A Glossa on the Amalgamated Transit Union

Glossa: Fixed Latin form of lyric verse, generally used for poems of philosophic character, wherein each line of the first stanza is commented in subsequent stanzas ending with that line. The last stanza repeats the first in reverse order.

TTC LogoHere is a little glossa on the subject of our sudden transit strike that left thousands of paying customers stranded this weekend. Transit service was summarily halted at midnight on Friday, before the end of the shift, with an hour’s notice to no one in particular, as if that made a difference.

The poem is based on four lines of “Stunt” by Adam Sol, published in his slim volume: Crowd of Sounds.

“Stunt” is addressed to a stuntman and describes a typical day of sham expirations – “If you are lucky, you will have/the opportunity to die four/times in the coming week.” But the end of the poem strands us back in reality: “Meanwhile, behind the wide/pan camera is a hack who’s just/learned that his liver is tumorous./Go to him now and show him how it’s done.”

Review at Quill & Quire


Today the industry is feeling
generous. It’s exciting to imagine.
With everything so crooked, the unions
and such, it must be reassuring.

An honest Friday’s wages gone
To cab fare. Midnight, the bus hack
Flips us the collective finger.
Today the industry is feeling

Its oats. You are the donkey fool,
the Pavlov’s dog that foots the bill.
Hand off your firstborn. Be
generous. It’s exciting to imagine.

Workers of the world unite!
But not Ahmed at the 7-11.
The brethren and sistern are what count.
With everything so crooked, the unions

Call the tune; you pay the piper.
Queen’s Park guards this henhouse.
With essential-service premiums
and such, it must be reassuring

And such. It must be reassuring
With everything so crooked, the unions
generous. It’s exciting to imagine.
Today the industry is feeling

TTC CheeseIn related news, TTC toll collector Bill Defoe was waving the last customers through at Chester Station, no charge, minutes before the transit system was shut down Friday night. He was doing the same thing on Sunday, shortly after service resumed at 5:10 p.m. Although no one was hassling him (maybe it was the free rides), he knew what the score was for TTC workers who have to face a million or more angry riders.

“They got a right to be pissed, and we’re the ones they see”, he said.

You can tell a lot about about a man from his choice of ballcap, and Bill’s says Jazz FM 91. In the movie, he’d be played by Art Carney, circa 1974. On Friday night, he’d been angry at the manner in which he was forced to put a sign on his booth — ‘TTC will close at 12:01 a.m.’ — and tell customers they were out of luck. “I don’t like it much. We’re stranding a lot of people. They should have not have announced the results until the end of service tonight.”

The vote was “democracy,” he told me Friday. But the manner of the strike was reckless. “I don’t know how many we’re stranding, it might be 60,000 people.”

On Sunday night, as he waved riders through, he was still angry, saying the union is ‘”fragmented,” and leader Bob Kinnear toast. “Everybody’s saying this is a big surprise. The contract should never have gone in for a vote. The executive was split down the middle and he tried to ram it through.”

At this point, a co-worker chimed in: “His ass is grass.”

But Bill only smiled. ‘”When he does get voted out, he’s gotta came back and work with us.”

Bill waved another rider through — they were coming more quickly at this point, as news spread — and noted that the maintenance workers were the same crew behind the wildcat strike of two years ago. Then he said that the TTC should not be able to strike at all, ever.

The back-to-work law forces arbitration on the workers and TTC, no different, noted Bill, than if the transit system was an essential service anyway. ‘”That’s what we got now AND a whole lot of pissed off people.”

Bill laughed. And waved a man and his two sons through the turnstile.

Article about Bill Defoe excerpted from Rob Roberts, National Post, on the TTC Jazzman


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