Horwath silent on Hamilton situation
Calling allegations that Doug Ford may have paid for PC memberships in a two-year old nomination battle, “a stinking mess,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath has nonetheless maintained silence on allegations of harassment of staffers by two of her Hamilton candidates.
Meanwhile the grievances and Human Rights complaints against MPPs Monique Taylor and Paul Miller have exposed some fault lines in local labour circles. The most recent instance came when the Hamilton branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) pointedly left Miller off a list of candidates being endorsed the current election. The list released showed NDP candidates Sandy Shaw and Monique Taylor being endorsed by the Provincial OSSTF and the Hamilton wing of the union, but in the case of Paul Miller the local endorsement was omitted. When the Bay Observer contacted OSSTF official Dan Staples to find out why his response was, “we do not discuss our internal processes.”
As for Monique Taylor, the controversy sparked some debate at a meeting of the Hamilton and District Labour Council last month, when Taylor and fellow NDP candidate Sandy Shaw made pre-election remarks to the gathering. After the two candidates spoke, Barry Conway, representing the City outside workers for CUPE, rose and alluded to the Human Rights complaints against Taylor and Paul Miller, sparking an outburst by a Miller supporter. Later Conway told the Bay Observer, “I think our duty as a house of labour is to support labour, not to give a free pass to every politician carrying the NDP banner.” One long-time labour executive told the Bay Observer that there is a split in labour ranks over the behaviour of the two MPP’s, some feeling that NDP solidarity must be maintained at all costs, others, like Conway who feel labour organization’s first obligation is to aggrieved workers.
Meanwhile Canadian Office and Professional Employees (COPE), the union representing NDP constituency workers, has been taking criticism for appearing to be more concerned about maintaining good relations with the NDP than aggressively pursuing the grievances filed by several Hamilton constituency workers. One former NDP staffer told the Bay Observer that COPE as a member of the NDP functions more as a mechanism for controlling workers than as a worker advocate. This week after months of silence on the issue and refusals to acknowledge media enquiries, COPE leaders Patty Clancy and local 343 President Kelly Belbin sent an open letter to members urging them to come forward if they have harassment issues, adding, “We demand violence – and harassment-free workplaces for all our members, and it would be a grave disservice to our members and the labour movement if we did not hold the Ontario NOP Caucus to the same standard. The Ontario NOP regularly advocates for worker protections, and we believe this should start with their own employees.”
The harassment issue was the topic of a Hamilton Mountain all-candidates’ debate aired on Cable 14 earlier this month when Liberal candidate Damin Starr questioned Monique Taylor about the allegations. (an excerpt is available here) Echoing her leader Horwath, Taylor alluded to a “process” that was underway and for that reason she could not comment further; but Wade Poziomka, the lawyer representing three of the workers in their human rights complaints says there is no process underway other than the actions filed by the workers themselves. Taylor said she will resign if a union and human rights investigations into alleged misconduct with her office constituency employees recommends the move, but lawyer Poziomka says that offer is disingenuous because neither the Human Rights tribunal nor labour arbitrators have the authority to call for such a resignation.
Bay Observer publisher John Best was recently interviewed by Newstalk 1010’s Jerry Agar. You can listen to that interview here.