Re: [Fwd: Press release]

Judy Olsen (
Wed, 03 Feb 1999 18:34:04 -0800

Thank you for commenting on this.  It is exactly as I suspected.  Now I've made
some comments on your comments.  Also, may I forward a copy your comments (without
your identity) to the labor list I orginally got this from?
Judy O

Graeme Bacque wrote:

> Judy Olsen wrote:
> > Thought you Canadians would want to see how labor unions are reporting this
> > topic.
> > Judy O
> >
> > Ken Patience wrote:
> >
> > >  January 26, 1999
> > > Pysch patients at risk with transfer of services
> > > Hamilton OPSEU President Leah Casselman today called for a
> > > moratorium on the closing of all psychiatric facilities in the
> > > province of Ontario.
> This is one that needs to be responded to cautiously... but I'm not going to
> keep my mouth shut here.
> What OPSEU really needs to be doing is calling for the kind of affordable
> housing and relevant support resources  that would enable people to live
> independently in the community

This is exactly what I was wondering.

> - and by this I am _not_ referring  to the
> 'assertive community treatment' teams that are becoming the current vogue in
> psychiatric practice (and which are essentially mental health SWAT units).
> As a psychiatric survivor who has lived in Ontario nearly all his life I can
> state that life in any of the Provincial institutions is far from the rosy or
> beneficial picure being painted by Leah Casselman (who is herself a prison guard
> by trade, incidentally). While OPSEU's goal of protecting the employment of it's
> members is standard union practice and entirely honorable in and of itself, the
> manner in which it takes place (due to the fact that it's members working in
> institutional settings control the lives of many vulnerable people) is
> frequently highly suspect. When prisoners or 'patients' find themselves being
> used as a bargaining chip in labor disputes (And OPSEU members are notorious for
> promoting the 'violent mental patient' myth in order to further their aims) this
> process loses all credibility to my mind and becomes an abusive power game -
> with human lives on the line.

This is outrageous!

> Abuses of every kind are rampant in psych. institutions (and jails) but go
> largely unpublicized and unpunished. Any union organizing in these sectors
> should have an obligation to expose such to the light of day and to protect the
> basic human rights of those individuals who are in it's members' custody.
> Unfortunately the exact opposite is usually true - with the staff being the ones
> perpetrating the abuse then being shielded from responsibility by their union
> affiliation. To my mind this is a gross misuse of labor organizing.

Actually, this isn't labor organizing.  These employees are already organized; they
are already union members.  However, as we in the labor community are always
saying, YOU ARE THE UNION!  Generally speaking, this is true.  I know nothing about
this Canadian Labor Union.  Here in the US, one of the absolutely worst unions is
any SEIU local.  They are good organizers, but once you're organized and they begin
collecting dues, forget about getting any services.  Some of the Teamsters locals
are pretty bad (ones from the Hoffa era).

> I do not for one second condemn the many OPSEU sisters and brothers who put in
> an honest day's labor and whose job descriptions oppress no one. When this union
> went on strike across the province in February and March of 1996 I spent hours
> on the picket lines in support but made a clear point of boycotting the
> picketing at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (Ontario's largest
> psychiatric facility) or any of Toronto's three city jails. For the purpose of
> what I'm attempting to express here a clear distinction needs to be made between
> these institutional staff and the women and men who work in the various Ministry
> offices - or in the cafeteria at Queen's Park - or who clear the snow from our
> Provincial highways. (just to give a few examples of the widely diverse body of
> workers that OPSEU organizes).
> To wrap up I'd like to say that if OPSEU does go on strike again (and the strong
> possibility of this happening exists within a few months) I will be right back
> out there doing picket line support. I would also like to say that I will
> continue to fight for the closure of all oppressive institutions such as Queen
> Street and Hamilton Psychiatric, and for the creation of affordable housing and
> the kinds of psychiatric survivor-controlled resources in the community that
> eventually will make such institutions unnecessary.
> In solidarity,
> --
> ----------------------------------------------------
> Graeme Bacque
> <>
> ****************************************************
> +++ Fighting 'mad' and proud of it! +++
> ----------------------------------------------------