Stickin’ with the Union

On May 2nd, members of the Toronto Cyclists Union will vote on a proposal to re-brand the organization and change the name to Cycle Toronto.  I’m encouraging members to vote ‘no’, and this blog post explains why.

First, let me say that I think the discussion is a healthy one to have, and I think it’s great that the Board of Directors has put this proposal forward.  Re-evaluating a brand, and exploring re-branding is a positive exercise for any non-profit or corporation.

In the end, there will always be benefits and drawbacks to a name-change.  So, the question is simply: do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?  So, let’s explore both.

The Drawbacks

This can be easy to underestimate.  Changing the name of the bike union doesn’t just mean printing new business cards and changing the URL.  Changing the name creates a series of obstacles:

• Swag: There is a tonne of bike union promotional materials out there on the streets of Toronto.  Thousands of bike union stickers are stuck to people’s bikes, helmets, binders and fridges.  Thousands of buttons are pinned onto jackets, shirts, hats, panniers and backpacks.  And people all across the city wear our T-shirts with pride.  These brand items all serve as marketing materials and promote the bike union every day – for free.  As soon as you change the name, suddenly these promotional materials aren’t promoting anything.  Our inventory of public marketing materials will instantly plummet from thousands – to zero.

• Larger promo items: The bike union has also invested money in items such as our vinyl signage, and our large 100-square foot tent.  These printed items will obviously become obsolete.

• Social Media:  The bike union joined twitter in October 2008, and over a period of forty two months we’ve slowly built our followers list to over 3,400 followers. If we re-brand, we’re right back at zero with a new account.  (Update: I’ve been told that we could easily transfer our twitter account to a new name, without losing followers or lists.)

• Google: Over the last four years, the bike union has directly and indirectly created an amazing amount of content on the internet.  This content is all currently searchable on Google, and includes thousands of mentions in news articles, essays, blog posts, etc.  With a new name, all of that disappears.  None of them will show up when you Google “Cycle Toronto”.   Same goes for YouTube, where hundreds of videos will no longer show up, when people search for the new brand.

• Administrative Effort: Changing the name of the bike union, internally, will take a tonne of work.  It means re-designing everything from letterhead, to e-mail signatures, to envelopes, business cards, voice mail, invoices, bank account, web pages, bylaws, newsletter templates, etc, etc.  Each hour of work invested into the name change, is an hour of work that isn’t being invested into advocacy.  With only two staff members, their time is worth gold.

So, those are some of the drawbacks of changing the name.  But, of course, it’s not the end of the world.  Many organizations have overcome all those obstacles and successfully re-branded.  Major companies have done it, like Business Depot (Staples) and Dominion (Metro), and many non-profits have as well.  But it is a huge hassle, and a drain of resources.  So it should only be done for a really good reason.

The Benefits:

Well, let’s just be blunt about this: It seems there are some folks out there who are turned off by the word ‘union’.  For whatever reason, they don’t like unions and they don’t want to be part of a union.  The motivation for re-branding, and dropping the word ‘union’, is that the group will become more accessible and will attract a wider range of potential members.

I don’t doubt there is some truth to this.  But the question is: how many people are we currently alienating, and is it worth the cost of re-branding to reach out to them? This is of course impossible to measure, and we have to hypothesize and guess.

Here’s why I have trouble with the argument: The letter from the Board of Directors essentially says that our current name is a barrier to rapid growth, and is holding us back from meeting our true potential.  But in the same letter, they tell us that our membership has doubled in the past year, “from 1,018 to over 2,100 since our last AGM.”   That is an incredible feat, to double the membership in a single year.  It illustrates strength, momentum, and great leadership.  How many other organisations could claim to have doubled their membership in 2011?  Yet, we’re being told that our growth is being terribly stifled.  That just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m also not convinced that there are a large numbers of people who won’t join our group because of the word union.  Marketing is a funny thing, and one thing I’ve learned is words themselves don’t actually contribute to the meaning or feeling of a name, as much as the branding that surrounds the words: the images, the reputation, the colours, the fonts, etc.

So when people think of the “Steelworkers Union” or the “Canadian Auto Workers Union”, they might associate the word ‘union’ with a variety of things, depending on their politics: strength, pride, courage, or corruption, greedy, angry, militant, etc. But does that mean the word ‘union’ will always trigger those feelings – in any context?  Of course not.  That’s because words take on different meanings, in different contexts.

When people go to Union Station, do they think of labour strikes and militant advocacy?  Probably not.

When suburban conservatives move into a new house, and have to decide where to purchase their utilities from, do they rule out Union Gas?  I would guess the answer is no.

When people think of Union Carbide, do they imagine a group of left-wing activists? I would imagine not.

Did George Bush or Ronald Reagan ever refuse to present the annual “State of the Union”, because they don’t like the word union?  Of course not.  Neither would Sarah Palin, or any of the Tea Party folks.  Because in that context, the word ‘union’ just means “we’re all in this together”.  It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop picking up the garbage.

And what about all of Europe?  When twenty seven countries decided to come together and form an organization that represents half a billion people, they called it the European Union.  How many people view the EU as a radical left-wing organization?

Or what about wedding vows?  These folks who are so scared of the word ‘union’….  did they censor their wedding ceremonies, asking their priests and rabbis to please not mention any ‘blessed unions’?

Who are these people, anyway?  Honestly, if someone is so anti-union, that they wouldn’t join a group just because of the word union, do I really care if they join the bike union?  I’m not sure.

And how many of these raving right-wingers are there?  This is Toronto, after all.  This is a city in which Tim Hudak’s conservatives won ZERO seats, out of 22.  And in the last federal election, the party that made the greatest gains in vote percentage was the New Democrats – in the suburbs!  So, again, I think we need to ask – are there enough people who feel alienated by the word ‘union’, in Toronto, that justifies the hassle of changing the name?

I’ve learned over the years that you can never make everyone happy.  And if you try to make everyone happy, you’ll ending up sacrificing common sense.

I should also add a quick note about grants and foundations.  We’ve been told by the board that they have “run into unexpected pockets of resistance when applying for grants”, and they think this could be partially due to our name.  First, I believe our reputation is more influential than the name, and just as we have successfully applied and received major grants in the past, there will be more to come.  But let me also say, that I’ve never been a big fan of grant money for the bike union.  When I did my research in 2007, visiting member-driven advocacy groups in NYC, San Fransisco, Chicago, Seattle, Ottawa, Portland and Vancouver, the main lesson I learned is that the most effective groups were the ones who kept grant revenue under 10% of total revenue.  And the groups that were falling to pieces, were the ones who became too dependent on grants.  So, to be honest, I’m not really worried about what the funders think of the name.  The bike union exists to provide relevant services and value to it’s members – not to foundations.

To summarise, let me just say that I’m not scared of change, and sometimes big changes are important.  But personally, I think the proposal to change the name of the Toronto Cyclists Union to Cycle Toronto is the wrong change, at the wrong time, and being done for the wrong reasons.

I think the negative costs greatly outweigh the potential benefits.

I want the bike union to be accessible, and diverse.  But I believe we can easily reach out into the suburbs with our current name. Heck, even Denzil Minnan-Wong proudly joined the bike union last year.  And he’s one of the  highest profile conservative leaders in Toronto.

Throwing away our successful brand (and all the stickers, buttons, signs, tents, T-shirts and hyperlinks) that go with that, during a period of momentum and growth, to appease a small group of radicals, seems like a crazy idea to me.

If we were in a situation of declining membership, that would be a different story.  We’d have to identify the cause of stagnation, and find a remedy.  But we are in the opposite situation.  For the first time in the history of Toronto, we have a healthy, active, staffed bicycle advocacy group with a steady flow of revenue from a growing membership.  This is astounding!  There have been many attempts in the past to build such a group, but the conditions were never quite right.  Roughly ten years ago, the Bicycle League of Toronto was formed – but didn’t attract enough members to survive.  Meanwhile, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists adopted a volunteer-driven grassroots approach, that eventually lead to burnout.  Other groups, like the Toronto Bicycle Network (with a thousand members) have been primarily focused on recreation cycling, not advocacy.  Now we have the bike union, with staff who are paid to carry out effective advocacy at City Hall and community-building across the city.  This is a story of success, and the credit should go to the staff, the board, the volunteers and the brand.

The brand was carefully crafted, to be inclusive, accessible, family-friendly, effective, and fun.  And it’s working amazingly, with constant monthly growth.

But let me finish with three quick points:

First, I want to add a disclaimer to all this.  I’m the founder of the bike union, so it’s natural that I would feel sentimental about the name.  So please take all of this with a grain of salt, and consider my opinion to be partially biased towards the past.

Second, I want to say that the Board of Directors is awesome.  They work really hard, all year around, to ensure that our organization stays afloat and grows.  They are committed and dedicated, and are trying to listen to the membership for feedback and guidance.  And I think it’s fantastic that they’re being bold, and pro-active, and putting a major proposal like this out there for discussion.

Lastly, and most importantly, I just want to say that people shouldn’t get too worked up about the outcome and the discussion shouldn’t become divisive.  It’s just a name, and the bike union (or Cycle Toronto) will grow and prosper – with either name.  The discussion, debate, and the vote should all happen in a respectful manner with an acknowledgement that everyone involved has the best interests of the organization at heart.  And once the vote is done, everyone should fully get behind the name of the organization, whatever that name is, and move forward.  There is a lot of work to be done, and we’re in a great position to make Toronto safer, healthier and greener for everyone.

Make sure to renew your membership this year, get involved with your local Ward group, and offer some volunteer time to the organisation.  With your help, we can transform the city.

57 responses to “Stickin’ with the Union

  1. The Toronto Cyclists Union tells you pretty much what the organization is and what it does.
    Cycle Toronto is a nothing name that conveys little information.
    I prefer the Toronto Cyclists Union.

  2. Given that there are unjust conditions in this city for cyclists, I think the name works perfectly.

    I also think that having this meaningful discussion early on in the organizations lifespan while it is still nimble enough to change is smart and necessary.

  3. Cycle Toronto might be a good name for a pamphlet or magazine but it doesn’t signify a group of people.
    When I first heard “union”, I had misgivings – why not “association” or something similar? Union is short and stronger, that’s why!
    In the letter to members, I noticed they used the word “collective” – now that’s a word that would stir some people.

  4. Seriously? People don’t want to join because it’s got “union” in the name? Are they afraid of catching Trotskyist cooties or something? Some things are so stupid they don’t deserve the effort of a serious response.

    • Peter MacQuarie

      What is it that scares downtown pinko elites away from being more inclusive? It’s as if they think they might catch something from the stupid people. It’s a real pity the smart people think they’re so important.

  5. Pingback: Extra, Extra: Lightboxes, Red Powders, Soon-To-Be-Ex Unions | news | Torontoist

  6. being a member I sent this the second I got the email:

    Toronto Cyclists Union was a gutsy name right from the start, but was agressive and said what you did: Promote and protect the interests of cyclists in Toronto. I know that the word “union” is in disrepute, that the idea of collective action is an anathema. I am not surprised that the Union is throwing in the towel, stomping on unions is now a reflex action. I don’t like it, but I understand it.

    But please, not Cycle Toronto. It sounds like a PR organization, it might be an agency of the city, it does not say anything about action or activism. It’s boring, and you are not.

    Change the word if it is so offensive. the thesaurus offers up a few;

    I like the Toronto Cyclists Alliance, league and ring. Have a competition. But pullleeeze, not Cycle Toronto.

    alliance, amalgamation, banding together,bunch, cahoots, clan, coalition, combination,confederation, conjunction, connection, crew,crowd, gang, hookup, incorporation, joining,league, merging, mob, outfit, partnership,relationship, ring, syndicate, tie-in,

    • Yessssssssss!!!!
      Toronto Cyclists Mob
      Toronto Cyclists Hookup

      • Where’s Nick Gamble when you need him? His “Bicycle League of Toronto” (BLT) was a great name for a group that never coalesced. But in Lloyd Alter’s vein, I could see “Bicycle Coalescence” as a good name. I agree that “Cycle Toronto” sounds blah.

  7. Some would like to remove the politics from urban issues, but the problem is, advocating for cycling interests is, like city planning, a very political endeavour. “Union” is a very political word, with negative connotations for some people these days. This isn’t a simple issue, but I guess i’d say that the Union isn’t my first choice for a name. Change it now? change it later? Dunno.

  8. I’m with those who think that ‘Cycle Toronto’ is a nothing name, a mushy name that could be a touring company, a privatized outfit. No, I like Toronto Cyclists Union – it says what it is and I agree that with all the branding out there already it would be like starting over with a weaker name. Don’t change the present name.

  9. Some technical notes on your post,

    Twitter allows you to rename accounts (as long as the name is available) allowing you to retain your followers.

    SEO works in a similar manner, you can perform a 301 Permanent Redirect which will allow your Google Rank to be properly updated if the URL changes.

    I don’t believe these two points warrant voting against the name change.

  10. Barney Bayliss

    I’ve been a member since day one and I like the name. Not so sure about “Dandyhorse” for the magazine though. They should have called it “Trackhopper”. Sour grapes.

  11. Great points, Mez. As eightlines pointed out, the technical issues are easy to solve, and the banking issues are not much more of a burden. Being against the change because it’s hard is pretty weak. There are lots of great reasons to rebrand, and I like the idea that the bike union is going through this exercise.

    However, I also feel that “Cycle Toronto” is a weak, hollow and meaningless name for an advocacy organization. It says nothing about who we are and what we do. I had reservations about the word “union” before I joined too, but I knew what the word meant to me and to others. The bike union has enormous brand recognition. I can tell people who aren’t cyclists or who don’t even live in Toronto that I’m a member of a cyclists’ union, and they immediately know what sort of organization we are. We won’t achieve that with Cycle Toronto, maybe ever.

    I will vote against this name change, and honestly, I will seriously reconsider my membership if it passes.

  12. If the board of directors and staff are receiving feedback that people think the TCU is a union and is holding people back from joining — and giving off connotations that the org is more political than it really is — than I say go for the name change. They are on the front lines and know exactly what is holding the organization back.

    Mez makes some good points — its always hard to re-brand — but comparing Union Gas and the European Union and the State of the Union address cannot be compared to a 2000-member organization. Things like new promo material re-branding is not as big deal, nor is the SEO/Google, etc.

    Calling it Cycle Toronto is fine by me, though I think there should be other options. Despite some naysayers here, Cycle Toronto does say a lot. Ever heard of Waterfront Toronto? BikeTO? WalkTO? Doors Open Toronto? There a large whack of organizations with names that are slightly generic in order to cover a wide spectrum, such as Transportation Alternatives, Livable Street, Bike Pittsburgh.

    • To Lee: Well, isn’t that the problem? – There are already too many names out there that sound almost the same as Cycle Toronto – like BikeTO. Why pick a name that sounds almost the same as another but is actually a very different org? This is a recipe for confusion and losing the brand we already have.

  13. If the current name of the Toronto Cyclists Union was already something else, I wouldn’t complain. But changing the name panders to anti-union sentiment and that – in the current political climate in which unions are under attack – is both reprehensible and politically stupid. Not every union or union member may be pro-cyclist, but I’m pretty sure that most of the hard-core anti-union types aren’t too keen on bike lanes. (eg Rob Ford) Unions, remember, are the people who brought us the weekend. Think about that when you are enjoying a nice Saturday or Sunday ride. In any case Cycle Toronto sucks! And yes, I am a member.

    Bob Shenton

  14. Another example of what I call ‘re-blanding’. TCU is a strong name and represents our collective will as an advocate for cyclists in Toronto. The new name says nothing and dumbs down the name. Typical result of a committee derived name – try to please everybody and you end up pleasing noone.

  15. I’m not against Cycle Toronto as long as we are consistent about the use and branding of whatever moniker we choose to keep. As it is we are inconsistent about how we brand the Toronto Cyclists Union which makes it hard to relay a consistent message to citizens and the GTA about who we are. Members and the media already refer to us as the Bike Union, the twitter handle is @bikeunion ( no mention of Toronto) and the website is bikeunion.to

    I agree we need to have some sort of link between the city and its cyclists in our name, but our name shouldn’t be a hinderance to
    Infrastructure Creation, Infrastructure Enforcement and Infrastructure Maintenance for all citizens from Etobicoke to Scarborough.

    Maybe instead of a membership drive we need to have an education campaign to promote who we are, what we do, and how we make Toronto a better city for everyone, not just for cyclists but because of cyclists.

    we all joined the union for our own reasons, and when our friends and family ask us what the union is we need to be able to give them a clear concise message of about who we are and why we are needed.

    Lets simplify and clarify our mission statement. Make it inviting and inclusive and easy to promote.

    Lets make what we already have better.

  16. What’s missing from this conversation is the attractiveness of a name like Cycle Toronto to prospective business members. One platinum business member, at 5000 dollars is the equivalent of 166 individual members. How many more businesses can we attract to support our amazing advocacy work?

    As a member of the board of directors of the bike union for almost 3 years, I can tell you this was a hard decision, and I personally was one of the holdouts until I came around, and one reason I did so, was due to the direct feedback the board of directors has received from business leaders who maybe didn’t know all about us, and when first encountering our name made some incorrect assumptions about who we are, and walked away. We cannot control those attitudes. But we do want to attract funding for the powerful advocacy work of our organization, and I can also tell you looking at our monthly financial statements that every dollar counts. Big time. Even at 2000+ individual memberships, this is not enough. Our operating plan includes anticipated new business membership that haven’t happened yet.

    Mez, you make great points especially about reducing reliance on grants. We as a board have always agreed with this. That’s one reason why we built the business membership program. Have a look for yourselves https://bikeunion.to/learn-about-business-membership If you care about the bike union, I encourage you to redeploy your energy around the name change, toward ATTRACTING BUSINESS MEMBERS. There are 3 levels for all kinds of organizations. Talk to your contacts in organizations and make them aware of this. Ask them their opinion of the two names. And while I encourage you to vote for the new name at the AGM, I assure you no matter what happens with the name change, the board and staff will continue to push forward for better cycling policies, increased ridership, more infrastructure and a better city.
    –Mark Franklin, member of bike union board of directors since 2009

  17. Bob,

    I have attended hundreds of community meetings on cycling infrastructure projects over the past 20 years. I have never noticed that opposition to bike lanes or paths has anything to do with an individual’s attitude about unions. It’s more often a reflection of their relationship to their car and their perception that they will lose something – parking, free flowing traffic, etc. I don’t think union members are

  18. …. are more or less supportive of cycling infrastructure than non-union members.

  19. Toronto Cyclist

    Mark, It’s good to hear about the conversations the board and staff have been having. I wonder why we are only hearing about the thinking behind this on your blog comment? I wish there had been a broad consultation amongst the membership and stakeholders on the pro/cons and the possible options. The Board could have avoided some controversy by first making sure the stakeholders were mostly on side. The Board is making it much harder to get the required two-thirds vote to pass the name change. Of those who are vocal on the internet about the proposed change, it seems as if it’s weighted towards “no”. You’re going to have to hope there are a lot more quiet people out there who will vote yes.

  20. Gregory Alan Elliott

    My suggestions:

    1. Leave it as is. Anything is better than “cycle Toronto”
    OR
    2. Put a red line through “union” as illustrated at top of your blog post. Begin a slow transition over the years to “Toronto Cyclists”.
    OR
    3. Put the red line over “Toronto” and slowly become known as the “Cyclist Union”… And widen your territory to Ontario, Canada and beyond.

  21. if it’s meant to solve an issue with new members why not name some recruitment campaign Cycle Toronto. Then the new members are met with this branding without diluting the power of the org name.

    • Great creative thinking, Majken. Why don’t we highlight new outreach, safety, and education campaigns with slogans that can be free of the “union” if that is perceived as a problem. (Follows on the “Get Lit,” “Street Smarts,” and other TCU campaigns that have been created.) Then market these slogans rather than “bike union” brand. Once people see and appreciate the value of the work being done by the organization, it becomes much harder to object to the organization just because of its name.

  22. 1) Cycle Toronto sounds empty because nothing has occurred under that name yet, whereas many things have occurred under the TCU name. Orgs grow into their name, and all name changes sound weird at first. Cycle Toronto will “mean” what it ultimately does.

    2) The Union started off as a less-strident alternative to more aggressive cycling advocacy groups. There was a belief that if cycling advocates showed that they were not all car-hating zealots, the City would engage more productively with them. But we all underestimated just how politicized the mere act of cycling has become in this city. No one fully understood how “bike riding kook” had become shorthand for a certain stereotype of downtown pinko. No one predicted that the City would ever spend supposedly-scarce money to erase bike lanes for no reason at all. No one predicted that our purported ally, TCU member Denzil Minnan-Wong, would stab cyclists in the back after so many folks (like Dave Meslin) had risked their own personal credibility by sticking out their necks on DMW’s and Rob Ford’s behalf.

    It is clear that cyclists needs to reach out to Ford-voting suburban and mid-town voters in order to restore a semblance of balance to cycling policy in this city. These voters can sniff out a pinko from miles away, and are constantly on the defensive. They reflexively oppose bikes on the road, they don’t want them on the sidewalk, they don’t want them anywhere. Bikes are toys for children, they believe, not a way for grown-ups to get around. There is a lot of work to be done to change this attitude.

    So what goes through their minds when they hear that people from an outfit called the “Toronto Cyclists’ Union” are organizing an event at the local public school. It’s supposedly about cycling safety, but something makes them think this is some sort of pinko indoctrination. What is it? What is it about the name that makes them think that?

    Pendulums always swing back, and I suppose the Toronto Cyclists’ Union may one day have no pinker a connotation than the examples Dave Meslin lists above. But I would say the fatal flaw in so much activism is an inability to imagine what those who disagree with you are thinking. If the Toronto Cyclists’ Union board has grounds to believe that the word “union” is a red flag to certain voters and has become an obstacle to success, I would be inclined to believe them.

    And by the way, the speed with which this debate has morphed into a debate about labour unions is a measure of the determination of some activists to miss the point. Let labour unions worry about their own public perception, and let the members of this union decide only whether a name change will 1) make it easier to advocate for cycling in Toronto or 2) not.

  23. For some reason(s), cycling in Toronto has become ‘left wing.’ It’s completely bizarre to me but I hope the TCU will continue to dispel this myth. And I don’t think removing ‘union’ from the name will do much in this regard. But the TCU should, I think, continue to show that cycling is not ‘left wing.’

    • I agree.

      Classifying cycling as a left-wing-thing is like saying eating nutritious food is being anti-capitalism.

  24. In regards to the use of Cycle Toronto, it could be used to fuel a TCU growth campaign called, “Cycle Toronto with the Toronto Cyclists Union.”

    Its the equivalent of asking a friend to go for a ride with you.

    I’m for inviting people to ride with us, even if they aren’t planning on joining us.

    Sooner or later with more people on bike the entire city will get the message.

    We dont have to change the name.. just the context.

  25. When Metro Credit Union merged with (or was taken over by?) CS Credit Union a few years ago, the new board wanted to change the name. At the next AGM, honchos said the word “union” didn’t test well with focus groups. So the largely non-participating membership threw out decades of history and perspective in renaming it Alterna Savings (and Loan, I usually add).
    Of course, modern credit unions are passive commercial organizations far from their origins in member-driven movements — but has our bike union really evolved that far in a few short years? (It took credit unions half a century.) Do we really want to look like a tourist promotion agency rather than a group of peers who advocate on behalf of all cyclists? Are commercial opportunities that much more appealing than the collegial benefits of a straight-up pro-bike union?

  26. Okay, I have read Mez’s lengthy message – as well as the reasoned comments here – a couple times before responding.

    I will be voting in favour of the name change.

    I too, consider myself a “founding member” of the Toronto Cyclists Union (TCU).

    In fact, one is aware that many folks had been involved in discussions concerning such a local grassroots mainstream cycling advocacy organization for at least a couple decades before thankfully, Dave Meslin took the necessary and obviously successful lead. [We messengers had established a professional "union-like" group in 1996 (THC3), but we referred to ourselves as a "Coalition" to avoid some of the possible percieved negatives we are now discussing relating to the use of the term "Union".]

    Despite much critical debate on the street about the proposed TCU at the time, I felt that our long-time friend Dave was the perfect person to engage enough people in our city from different local cycling “camps” to give the project its needed traction.

    Still I joined and publicly supported the nascent TCU in spite of the admitted problems – that I expressed at the time – concerning the name, Toronto Cyclists “UNION”.

    Without getting into detailled personal experiences with the many “unions” I’ve either been forced to join, or have dealings with since my first job as postman in the late 60’s, please know that while I fully appreciate the historic relevance of labour unions in our social development, I have little use for the adversarial philosophy that often underlies the way some of the more visible of these organizations pursue their often quite narrow agenda. Especially given our specific struggle in the ultra-polarized political times in which we live.

    Here in Toronto, we only need look to the current occupant of our Mayor’s office to see the result of the rampant anti-union sentiment that can exist in this city. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to make the case that the public’s reaction to the last “garbage” strike, and the behaviour related to it, chased David Miller and annointed Rob Ford.

    Working to ensure that Torontonians – who choose to move responsibly in and around our city – are not dismissed as second-class citizens simply because their preferred vehicle is the bicycle, hopefully remains an underlying fundamental goal of the TCU.

    Why, for the sake of arguably so-tainted a label, would we allow ourselves to unnecessarily play into the hands of those who would deny that objective?

    Ours is not a “them vs us” struggle. The TCU’s continued growth benefits quality of life for all, whether some realize it or not, right?

    On the positive side, I would suggest that CYCLE TORONTO is clean – perfect for hot new-logo swag – and clear in its stated message.

    Taken as either a question or as a sage piece of advice, I would respond in three ways:

    a) I have, on and off, for the past 50+ years!
    b) I do!!
    c) I will continue to do so, as long as physically able!!!

    Wayne Scott

    PS/ – Left over TCU swag becomes collectors’ items as soon as any new name is installed. That said, any transition could be appropriately stretched to get the message out to those who might be confused while minimizing any cost problems, couldn’t it.

    PPS/ – Very glad to see that we are addressing this, but I personally will continue to be honoured and proud to be associated with the people (save one, eh?) in this valuable organization, no matter what we call ourselves collectively.

    PPPS/ RIDE SAFE ALL. ( :-)

  27. Pingback: Unions are Great. Bikes are Great. Cycle Toronto. « Savings Cycle

  28. I appreciate Mes’s views. I totally see where he is coming from.

    Here’s my perspective.

    I have been doing outreach for the bike union at various events since June 2011. When I first heard about the consideration of a name change, I thought it was bizarre, until one tabling session outside Evergreen Bikeworks.

    A guy walking past my table through the farmers market cheerfully asked, “What’s this?” I replied with practice-made-perfect conversation starter, “Hi! Are you familiar with the Toronto Cyclists Union?”

    This was what he said, “Union?”

    Then, he turned and strode briskly away.

    Through my many discussions with others in support of the bike union, including members, non-members, board members, volunteers, partners, I have come to realise that it is the work of the bike union that leads them to support the organisation. Amongst them, there are those who stated that they were initially turned off by the word union, but after they understood the work the organisation does, they decided to give their support.

    On the other hand, people who have serious issues with the organisation for the name’s sake, will not even allow us the chance to tell them who we are and what we are about. That’s one closed door that the name change just might help to open.

    This is my two cents. I am open to considering more viewpoints.

    I must also take a moment to thank the bike union board members for taking bold actions on putting this issue forward for discussion. I believe this proposal was made in strength and not in cowardice. I look forward to engaging in more constructive discussion with more persons interested in this issue.

  29. Pingback: Two perspectives • One goal | Mez Dispenser

  30. Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, slamming the City Council’s decision to forestall the contracting out of city cleaning jobs, seems to have made the case for proponents of changing the name of the Toronto Cyclists Union to Cycle Toronto. Frustrated, Holyday wants a different kind of City Council. “My advice to the taxpayer would be: Don’t send us any more activists, don’t send us any more unionists. don’t send us any more cyclists, send us some people down here with good common sense who just want to manage the city’s affairs. That’s what’s needed,” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/

    There you have it! Much of the arguments about the identification of cyclists with “pinkos” and the obstacle presented by the word union in one trenchant sound-bite. Now I have my doubts as to whether Mr. Holyday and those who elect him would be swayed by the “inclusiveness” of the proposed name change. But let us assume that this would be the case. My problem with this is simple. I would not want to be a member of an organisation that pandered – even in the cause of inclusiveness – to the views he holds. I would really like more bike lanes, but not at this price. Each of us has our limit. This is mine.

    • “Holyday wants a different kind of City Council. ‘My advice to the taxpayer would be: Don’t send us any more activists, don’t send us any more unionists. don’t send us any more cyclists, send us some people down here with good common sense who just want to manage the city’s affairs.’”

      So TCU should also drop “Cyclist” or “Cycle” from its name.
      That leaves just “Toronto”, which I believe is already taken.

    • So the two arguments against a name change:

      1) the word “union” does not connote labour unions, and
      2) changing the name would betray labour unions

      When these two arguments inevitably eat each other, the remaining choice is to either do what is best for cycling advocacy in Toronto, or to admit that the Bike Union is a lefty group after all.

  31. Like sunny, I’ve been following the discussion and turning over the comments made in my mind before I put my 2 cents in, which I will do shortly. At the moment what I want to say is this: Why are we having this discussion on Mez’s blog? Why isn’t this discussion happening on the TCU’s website? I’ve checked and they’ve posted the letter sent out to members (good), they’ve provided an email where members can send comments (good) but there is no open forum for the type of dialogue that is going on here. I’m finding it quite useful to here everyone else’s perspective and, given the number of comments received, I think others are too. So why isn’t the website for the membership fostering this type of open discussion? To me, it smacks of a lack of transparency which, in my experience, is EXACTLY how present day unions behave towards their membership. So thanks Mez for creating space for this dialogue. Shame on you TCU for not doing so.

  32. Pingback: Five Reasons, Two Names, One Goal: Your Board of Directors Adds to the Name Change Conversation « Name Change Conversation

  33. Since when is Union a bad word? Oh yeah, since Rob Ford took office. So, will the TCU change its name every time a new Mayor is elected to suit the new Mayor’s political views.

    What an absolute shame that the TCU is even THINKING about this when there are so many important (outwardly focused!) things they could be concentrating on.

    The value of the TCU is in the UNION – I want to know who proposed this so I can vote against them next time.

    • Again, this issue came up when the organization was proposed, eh? When I raised such concerns back then, I can assure you it had nothing at all to do with Rob Ford nor any other outside influence. I hadn’t raised the subject since, but I did find myself referring to our group simply as the TCU in mixed company rather than provoke inevitably counter-productive criticism.

  34. Barrie Zwicker

    Twelve Points to Consider ~
    1 Terrific discussion! Bravo to all. Words matter.
    2 This decision impacts two prime areas:
    [a] Our organization
    [b] The planet-wide struggle between forces of greed
    and strife on the one hand, and forces of sharing
    and caring, on the other. (Yes I’m simplifying.)
    3 We are part of the sharing-and-caring contingent.
    4 The greed-and-strife contingent hate trade unions
    (but not corporate unions), and have succeeded to
    date in going a long way toward demonizing the very
    word “union.” Words matter.
    5 Collective or community action should never be
    demonized. It is the core of the democratic impulse
    and of democracy itself.
    6 If we keep our current title, we will also be voting
    (democratically) to oppose the demonization of
    an important word/concept and we will be resisting
    the forces of the (worst of) corporatism and
    of (rightwing) terminological strategy. We did not
    start this strategy but we should oppose it.
    7 Our organization has thrived, and can continue to
    thrive, with its present title.
    8 Our organization could consider the simple title
    TORONTO CYCLISTS. Implies a lot of people, united
    only by their activities and gear.
    9 The dangers of corporate funding cannot be
    over-stated, IMO. If potential corporate funders shun
    us because we decide to stick with our first and
    current name:
    [a] They will be proving themselves divisively
    ideological. Words matter to them too.
    [b] We would be better off, therefore, without their
    inevitable influence on our activities and ideas.
    10 Remember “the psychology of the sense of
    obligation.” As of now, we’re obligated only
    to the best interests of cyclists – within the
    larger community of the best interests of all our
    Fellow Citizens be they drivers, pedestrians
    or balloonists!
    11 Agreed that whatever the outcome of this
    terrific discussion is, we should stick together.
    12 We DON’T need to decide this now. We can
    re-visit it any time. It’s important but not urgent.
    Barrie Zwicker, car free since 1967

  35. Why didn’t the bike union stick to the branding guidelines? Will they get sloppy with the new guide if we change the name?
    Why isn’t there another choice except the bland “Cycle Toronto”?

  36. Tax the Cyclists too!

    You are like communist organization…”Union” does fits you.Stick with Union.Maybe it is Union with city hall Councilors.

  37. The Toronto Cyclists Union has a purpose, and the name conveys that to me – unified, one voice, a vibrant voice. I strongly believe that a brand distinguishes itself by what it does, not by what people think it might do. If an insurance corporation thinks the TCU is a labour union then the failure was in the understanding, not in the name. Do you remember when ‘The Bare Naked Ladies’ were banned form playing at Toronto City Hall? Instead of changing the name, change the awareness, change the marketing angle, invest in the brand of the TCU. We ought to be more concerned with being objective, and less preoccupied about being perceived as objectionable.

  38. Pingback: Should the Toronto Cyclists Union change their name to Cycle Toronto? | Biking Toronto

  39. I have not joined, because I think the Union has not been militant enough. If they neuter the name, I am proven correct.

  40. Pingback: What’s in a name? | The General Ledger

  41. Gregory Alan Elliott

    TORONTO CYCLISTS. Drop the Union.

  42. Pingback: Cycling Advocates Consider a Rebrand | news | Torontoist

  43. As a TCU Board member I welcome all TCU members (new member sign-ups also welcome) to our AGM tonight at CSI Annex Basement, 720 Bathurst (2 blocks south Bloor) at 6:15 p.m for registration and a Board Candidate/Member “Meet & Greet”, so you can decide which 6 of the 22 candidates you’ll vote for in this very competitive Board election. We’ll also have a ballot for some minor by-law updates as well as the name change to Cycle Toronto, which by law requires a 2/3s majority—so come out and make sure your vote counts!

    I want to reassure all members the name change was not an easy or a quick decision, one that the Board thought about for over a year and actively discussed the last six months, with some in favour, some wanting to keep “Union” before we came to the unanimous decision to recommend the Cycle Toronto to members.

    Why? Our decision wasn’t based on our own personal name preferences, or past loyalties, but in accordance with our “fiduciary duty” as Directors to consider the best interests of the Bike Union. Half our revenue is membership revenue, half grants, many of which are start-up grants that will not be renewed. We’re simply not financially self-sustaining, even after doubling membership in the last year, nor do we have the financial resources to provide you the level of advocacy, member benefits and communication we think is needed to keep you engaged and secure better bike infrastructure.

    We have very aggressive membership growth targets (to 10,000) and need to replace the expiring grants with business, corporate sponsorships as you see on our home page (Platinum & Gold sponsors), in addition to increasing members dues as we again seek to double membership.

    • If you want to ensure long-term, sustainable financial support, you should endeavour to find organizations and partners who share our vision and goals. If the Board is going to bend for every potential funder who takes issue with what we choose to call ourselves, rather than recognizing and supporting the excellent and very important work that we do, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and effort year over year. And why should any potential funder recognize our work if we don’t take pride in it ourselves?

  44. Pingback: When a union isn’t a union | Origins of Politics

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