Thursday, 30 August 2007

the deal

OK so here are the rules and this is the plan. I told you this was the tedious part, but here we go... In Alberta, a tough place for unions the following must happen for unionization:

1. 40% of the employees* must sign a petition stating they want to vote on the possibility of uniting to negotiate the terms of their employment.
2. 50% of the employees* who do vote must vote in favour of a union

So to simplify first you must sign a petition, and if 40% sign then there is a vote to decide if the union will represent the employees in the collective bargaining process.

*an employee is some one who has worked thirty days before or thirty days after the petition is handed into the labour board.

So back at the Shaw a hundred workers keep the place functional and for larger functions up to another 150 employees can be brought in. By department the number break down as follows:

dishwashers and cleaners 30
kitchen staff 20
house keeping 12
maintenance 6
events and service 30
banquets 150
bartenders 20

SO my plan was to find a key person in each department and have them sign up their crews. I would take of dishwashers and cleaners, Philomena would handle the kitchen, Dawn would take care of the housekeeping, maintenance was easy, Charles was confident with E&S and Henry would take care of the bars.

that left banquets and due to their size i divided them up again...

sympathetic righteous white
east Indians

the total number of employees was around 275, i went high to be safe, we needed 40%, Charles said 140.

The higher the better.


So i was unclear and desperately wanting to win this game i needed to know the rules so i went to the government.

the union people have been a disappointment
they are like managers of any large corporation
more concerned with their perks and personal agendas
than actually creating

and though i asked often and loud for the pertinent rules
the answers were vague and contradictory

so skipping the messenger i went to the labour board to fins out the rules for this particular game. I phoned and made an appointment for 9 am, but on the day of the meeting i slept in due to too much drink the night before...

i showed up at 1 and though my tardiness was noted i was welcomed into the office of Lillian Helton with much hospitality...she had made copies of the act and walked me through the relevant sections.

by the end of the meeting i was well acquainted with:

appropriate bargaining units
eligible and ineligible employees
and all the significant numbers

I thanked her for her kindness and knowledge. i was surprised by her kindness and knowledge. I was surprised by her professionalism and objectivity...maybe the government is my friend..maybe not but after our meeting i was able to formulate a simple plan; now all i needed to do was bring the union onside and execute...

Thursday, 23 August 2007

total number of eligible employees

Gabe and I set about our task
he gets a list of people
who are in events and services
and gives it to me in the tunnel

i take the kitchen employees
off a bulletin board and take a copy
of dish washing/ stewarding out of the office

dawn brings in banquets and housekeeping
maintenance is self explanatory


This section covers the technical and practical aspects of forming a union. I find it boring but necessary information so here we go...

The first union i contacted through the yellow pages was CUPE 30. They represent city workers and since the Shaw is owned by the city and run by Economic Development Edmonton i thought it would be a natural fit. Wrong.

So i make the call and speak with a guy called Nigel, he laughs and says, "So you want to organize."

I respond in the affirmative and he gives me the name of an organizing rep who is out of town attending a conference. Well after much effort for me I finally get in touch with her and we agree to meet at Smitty's. She shows up and looks like a realtor dressed in fishnet stockings and a Gucci bag. She gives little in information and I am unconvinced of her passion. I agree to bring more people to the next meeting and we part.

At the next meeting i bring Gabe and he tells her of the pain but she is still non-committal. She explains the rules unclearly, buys coffee and tells us to get a total number of employees.

I am getting colder.

bring it in

i walk out of my apartment
down a hall singed by fire
descend stairs
and enter the outdoors

i walk a cross a field
that is for sale and
probably zoned for condos
pass a store where
I buy cigarettes
and the like, dip down
a side street say hello
to a local hooker

turn south into an alley, cross a main road, walk behind the Sally Ann, hit Canada place and cross jasper. i look at the high rises, the trees, the colors on the river and like a miracle the doors open at my mere presence.

A floating stair carries me down and i walk past a wall of TVs
past security watching people who should be watching them
catch another floating stair, cut through hall A over the loading dock

barge into the shipper receiver office and say,
"Brother I am forming a union."

Gabe is short, black and under paid. He smiles and yells/speaks
"Now you're talking."

I explain we'll collect union dues and get ourselves rich.
He punches my fist while all the while looking disbelieving

I go underground and change into my white uniform
and start thinking about cleaning the kitchen
two thousand feet of stainless steel

before I know it

my yellow bucket is full of pink water
and the pot washer is roaring.

Monday, 20 August 2007


is in her sixties
she is under five feet
and from Sri Lanka
her english is broken
and when she says no
she nods her head yes
and vice versa

she was recieving $6 hour
the rest of us were getting $6.25

I told melvyn
and he told robyn
melvyn said the problem
would be fixed shortly

evelyn went to sri lanka
to see her daughter
when she returned
we talked about her trip
and her daughter

then she showed me a pay stub
still $6, so I complain but again
nothing is done

day after day
evelyn shows me her paystub
i try not to care
but i am weak man

so i promise evelyn she'll get her quarters back
and her wage will be brought up to current levels

she looks into my eyes,
shakes her head and says


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

ethnic diversity

the rain hits the window leaving a long sparkle
the trees are orange and the songs are sung by children
a rock is worth money and money is worth a rock

the fun houses beckon
the jails are full
drugs are prevalent
at universities
at the olympics

men speak of sex

a voice is heard

"hey nigger"

Monday, 13 August 2007

Notes from the edmonton cultural center

I can't remember where i found these notes, but it was well after the actual event. I was convinced there was some sort of conspiracy theory going on at the Shaw and thank god i never got into all of that...needless to say these sentiments though well intentioned did not reflect the culture of the Shaw while I was they are...

A deliberate attempt to merge the social and ethnic needs of this community in an imaginative improvement of its urban environment. They have come from the four corners of the world and have brought their cultural heritage with them. The city has left them behind in it's growth..

From Mayor Harelip to Hon. B.J. Danson dated May 1, 1975 in a submission to the federal government for funding the Edmonton Culture and Convention Center.

Sunday, 12 August 2007


single, white and spends most of his time drinking
when he's not cleaning floors at the shaw
the ladies in the dishroom sneak him food
as it is apparent he is hungry

his boss is a black man named Asari

so one lunch all the food was eaten and there was none left over for the afternoon kitchen crew
this is not unusual. The kitchen has two large walkin coolers and if you can't find food ..well...your stupid

Asari had eaten a large lunch that day
and my boss robin was upset

in conversation with Bill, Robin called Asari a greedy nigger
Bill told Asari and he reported the incident to the general manager
Bills' word prevailed and robin was found guilty

Asari said an apology was adequate
but the shaw suspended Robin for five days with pay

when robin had done his time he told people he would get Bill fired
and he would get that black bastard

innapproprate behaviour thought I
especially for a government organization.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

the unlucky

during a break
an old kitchen cleaner
tells me how mad
he is at his boos
and his life

his anger is plain and evident
but he takes it
low paying erratic hours
tedious ungrateful work

living alone
his daughter

his only luck.

Friday, 10 August 2007

a nine to fiver

Melvyn was my immeadiate supervisor and has been on the job since he was 34. He has worked as a cook and now was chief steward. He knows the job and the building well. When i started he had a salary and a pension. At Christmas time he had a nervous breakdown due to his boss trying to put a new guy into his position. He was institutionalized and upon his release he came to visit in his slippers. He announced he was a shaman and gave me an anti psychotic pill and we went to the casino. I lost twenty dollars and the table i was playing at kept jumping.

Back at the Shaw he was demoted, paid hourly and his pension cut off. He's fifty years old and the time and his job have sapped him of any vitality he might have had.

one fall night he came over to play cards and drink coffee. Mona and I smoked a joint and he wondered out loud about Mona's' dark hole and I wondered out loud about forming a union.
Melvyn smiled good naturedly and told me two reasons why it couldn't be general apathy and two the high number of transient workers.

I told Melvyn i didn't like people and asked him to leave. i went to bed and held Mona tight through a heavy sleep.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

At the shaw

i sit with two of three bosses
in a small office away from the noise
they want to know why I'm keepin a
young Indian chick up through the night


or maybe as simple as washing five hundred dinner plates
and i act as they expect with false bravado
the head guy smiles, "ask her a question for me."


"when is she having the operation to remove the mattress form her back?"

and i go cold, "No you ask her."

but he won't and his stupid red face sears

enough is enough

originally i wrote:

"I'll rock his world
with an explosion
noticed by a few
that matter."

But let's omit that part.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


and my hand
explodes in dream
shattering loose fingers

blood streaking yellow walls

it's ok
it's ok

a young native woman screams

i stumble to light

oh my god
oh my hand

Sunday, 5 August 2007

sex in the stars

i was outside, hungry wet, losing weight, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, reading and writing every where, spending a dollar or two a day, living in a park and the Shaw was a big warm building no one was using.

Mona knew where the performers dressing room was, upstairs beside hall A. We went and the door was open. There were soft couches and mirrors everywhere. A shower and pushing and pulling Mona into crazy positions and she was reluctant and I was an animal, digging and probing.

She screamed that's my asshole and i didn't care. She soothed me with words, "if that's what you want you can have it." And she guided me in as she stood pushing into thinness, her eyes dark love, mine blue wild, her face scrunched and mine screaming into a warmth that knew no coldness, serene and dangerous, flashes shooting

the room slowed and the walls forgot was as if we were never there and yet we were there...her ragged and holding, me like wise but not..doing what needed to be done...

Doubt never entered then but later in the tent when she showed me the rip in her asshole i thought badly...though it was only unusual in terms of being in the stars dressing room.

i remember the shower hot on my back and the towels we used were rags...

our screams of rage were every bodies.

sex in the stars

Saturday, 4 August 2007


i am near the end of my shift
washing the floor with an electric machine
a woman appears in a bright pink top
with no back and says, "we need to talk."

"you can't leave
finally my life
feels right with

-but i bought my ticket-

"i don't care, I'll rip it up"

we go to the loading dock
to have a smoke, she kneels
between my legs

"i'll do anything just stay."


she slaps my face
"I hate you."


I smoke a joint
pry her legs open
feel for wetness

she cries and cries

I give her a magic word
she will not use
we do not sleep

she goes to work
and i follow

looking for a new residence
in the woods
in the heart
of the city.

Friday, 3 August 2007

The Life (part 2)

she ended
in menz can
doing crack
with another

i walked home
shaken and sad

she called later
from another bar
and yes I told her
we're through

she asked for money
i said no and
she hung up

i dreamt of her

a new tattoo
a summer dress
deep scratches
chest and back

through and through

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

What's the point

Thinking of guns
my mouth, the trigger
the pull the jerk

and the silence

as i sit exhausted
with a bummed smoke
staring at milk cartons
and dirty floors

the boss asks, "Are you tired?"
as i pace myself to ensure
the dirty dishes last eight hours

the Chinese ladies
whisper in conspiracy
and motion slowly

my girl, long lines under eyes
stares blankly wiping queen maries
with yellow towels

i stand pushing dishes
into a long silver machine

the boss flits about.