I just received an e-mail requesting that I renew my membership to the cyclist advocacy group formerly known as the Toronto Cyclists Union, but I am very ambivalent as to whether I should do so. Changing the name to eschew the word “union” is so regressive and offensive to progressives that I honestly wonder if I want to support and be associated with such a group. On the other hand, of course, maybe the name change is of relatively minor harm considering the benefit of having a widely supported advocacy group for cycling, and maybe abstaining from membership would be an overreaction and puerile. However, the fact that I (and so many people I know) am questioning the validity of the entire organization due to such a small change really makes me wonder (once again) why on earth this change was made. Whose stupid idea was this? Why would such a controversial change to such a fundamental aspect of the group – its name being the primary face of the organization to the public – even be raised in a serious way, let alone put to a vote? It seems so needlessly divisive and obstructive.
Of course, the advocatory function of the organization is important to me and I want to support good bicycle advocacy. However, the reason that I question supporting this specific organization is that I care about the public perception of unions even more than cycling advocacy. It is obviously ridiculous to suggest that advocating for the welfare of cyclists requires disassociation with progressive labour, as this group has unfortunately done, but if I had to choose one cause I’d choose the latter. Improving the welfare of cyclists in this city is not worth the public denouncement of unions, and the surrender to endlessly-destructive right-wing discourse inherent thereto. The name change seems to demonstrate that the organization pursues the welfare of cyclists whatever the cost, no matter who or what is harmed in the process. A century of labour history be damned; we want more members!
Further, what is most maddening about this decision is that rejecting the word union will probably offend progressives more than attract regressives to the cause. Does anyone really think that people who hate unions so much that they are completely repulsed by the word’s appearance in a group’s name comprise such a large proportion of the group’s potential supporters? It’s like if Obama started appealing to Republican voters by hiring Glenn Beck as his chief advisor, losing countless more Democrats’ support in the process. Moreover, the expression “scraping the bottom of the barrel” comes to mind; do we really want to attract such ardently regressive right-wingers to the group? I, for one, would much rather the group have fewer members than have right-wing extremists marching for the cause.
So far, as you can see, I think I am leaning towards not renewing my membership.