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June 14, 2021

Would you cross a picket line to work?

Canadians might be tired of three things right now: overcast June days, Roberto Luongo’s road play and any news story involving the word “strike.”

Istockphoto_1090904-on-strike Indeed, at a time when we’re still recovering – and, according to some, bracing for a double-dip recession – the lion’s share of Canucks don’t want to hear what they may consider whining from Canada Post and Air Canada workers, who have both, in a most high-profile way, walked off the job.

So here’s a fun, little discussion to have in light of the work stoppages among two of Canada’s more noteworthy employers: if you needed the pay, would you cross the picket line and act as a replacement worker during a strike?

According to the Globe and Mail, that’s just what’s happening with Air Canada right now. As the airline’s 3,800 customer service employees take to the placards, Air Canada has hired replacement workers to help passengers work self-serve kiosks at various airports.

And, according to Star travel editor Jim Byers, the stand-ins are doing just fine, having helped him zip through check-in despite his deliberate attempts to require assistance.

So what we’re obviously getting at here is this: during a strike, anyone seen crossing a picket line can be perceived as a “scab,” someone bending to the will of corporations and, in many ways, undercutting protesting workers that are trying to prove their worth.

Most notably, such strikebreaking happened during the 1987 NFL season. The players walked off the job, and the NFL brought in replacement players to play games – a collection of nobodies and construction workers and bar bouncers. They were not treated well.

Said Seattle Seahawks replacement tackle Tim Burnham, who walked onto the job at the same time teams made of picket line-crossers were being given condescending nicknames like the San Francisco Phoney Niners, Los Angeles Shams and Seattle Sea-scabs, “It was a good time, but it wasn’t something I’m necessarily proud of. Personally, I came close to not doing it out of respect for the Players Association, and what they were trying to achieve.”

Crossing a picket line, then, may be a sort of political suicide, but here are two facts in Canada right now:

1) Two of the nation’s most notable employers are largely without workers, and
2) Canada’s unemployment rate still stands at 7.4 per cent.

So, if you needed the cash, would you cross a picket line to work if given the chance? Or, would you stand strong with your fellow striking Canadians, even if it meant the loss of a day’s or week’s pay for doing so?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...