Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Recovery Mode

It’s been a very long time between posts lately, and we are pleased to be able to say that there is some recovery happening since the labour dispute ended on December 12, 2014. We are trying to rest, regain our health and strength and recover. It has not been easy. For some members, it took more than a month before they could start sleeping again. Many still find themselves checking out their windows to see if the red truck/Rider van is really gone, and that there are no picketers. Others are still suffering from nightmares, and for still others, PTSD symptoms are beginning to appear.

We are starting to recover and will share more about this in future posts.

For now, there is a need for explanations.

As has been posted previously, this blog went quiet out of respect for the negotiating process – a spontaneous act on the part of the administrators, really, as it wasn’t something we ever had to discuss. Then, the content of the blog itself was removed with this post put up to explain.

Regarding the labour dispute between AUPE and SAIL, discussions are under way and things are looking positive.
The blog is coming down as a sign of good faith while these discussions proceed.
We are hopeful that a formal press release will be issued by SAIL and AUPE once the matter is resolved.
Thank you to all who submitted their stories, video, and photographs to the ArtspaceUnder Siege blog.
There was, of course, a lot more to it.

This email from the SAIL board is why the content came down.

Dear Artspaceundersiege administrators:

As you may or may not be aware, we have been discussing a settlement to our labour dispute with AUPE. Although we cannot discuss details we can assure you that it would include AUPE going away and SAIL paying severance to our former employees. It would mean peace in our neighbourhood!

Unfortunately, in the past week, AUPE has told our lawyer that they will not sign the settlement agreement if the blog/youtube/facebook channels are not removed/deleted. If we don’t sign a settlement agreement by December 15, they could be back here, on our street.

So in the spirit of peace for our neighbourhood, we’re asking if you would consider removing/deleting the social media (blog/youtube/facebook) regarding the labour dispute to the best of your ability.

We’ve been told there are numerous administrators and even more contributors to the blog so we’re hoping you can all meet and/or communicate over the weekend and provide a response back to us by 6 pm on Monday, December 8, 2014.

It pains us to make this request as we know we are asking you to give up your highly-valued human right to freedom of expression. It is unfortunate the peace in our neighbourhood will come at such a high cost.

No matter what you decide, we will fully respect and support the decision you make.

In cooperative spirit,

SAIL Board of Directors

That’s right. AUPE’s not-a-lawyer was willing to let the deal fail – even after the striking SAIL staff voted to accept severance – over the blog and YouTube videos, which SAIL has no control over. Yes, they knew SAIL had nothing to do with the blog. They certainly had been told that often enough! They wanted us silenced, or they would reject the deal (which would have meant the striking SAIL staff would not get their severance) and be back to picketing our home.

Which sounds a lot like blackmail, don’t you think?

There were quite a few problems with their demand. The first of which is; the blog/Youtube videos don’t belong to any one person. Even among administrators, the number has changed as people came and went, depending on their circumstances. Current and former administrators would have to be reached, and at least some of the contributors, in a very short time. There was no way to reach all the contributors, as some are them are completely anonymous; not even we administrators know who submitted commentary.

We did the best we could, though. Of those that could be contacted, the response was unanimous. Each and every one of us wanted to give AUPE a great big "F*** You!"

This blog has been the only place Artspace members, friends and family have been able to be safely heard. Most of us aren’t big users of social media, and some of us don’t even have computers. It was only by sharing what was being done to us on this blog that people could give voice to the hostile and damaging environment we found ourselves living in, with the videos as proof, thanks to AUPE’s picketer behaviour, and their targeting of our homes, rather than the place of employment.

To us, it was clearly AUPE’s way of damage control; the exposure of their actions here was giving them a black eye, and they wanted to scrub it and silence us.

So our initial answer was a resounding “no!”

However, we also had to think of our community. It was obvious that SAIL would be punished if we said ‘no’, and we all knew of AUPE’s intention to bankrupt SAIL, even before their negotiator had to admit he’d said so, while under oath at the Labour Board hearing in November. We had to think of everyone living in Artspace, as well as our neighbours on 101A Avenue, who had been terrorised and tormented for 7 months.

AUPE put the SAIL board in a terrible place by saying they wouldn’t sign the agreement until the blog came down. Not only because SAIL has no control over the blog, but because of the obvious attack on our free speech; our right to talk about and show what was being done at our home and to our community.

AUPE put us in a terrible place, as we administrators had to make a decision without any way of consulting everyone who contributed to the blog. We take our fundamental commitment to democracy seriously - we have that human right.  

Plus, none of us were part of the labour dispute.  We just happen to live here, or visit friends and family members who live here.

There was another problem with the request, and it showed just how little AUPE seems to understand the Internet. Even if we were able to somehow remove all our content, there are still ways for people to find things, such as Google Cache and the Wayback Machine. Of course, we have no control over what people have shared on their Facebook pages, or other social media. Sure, the links wouldn’t work anymore, but they would still be there. As some of our members wrote on signs at Artspace; the Internet is forever. We have no control over that.

In the end, out of respect for our friends on the SAIL board, and our community, we decided to bring down the blog and Youtube channel. We knew that, ultimately, AUPE had no legal or moral right to make this request. However, since they were asking us to take down stuff, when we responded to SAIL with our “yes,” we also included a list of AUPE’s online content about SAIL and Artspace, suggesting they take their stuff down, too.

Because we are not privy to the agreement, and the SAIL board is apparently not allowed to tell us what’s in it, all we know is that some of those links we shared were removed as part of the agreement.

Which is why, if you go to the AUPE website and Youtube channels, you will not find anything about the labour dispute with SAIL. Which, in the end, really benefits them, since so much of what they had did a great job of demonstrating our own case against them. Like their hours of “peaceful picket line” video that showed the picketers repeatedly trespassing and the like. Seriously, you’d think that if they were making these videos to refute our own videos, they would not do something so blatantly stupid, like leave the picket line and walk/trespass onto the Artspace parking lot.

Apparently, their not-a-lawyer was quite shocked that we took the stuff down, though they scoured the Internet to find other things for us to take down, like the Pinterest account we’d forgotten about. Then they took their stuff down, and finally, the agreement was signed.

So now you, dear reader, know why the blog posts were removed.

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