Friday, April 5, 2013

Reasons Why We Shouldn't Be Supporting Toronto's Local 79

In the immortal words of the great feminist philosopher Snooki:
"Where's The Beach?"

Toronto used to be a swimming town. After WW2 and during the baby boom, a pool was built at every school, community centre and park they could find. Before they started building condos everywhere, they built pools. Pools are great for physical fitness but they were also used for rehab of polio victims - the process was actually developed in Toronto. All kinds of people who have trouble walking usually enjoy swimming, both for fun and therapy. As a result, Toronto is littered with pools, so many in fact that they are now being decommissioned and closed down because there are not enough kids swimming to keep them open. The pools are kept perfectly, echo chambers of Toronto’s proud past, but the average family is involved in so many activities that swimming – despite being a life skill and not necessarily a sport – has become less popular. There are two Olympic pools in the GTA, an indoor one at the Etobicoke Olympium in the west end and an outdoor one in The Beach. I will let you guess which gets more action throughout a Canadian winter. When Mayor Mel Lastman changed the swimming format from colours to numbers and made all swimming lessons free for a year, even parents smelled a rat. “It should cost something” I remember one bewildered parent saying to me.

The thing about Canada is that up until a little while ago, things were built to with pride and they were built to last. This is completely true of the Etobicoke Olympium. It was built at the top of late 1960s technology. It has a 10 metre diving tower, a depth of 15 feet and window in the basement that used to look right into the deepest part of the pool as people were swimming or diving; but because that was really cool and kids loved it, they closed it down as fast as possible. It was an excellent pool for swim-meets and synchro-meets until the coaches began to complain that it was too dark. That’s right; the room that housed the pool could not generate enough electricity to adequately light the depth of the pool. The Olympic Synchro Team practices there. But the other pool – referred to as the “patio pool” - is mostly used for film shoots, commercials and Saturday morning swimming lessons.

Etobicoke has always been a rich borough. Before the amalgamation, Etobicoke had it all and after it had more. Nepotism is that norm in that environment. Children of union stewards could expect good jobs with union starting salaries and full pensions. They did not need experience or proof of ability. When the pool became cloudy they would dump chemicals in there like they were baking a cake hoping for the correct formula. When all else failed, they simply closed the pool. No matter, with a union job everybody still got paid. And of course, with young good looking kids from excellent families and even better art schools come together it can be expected that everybody slept with each other. It was like working as a scuba instructor at Club Med; hot- and cold-running pussy all the time.

It is theoretically impossible to get fired from Local 79. You do not have to work or even show up to warrant a warning. I have personally known young men who were caught smoking marijuana on a pool deck before their shift who were not fired, simply re-assigned to a different pool. I once took over for a man who was so drunk on deck that he could no longer be described as conscious. He was not actually fired, either; one day his parents arrived and bundled him off to rehab. Management moves in much the same way. They are promoted or moved on as needed in the environment but not actually fired for doing a terrible job. Managers so viciously cruel and strange have been “packaged off” in a series of lay-offs without actually being held accountable for their actions. Managers have had picnics with their boyfriends in the pool office interfering with pool activities and nothing is done when employees complain. Managers have had underage girls in their apartments for parties after hours. Managers have sent lifeguards to get an order at McDonald’s while the pool with people in it remains understaffed. At Local 79 it is okay to hide from customers (known as patrons) when they have a complaint. No complaint is ever actioned. When irritated by complaining parents, employees engage in a game known as “magic clock” where they advance the hands of the clock ahead in order to clear the pool early and then loaft the rest of the time. I worked there for 3 years before a manager had the MBA-level idea of keeping a daily log of activity at the pool. But then the employees just filled it with a list of jokes and stories about insect infestations that nothing was ever done about.

And so it came as no surprise to me this Family Day, when at Centennial Hill they were completely unprepared for the number of people that showed up to ski with their kids. The line ups were over an hour long. There were three employees in T shirts wandering around aimlessly but not actually doing anything. There was a young man who tipped the scales at 250 lbs sitting on his duff eating a sandwich wearing a T-shirt that read SKI PATROL while sweating parents and kids lined up to buy tickets for the hill.
There are three things wrong with this picture.
1. Don’t eat where people can see you, you have a lunch room.
2. You don’t look capable of patrolling anything, my friend.
3. Would you book ski lessons for your child from a fat kid?
They didn’t even open more than one cash register despite being asked twice to do so, not even a cash box. They were completely unprepared for the level of activity that day. But Why? Family Day in Ontario is the one day of the year when they can make a serious killing. The snow was on the ground, the sun was shining, and everyone had a day off. They should have made money hand over fist. When I asked the manager for the address of the Director of the facility so that I could write a letter of complaint, she came back with a telephone number. This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about. They all carry around walky-talkies but no actual communication is happening. This is problem with Union-Automatons: None of these people could hack it in the private sector because they are not trained to care about the client experience.

The weirdest thing about Local 79, known as “Toronto’s Inside Workers”, is that the sense of entitlement is somehow linked to their moral high ground. You can see it in the underlying messages of the commercials they can afford to broadcast on TV. This is not a cheap endeavor which just proves how rich they are. The commercials ask for Toronto’s help in fighting the government who wants to legislate them back to work. They claim this is a “right” to negotiate a fair union deal for all union workers. It is if we are talking about a fair transparent system that measures success and has strategies for those who are not succeeding, then yes, any fool would agree with you. The only problem is that the future is now. Like the vast empty pools that sit perfectly unused throughout Toronto, a lot of human capital is sitting unused and costing Toronto in forward progress, more than money. Local 79 is acting like the Auto Workers and a lot of how unions “negotiate” today results in gridlock and disunity and ultimately disparity between those at the bottom (like I was) and management at the top. Remember we are talking about a rich suburb of a rich city in a rich country in a rich part of the world. We are talking about people who are already at the top of the food chain. This is hardly a scene out of “The Grapes of Wrath”, and Local 79 looks stupid begging us for help when it can help itself.

Everything changes, even Popes. Like the new Pope, we need a union model for a Digital Age. We need to set the tone for how these jobs should be awarded and maintained for the future. Obviously we should support the Local 79 but I would argue “not in its current format”. In short, these good union jobs are being abused by bad union workers. This is a known quantity when it comes to unions, so I ask what is their process to combat that? Outline your strategy for fixing what is wrong rather than outlining how much of a victim you are and I will be very eager to endorse it. Continue to eat a sandwich while people watch and I will continue to be embarrassed that Local 79 is a part of Toronto's identity.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Submit To You ... The Funzo

I have invented a new unit of measurement and I call it the Funzo.
It measures how much Fun you are having.

Gone are the days when you ask “Was it fun?” and are met with the inaccurate and unconvincing answer of “Yes, it was a LOT of fun!”.
“A lot” has never been specific enough for me. 
I am a Scientist of the Experience and I require clean data.

Funzos are measured out of a possible 10.
They refute hyperbole.
It is both statistically inaccurate and deeply deceptive to announce that you have had 11 Funzos at a specific event. You are a wanton liar and a braggart.

Funzos can also run into the negative, but again, only to -10.
As a general PSA, please avoid negative Funzo experiences.
Also, watch for experiences that run from the low Funzos into the negative.
When this happens, it is time to leave.
I say this because I love you.