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Canada's Actually Great Rail Company Goes On Strike

Fun fact about Canadians: They go on strike all the time, especially in Quebec. Whether it's cops working-to-rule (which means they do their jobs but wear snug jeans and camo instead of their uniforms) or bus drivers refusing to shuttle you to work for a week at a time, it's a not uncommon occurrence. Which implies a few things. First, it probably works pretty well, since public servants in various sectors keep doing it. Second, unions probably still very much matter. Third, when disputes do get resolved in favor of the workers, it sends a strong message about the value of the service that is being provided.Which brings me to this newsy bit: the unionized workers at VIA rail, Canada's Amtrak, is striking, and the result is pandemonium. (There is not a single rental car available in Montreal today.) All 340 locomotive engineers walked off the job today, after last night's negotiation deadline wasn't met. At issue are salary and scheduling disagreements that have been going on since 2006. That's a long time ago.VIA operates about 500 trains a week and it, like Amtrak, has been the subject of cuts for decades. The difference, in my humble opinion, is that Canadian trains are actually pretty sweet. They suffer some of the same problems as other trains (delays). But the dining cars have button-back leather (vinyl?) seats straight out of a retro diner, the food's not as bad as plane food, and the first-class cars are actually that. The coach seats are also comfortable and roomier than some other systems'. They also have wireless on a lot of them, and-perhaps most important-the cars don't smell bad.It'll be interesting to see what the resolution is.

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