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Posties take Uber to court
CUPW, representing Gig Workers United, alleges the company reached an agreement with UFCW over workers' heads
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has filed an unfair labour practices complaint against Uber for its backroom dealings with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which it alleges has violated workers’ right to choose their own union representation.
CUPW filed the complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Sept. 15 on behalf of Gig Workers United, which seeks to unionize app-based delivery workers under CUPW’s aegis.
Brice Sopher, a Toronto-based Gig Workers United organizer and Uber Eats courier, told me Uber has interfered in the organizing process by giving UFCW preferential treatment and entering into an agreement with them over workers’ heads.
“It’s a preemptive effort to try to stop the inevitable organizing of workers of Uber and other gig economy companies,” Sopher said of the Uber-UFCW alliance.
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In January, Uber and UFCW announced they had reached an agreement for UFCW to represent workers without anyone having to pay union dues — a bit of a red flag. The full details of the agreement have never been disclosed to the membership, Sopher observed.
The crux of the complaint is that Uber gave workers’ information to UFCW, but when CUPW requested the same information they were rebuffed, demonstrating Uber’s preference for a union that was willing to play by its rules.
In an email to the Globe and Mail, Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang denied Uber gave workers’ contact information to UFCW at all, but admitted UFCW communicates with Uber’s workforce exclusively through the company’s communication channels.
A successful complaint will set a precedent that gig workers — not their employers — have a right to select their own union, Sopher added.
As first reported by Globe reporter Vanmala Subramaniam, Uber and UFCW collaborated to influence Ontario’s Digital Platform Workers’ Rights Act so that gig workers would maintain their “independent contractor” status and not be classified as full-blown employees.
Sopher said Uber knows Gig Workers United is trying to organize its workforce, so the agreement with UFCW was an effort to sow confusion.
Many workers who Sopher has asked to sign a union card since the UFCW deal was struck were under the impression they were already unionized.
“They don't realize that this is a kind of simulacra of a union. It's an old-timey, fake western town of a union, where it's all the appearance of protection. It's a feeling of representation, but there is no real representation that's happening,” he explained.
Gig workers are entitled to the same rights as any other worker and anything that falls short of that is unacceptable, said Sopher:
It's 100% and that's it, full stop. Uber is trying to lower that. Uber is trying to take us down to 50%, 20%. There's no limit. If we cede any ground, that is the end, so we will fight for 100%, and we will never stop. All it really does is focus us on the fact that we have to organize even harder than ever before.
Meanwhile, a class action suit arguing Uber workers have been misclassified as independent contractors is making its way through Ontario’s courts after receiving a judge’s approval in August 2021.
If you’re interested in reading more about the ramifications of the Uber-UFCW arrangement, I’ve got a new piece in The Breach which takes a broader look at the deal’s shortcomings and how it motivated Gig Workers United to heighten its organizing efforts.
Feds won’t deny CSIS agent who helped schoolgirls join ISIL is back in Canada
A CSIS operative who helped British schoolgirls enter Syria to join ISIL has been released from a Turkish prison, but the federal government won’t say whether he’s in Canada or not, the Globe and Mail reports.
Mohammed al-Rashed was reportedly released from prison on Aug. 5, after spending the past seven years behind bars on terrorism and smuggling charges. He reportedly told Turkish authorities Canada had promised him asylum.
“For obvious reasons we don’t want elected officials commenting on operations. I would leave it at that,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino told the Globe. “Operational questions are best put to the service.”
CSIS spokesperson Brandon Champagne was similarly secretive, citing the need “to maintain the integrity of operations.”
Author Richard Kerbaj, whose book The Secret History of the Five Eyes revealed al-Rashed’s role as a double-agent, said it makes sense that Canada would provide him asylum. “You always try to protect your sources and your agents and you don’t abandon them,” Kerbaj said.
Read the full story here.
In other news …
Alberta Mounties have laid charges against three more people involved in the February Coutts border blockade, including a 32-year-old Fort Macleod town councillor.
Ottawa police Const. Kristina Neilson is facing misconduct charges after allegedly donating money to the “Freedom Convoy” while it occupied downtown Ottawa.
Tony Clement, a former MP who was kicked out of the Conservative caucus after getting catfished and then extorted for sexually explicit images, has reportedly been appointed to sit on the board of the Conservative Fund, the party’s fundraising arm, by leader Pierre Poilievre.
Despite her party receiving more votes than any other in Sunday’s election, Sweden’s social democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has been toppled by a right-wing coalition, with Sweden Democrats — a party which has neo-Nazi roots — playing a kingmaker role.
Edited by Evan MacDonald
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