously expects him to go home and throw out his Xbox in solidarity with Hamas.
But — by the nature of their jobs — letter carriers are to be taken a little but more seriously: Once the mail goes into their satchels, it’s hard to track. If some of it winds up down a sewer grate instead of through the mail slot, who’s to know?
Should anyone wonder why unions are becoming irrelevant? CUPW purports to represent 54,000 workers in an industry beleaguered by competition from the Internet and professionally run (non-union) courier services. Does it serve the interests of CUPW’s members to announce an official policy of discrimination against a particular country — a country that, aside from being a democratic Western ally also happens to be an active Canadian trade partner and a member of the Universal Postal Union? If you have something to send to Tel Aviv, would this new information make you more or less likely to use Canada Post?
Click around www.cupw.ca, and you’ll find the nonsense isn’t confined to the Israel file: Two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, the site reads like a catalog of communist clichés and anti-capitalist paranoia.
Of particular interest is a 30-page committee report on the union’s “International Solidarity Work” — prepared especially for this month’s national convention — which comprises a lengthy rant against “neo-globalization” in all its evil variants. Interspered among the agitprop are reports of CUPW junkets to South American sun spots, where committee members went to “forge solidarity links” with their local “brothers” (yes, they actually use that term). The (presumably well-tanned) authors rail against free trade in general, and especially the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (a plot led by the continent’s “most powerful neo-liberal corporate elite”).
Along with a ritual denunciation of Israel’s “Apartheid wall,” the document calls “for an immediate end” to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: “The so-called ‘war on terror,’” the authors write, “has become nothing less than a war on human rights.” There is also a reiteration of a bizarre 2001-era conspiracy theory that the war in Afghanistan “is deeply connected to a privatization and energy resource agenda.”
Even as the authors purport to champion “human rights,” they have nothing but obsequious words for the policies of Hugo Chavez, the left-wing dictator who is destroying Venezuela — or as CUPW refers to the nation, “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” There is similarly loving talk of CUPW’s counterparts in Raul Castro’s prison state: “CUPW sees its relationship with Cuban workers as one which opposes the attempts … to re-impose the capitalist economic system and colonial subjugation so decisively rejected by the Cuban revolution.” (Recall, please, that Cuba is a country where anyone attempting to form a genuinely independent CUPW-style union would get thrown into jail.)
What makes all of this claptrap especially revolting is that it serves to discredit the very people who pay for all these CUPW junkets out of their union dues: rank-and-file postal workers. The letter carriers I’ve met are perfectly decent, hard-working chaps. But from reading the CUPW web site, one would think they were all campus revolutionaries who sat around smoking cigarillos and plotting the glorious revolución. If the world’s “most powerful neo-liberal corporate elite” had conspired to make the union movement look obsolete and self-defeating, they would have been hard-pressed to come up with a better tactic.
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