Vancouver librarians have chutzpah. They are insisting during the current strike that their union, CUPE, secure whistleblower and harassment protection for them in their next contract.

They want their union to obtain for them what CUPE has a record of not tolerating inside it’s own organization.

By now, many of us have heard the story of the whistleblowing secretary inside CUPE. CUPE called the police on this former secretary to two CUPE Presidents when she blew the whistle on CUPE — and wouldn’t stop blowing it when they ignored her — for operating a “non-union sweatshop”. The secretary who had left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference alleged that CUPE staffed Local 116 exclusively with non-union secretaries who were being fired without warning. The firings always seemed to come after a woman had spoken up about such issues as: excessive workload, the pension CUPE had promised her, or chronic verbal abuse. The fired secretaries had been whistleblowers too.

The library workers Local 391 and other CUPE Locals fund CUPE BC and it’s President, Barry O’Neill, who allowed a letter sent to him about working conditions to be submitted to the Vancouver Police as “evidence” of harassment. They also fund CUPE National, which has allowed a similar letter to their office to be filed in the Police Property office as “evidence” in this case. And they fund the BC Federation of Labour and it’s President, Jim Sinclair, who has allowed a letter addressed to him about working conditions in the non-union sweatshop” to sit in the police Property Office.

And many of us have heard the story about the steamfitter on whom CUPE called the police. The police were called on the steamfitter, a dues paying CUPE member, during a period when he was alleging that money was missing from WCB cheques processed by the employer through the union. The steamfitter who was well-liked amongst his co-workers was required to have a psychiatric assessment and take medication, or lose his job — leading to accusations against CUPE of involvement in “political psychiatry”. The steamfitter’s whistle stopped blowing. His allegations were never investigated by an independent body.

It is not just CUPE leaders who could be seen as having harassed whistleblowers, it is the rank and file too.

CUPE members staffing Carnegie Center — in the heart of the Downtown Eastside poverty industry which is a rich source of union dues for CUPE — were displeased when, for the first time in the 27 yr. history of Carnegie, patrons were blogging about their experiences there. When patrons repeatedly arrived at Carnegie to find doors to taxpayer-funded education and computer services locked by CUPE members (this was unrelated to the current strike), they occasionally reported it to taxpayers through the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. 

CUPE members had a hand in getting a man barred from the Center for suspected involvement in this whistleblowing blog.  Bill Simpson, a homeless man, was barred from Carnegie based not so much on evidence, Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty admitted at a Board meeting on June 25th, but on the “feelings” of staff, i.e. CUPE members.


When it comes to whistleblowing protection, CUPE obviously doesn’t practice what it preaches. In fact, there is mounting evidence that whistleblowers need protection from CUPE.

The word “fair” is being bandied about by CUPE spokespersons during the current strike. What is CUPE’s definition of fairness? It’s time for librarians to look it up.


To read this complete original story, and other CUPE strike-related stories, go to Downtown Eastside Enquirer

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