A letter carrier in Canada who refused to deliver a homophobic pamphlet for Canada Post in late October is facing disciplinary action, as colleagues took a short wildcat strike in protest.
As reported previously on libcom.org, the conflict within Canada Post began on October 26 when the letter carrier refused to process a pamphlet, published by a Baptist Mission in Ontario, entitled, “The Prophetic Word: The Plague of this 21st Century: The Consequences of the sin of Homosexuality (AIDS).”
According to Eric Aldridge, a postal worker from a different Vancouver station, the 200 pamphlets were slated for delivery in only one area of Vancouver, the Commercial Drive district—a well-known queer community. The letter carrier in question refused to deliver the pamphlet, stating that it violated the collective agreement between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post regarding discrimination. He quickly received notice that he would be interviewed for disciplinary action and in a matter of days was suspended for delay of mail.
Because walking off the job would be considered a wildcat strike, workers decided to take a 15-minute ‘coffee-break’ to protest the letter carrier’s treatment. After returning and talking with management, they were told that, “No one would be forced to distribute the pamphlet.” However in later interviews with the Vancouver Sun, Canada Post spokesperson Colleen Frick stated that the pamphlet would get delivered - eventually. She said the pamphlet was “acceptable and appropriate” and that Canada Post “does not censor” the mail.
According to Aldridge, that is not true. Recently, Canada Post has refused to distribute ad-mail coming from an adult sex shop as well as political information from the “Sex Party,” which ran in the last B.C. provincial election. Lillian Au, Communications Manager for Canada Post's Pacific region, stated that in both those cases, Canada Post did, in fact, censor mail. However, she argued that this was due to legislation in the Canada Post Act allowing for the censorship of sexually explicit mail. Regarding censorship of the pamphlet, “Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she said.
But Ken Mooney, President of CUPW, feels that Canada Post is selectively enforcing the rules. “They’re not paying attention to their own policy,” he said, referring both to Canada Post’s human rights policy and the collective agreement. Both documents state that sexual discrimination is not acceptable in the work environment.
Canada Post backed down from forcing employees to deliver the pamphlet, taking the extraordinary step of having management hand-deliver it themselves.
Though they do not have to deliver the pamphlet, the postal workers’ fight is not over. On November 1, the letter carrier that originally refused to deliver the pamphlet was given a second interview for disciplinary action, this time accusing him of giving a copy of the pamphlet to CBC. Because ad-mail carries the same classification as First Class Mail for Canada Post, the letter carrier has been accused of stealing mail and is therefore facing termination. The CBC and the letter carrier deny a pamphlet was given, though both claim that the CBC received a photocopy. The CUPW is fighting the proposed termination.
When asked if the carrier would be fired, Au refused to comment, stating only that there is an ongoing investigation that can’t be discussed because it is a “protection of privacy” matter.
Gwalgen Geordie Dent is a Vancouver-based journalist from the Commercial Drive district.