The Telus Battle Against Union Communication and Freedom of Speech
An Interview with Dave DiMaria
By Ivan Drury
In any strike or lockout, and especially in a lockout that is taking place all across Canada, communication between union members is key to keeping the unity and morale of the union members up against the attacks of the company and management.
The Voices For Change website (www.voices-for-change.com) was started by members of the Telecommunication Workers Union (TWU) as a means of discussion about union matters between members of the TWU. When the Telus lockout started in full, the website came to be focused on communicating and organizing against the lockout, and it is then that it came under the fire of Telus.
With the beginning of the full lockout in the middle of July, citing "security" issues stemming from the pictures that had been posted on the site by TWU picketers, Telus blocked access to the website from their internet servers. On July 28, with their case coming up before Supreme Court, Telus and Voices for Change net-minder Dave DiMaria reached a settlement to the effect that Telus would lift the block against the Voices for Change website if Dave would guarantee that no pictures of or "threats" against "replacement workers" would appear on the site.
The attack on the Voices for Change website is an attack on the communication lines between workers by Telus. Fifty years ago, striking workers had to fight to publish strike newspapers or bulletins while the bosses would block their access to printing presses. Today, Telus has translated this to blocking pro-union web pages. On Tuesday August 30th Fire This Time sat down with Dave DiMaria to talk about the Telus attacks on his website and the importance of supporting the TWU struggle for job protection and dignity.
FTT: Can you explain what the status of your website is now?
Dave DiMaria: Right now the thirty days is up, where Telus is supposed to be monitoring the site, though I don't believe that they'll stop, they did it before and I assume that they'll continue to contact me if they see things on there that they don't like. We've made it clear that we're not going to take off anything that they don't like, because we have the site in order to support the union. They don't like that.
I think they just want to keep control of the dispute, keep it in their hands. There's so many injunctions, I've never seen so many injunctions. They just want to keep control of the dispute. Other sites seem to have been blocked. And people still complain to me that they can't get to my site through dial-up and they complain that they send emails to me at my webmaster address and they get bounced back by Telus.
FTT: How is the Voices for Change website supporting the TWU?
Dave DiMaria: Definitely we're supporting the strike. We don't let people go on the message boards and attack the union, even though I get accused of censorship. People say, "Telus is censoring and you're doing the same thing."
People get on there, make remarks, about how great it is that they're making all this money while "you guys are out on the lines." Always remarks like that. The spirit of the struggle can get lost.
It's a pro-union site and it always has been. It's a hub of communication.
FTT: Can you tell us how people who are not TWU members can support the union and the Voices for Change website as well?
Dave DiMaria: The union wants people to cancel call features for the duration of the strike in order to have an economic impact. It's tough because most of the operations of Telus are automated so they are bringing in millions of dollars a day. Just in general the public should show their support for workers on the picket lines just by waving or honking their horns because it brings up the spirits of the workers knowing that there's support from the general public.
FTT: One of the key things in the lockout is communication, and I think that your site contributes enormously to that.
Dave DiMaria: We encourage anybody to register in the site and see what's going on and say some words of encouragement, share some experience. The last strike was 24 years ago, and there's been a lot of people hired in 24 years. So we learn as we go. Communication is very important for that and we hope the website can be some help.
The solidarity is actually building. There was a lot of solidarity in the beginning, but I think there's a lot more solidarity today as we go along and people get used to what's happening.
Thank you Dave, and keep up the struggle.
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