Sunglasses, Tanning and Unions?

Hayley Goldfarb


“Omg, NO WAY you got a city job?!” “You’re
gonna make so much money this summer! “Wowww I wish I had a job, that’s so
sick!” These are phrases I heard repeatedly from all my friends and classmates
last May, when I told them that I had been hired by the City of Toronto as a
lifeguard. I know, it sounds fantastic, right? Lounging around the pool all day
in oversized glasses, working with hot guys, and getting a sick tan are all
requirements for any awesome summer job, and it seemed my lifeguard position promised all of the above. Even though the job required me to trek all the way to the
gang triangle, it seemed worth it. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to work for the Ford

With the promise of an amazing summer ahead of me, I suffered through the last few months of grade 11. I, along with the rest of the NT student body, pulled all-nighters to finish brutal summatives and trudged through final exams. One by one, NT students finished their exams and made Facebook statuses about summer shenanigans. While everyone was celebrating, however, I set off to my first day of work.

What I can promise you is that this is not a story of oversized sunglasses and tans, although I did have both. Sadly my oversized glasses and standard issue lifeguard singlet, created awful, long-lasting tan lines. Working for the City was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever had. I worked at one of the largest, yet also one of
the most run-down, pools in the City of Toronto.

Although I became close friends with all of my co-workers, it became apparent that the City of Toronto work ethic could not be more different from that of the NT student body. After a few weeks at work, I realized that I was one of a very select few staff members who was actually willing to do her work. While I housed down the toilets, cleaned the period boxes, picked up garbage and dealt with unruly patrons, many of my co-workers
mysteriously “disappeared” during their off-guard rotations and scheduled
maintenance breaks.

At any normal job, these people would have been fired. But when it comes to the City of Toronto, there is a whole new definition of “normal”: mediocrity. The protection of the Cupe Local 79 union means that most lifeguards, swim instructors, and other indoor workers know that they cannot get fired. Even the lifeguard who did not notice the boy
drowning five feet away from him (I witnessed this at work this summer)
received all averages on his staff evaluation and retained his job.

As yet another school year closes, I both smile and cringe at the idea of returning to the City of Toronto pools this summer. Sadly, the mediocrity that unions encourage has severely dampened my summer job experience, as it severely cripples many workplaces in the modern day. I can assure you that as I don my oversized sunglasses and prepare for catastrophic tan lines, I will also prepare to go to battle with my coworkers. That’s something Rob Ford and I have in common.