My Carpenter is in the third week of a union strike, in conjunction with other construction trades in Toronto. Hopefully, by the time you read this, his union will follow suit with the operators and labour unions who have settled, and everyone can get back to work.
Despite a provincial election, the strike has not received much attention in the big city news cycles and was only briefly mentioned in the televised leadership debate last week. People in hard hats make for great photo ops and yet, these strikes have received little more than a sound bite.
Strange. They were deemed essential workers during the pandemic. During the height of that nightmare, my Carpenter was building an Amazon warehouse. Essential, indeed. Then it was the LRT tunnels, because transit is essential. Sure, trades people were grateful for the work, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t it ironic who was essential in the dark days, but less so during an election, even when campaigns are built on transit, job creation and affordable housing? Never mind, I have enough nurse friends to know the answer.
My Carpenter is a union guy in so much as it offers him a pension, benefits and an income that ensures he is fairly reciprocated for the work he does, yet in his 34 years he’s avoided the politics. He doesn’t want to fight to work. He doesn’t want a strike. But the two-hour commute each way, with the cost of gas and parking in downtown Toronto? It comes at a cost.
In the three weeks of my spouse’s forced idleness, I’ve seen his stress reduced just from not commuting. The pain he lives with from the hardness of his career on his body has rescinded. His humour and easy-going attitude have brought back much missed kitchen dances. He needed the break. He really did.
Perhaps that made me too hopeful, but I saw the strike as a pause that maybe, just maybe, would inspire him to change his career.
It’s not realistic, though. Weeks without his income have been unsettling. You don’t know how close you live to the line, until you’re standing on it. Strike pay is a joke.
In our lifetime together, I’ve never been the breadwinner, but for what I pray will be a brief time, that’s now my role – only I’m less breadwinner and more crouton contributor. So, while I’m fine with eating salad, on my budget there will be no bacon bits. He can’t argue.
Yet worry is pointless and the only cure for it is action, so I did what I thought was best: I sold him out. Yep. I posted “Carpenter for hire” on social media and claimed 50% commission off the top. What? I’m his agent. That’s my cut. He requires a great deal of management, you know.
Nobody seemed to mind, so long as he could build them a deck. He now has a waiting list should he not return to work soon. Incentive.
We’ll see what the next round of union negotiations brings. And while I hoped this would be a time for change, I am reminded my Carpenter takes great pride in his trade and I respect that.
Meantime, he appreciates my crouton contributions and my humour. We’ll negotiate my cut later.