by Barry Weisleder
At the threshold of winter, class conflict is heating up the Pan-Canadian landscape. Parliament rendered rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers illegal on November 27. Nonetheless, on December 1, thousands of members of allied unions and social movements picketed and blockaded postal facilities in over a dozen cities across the country. For ten hours no trucks entered or left the giant Gateway mail processing plant in Mississauga, which handles two-thirds of Canada’s mail. So far, unions have pledged over $5 million to CUPW for its constitutional challenge to Justin Trudeau’s strikebreaking law, and potentially for costs related to future protests. The possibility of more disruptive mass pickets, even a cross-country wildcat strike by postal workers, looms. Meanwhile, the one-day walkout by GM workers in Oshawa did not quell the anger of auto workers, their families, and employees in related industries, at the prospect of a massive plant closure within a year. Rumours of shut downs in the food sector in southern Ontario stoke fears of huge job losses and de-industrialization woes.
Add to this the brutal attacks on labour and low-wage workers by the arch-Conservative Doug Ford provincial government and it is evident that the elements for a major class confrontation seem to be accumulating.
On November 28 about one hundred people answered the call of the Workers’ Action Movement to protest at the doorstep of the Liberal Finance Minister’s constituency office in Toronto Centre. Speaking for Socialist Action, which helped to organize the event, I made the following remarks:
“Welcome to Class War Canada! Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, General Motors, the Big Banks and Big Oil are stepping up their war on us all. For too long the working class has been fighting with our hands tied. This must change now.
Today, we are at Bill Morneau’s office on Parliament Street. How fitting! Parliament is the place where capitalist politicians pay lip service to civil rights, and where they trample those rights, like the right to strike and the right to free collective bargaining, at will.
How can you tell when a bourgeois politician is lying? When his lips are moving. The Liberals lied about the crisis in the post office. The crisis is about under staffing, forced overtime and gender pay inequality; it’s not about rotating strikes that brought these issues to public attention. They lied about Management’s willingness to negotiate. When the industry got a $10.7 billion bailout from Ottawa, the government and GM lied when they promised that GM would continue to produce vehicles in Oshawa through 2020. They lied about how the big banks and the rich would be forced to pay more taxes. The big 5 banks record billions in profit, while continuing to gouge their customers. Recently, Ottawa gave $16 billion in tax breaks to big business. They lie about protecting the environment and honouring Indigenous people’s rights, while they spend billions to buy a leaky, fifty-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline. They allow for-profit medical firms to implant untested devices in people that caused 1,400 deaths in Canada since 2008. That is the price for putting profits before people.
Sisters and brothers, the real disease is the profit system. The main culprit is corporate capitalism. That is what should be buried today, not the right to strike.
We are here to support postal workers, not to tell them what to do. But if they decide to defy an unjust law, we pledge to support them 100 per cent. If they boycott overtime, occupy plants and depots, and ask us to cross-picket postal facilities, we will support them 100 per cent.
When auto workers remind us that they built GM, that their labour created a century of fabulous private profits, we say they deserve good jobs and benefits. They, and we all, deserve a transportation industry with a green energy future. How? There is only one way to harness the resources needed to make that happen: Nationalize GM, without compensation, under workers’ control!
In Class War Canada it’s time to unchain the power of the working class. It’s time to turn our unions into weapons of class war, in the interests of the majority, both the organized and the not-yet-organized. It’s time for an emergency convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour to decide on a plan to remove Thug Ford and his P.C. pirates at Queen’s Park. If we don’t show leadership in the fight against the attacks on the poor, on women, on immigrants, on racialized minorities, on Indigenous people, then the racists and fascists will attract many of the angry and frustrated who are victims of decaying, crisis-wracked capitalism.
I urge everyone here to join the Workers’ Action Movement, to join Socialist Action, to fight for a Workers’ Government, and to settle for nothing less than a socialist revolution.”