by Barry Weisleder
In the absence of the traditional downtown parade of unions, Socialist Action initiated an impressive in-person gathering to mark Labour Day in Toronto at Christie Pits Park. It drew a crowd of about one hundred people. The September 7, 1 p.m. rally united on the theme “Fight for a Workers’ Agenda”. It included many organizations. Some displayed their colourful banners and flags. Video reportage of the event, as well as an interview with an SA spokesperson, appeared on CTV and Global national news, as well CITY-TV and CP24.
The rally chair, Elizabeth Byce, treasurer of Socialist Action, past secretary of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, offered masks to participants, and urged everyone to maintain physical distancing in the interest of good health and safety during the lively 90-minute event that featured speakers, chanting and live music. The programme began with Emily Steers, soprano and member of SA and PSAC at Laurier University, singing “Solidarity Forever”.
She was followed by speakers: Kurt Young, Socialist Action organizer in Peel, and member of Sheet Metal Workers’ Union, Local 30.
Qaiser Maroof, President, Toronto Local, Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Kayla Weiler, Ontario Representative, Canadian Federation of Students.
Euridice Baumgarten, NDP Socialist Caucus.
Y.C. Lee, operatic tenor singing Bandiera Rossa.
Alejandra Ruiz Vargas,Chair, East YorkACORN.
John Wilson, steering committee member of Queer Ontario.
Loretta Fisher, Spring Socialist Magazine.
Angela Bischoff, Greenspiration, networking for environmental and social justice.
Bill Heffernan, teacher and solidarity activist, recited his poem about Palestine.
Y.C. Lee, who spoke for the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Sebastian Mendoza-Price, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network.
And Sam Cheadle for the Workers’ Action Movement.
At the conclusion, Y.C. Lee, operatic tenor, sang ‘The Internationale’.
Unfortunately, Jahan Niroomand, Fightback Organizer and member of the Canadian Freelance Union, UNIFOR, was unable to attend due to a family emergency.
Participants united to advance the following demands: Disarm, De-fund, Disband the Police, Free Public Transit, Ensure Safety-First in Education, Services and Production. Expropriate the Pandemic Profiteers – including the private Long Term Care corporations, Tax the Rich, Free Post-Secondary Education, Fund human needs – not war production or the military, Hands Off Venezuela, Viva-Viva Palestina, Raise the Minimum Wage to $20/hour, fight for Good Jobs and a Living Income for All, for an Eco-socialist Green New Deal, Rent Freeze Now, No COVID Evictions, and Provide Quality Housing and Childcare for all who need it.
Socialist Action welcomed endorsements of the event by: Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), Greenspiration, Queer Ontario, No Pride in Policing Coalition, Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, Fightback, Spring Socialist Magazine, NDP Socialist Caucus and Workers’ Action Movement.
The texts on which the remarks of Socialist Action speaker Kurt Young, and rally chair Elizabeth Byce were based, can be found in the attached files.
An audio/video recording of the rally is on the SA Facebook page and will be posted on the SA YouTube channel. More photos, including those below, will be shared.
For more information call: 647-986-1917 www.socialistaction.ca
Chair’s remarks for Toronto Labour Day Rally 2020
Welcome to this rally to mark Labour Day in Toronto. The real International Workers’ Day is on May First, but we intend to seize this occasion to advance a Workers’ Agenda. Labour makes the country run. Labour should run the country.
We acknowledge that this gathering takes place on Indigenous lands, including the unceded territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Wendot, and the Hau-den-o-shon-i people. We do more than honour the First Nations. We join in the fight for justice, recognizing that there can be no real reconciliation without restitution. That entails seizing the assets of the big resource corporations and returning them to the commons.
This rally is sponsored by Socialist Action, and is endorsed by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), Greenspiration, Queer Ontario, Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network,
Spring Socialist magazine, Fightback, the No Pride in Policing Coalition, the NDP Socialist Caucus and the Workers’ Action Movement. We are here, as well, strongly in solidarity with the pro-Palestine restaurant Foodbenders, located on Bloor St. just west of Dufferin, which was vandalized when a brick shattered its front window on Sept. 2. The JDL terrorist group earlier spray-painted the shop window and is suspected in this latest attack. We say Hands Off Foodbenders! Viva, Viva, Palestina!
My name is Elizabeth Byce. I am a retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, federal Treasurer of the NDP Socialist Caucus, a leading member of Socialist Action, and your chair for this rally.
I hope you enjoy this rally. Please take the opportunity to buy some great literature. Subscribe to our monthly newspaper, Socialist Action, the best publication of its kind in North America.
If at any time you decide you would like to join SA, please fill out the form at the display table, visit our website at: http://www.socialistaction.ca or call us at: 647-986-1917.
Now it is my honour to call on a comrade who will lead us in song. Emily Steers is a music grad student, a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada that represents teaching assistants at Wilfred Laurier University, a union local that she helped to organize last Fall. Emily is a member of the national leadership of Socialist Action. She will lead us now in singing the great labour anthem “Solidarity Forever.”
And now it is my pleasure to introduce our first speaker.
Kurt Young is the Socialist Action organizer in Peel Region and is part of the national leadership of Socialist Action. He is a member of Sheet Metal Workers’ Union, Local 30. Last November, Kurt was one of two members of the Workers’ Action Movement who ran for top positions in the Ontario Federation of Labour. He and Barry Conway got 36 per cent of the votes of delegates at the OFL convention. Please warmly welcome Kurt Young.
The next speaker comes from my union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which is regarded as this country’s most militant, democratic union. Qaiser Maroof, is the President of the Toronto Local of CUPW. Please welcome Qaiser.
Our next speaker is Kayla Weiler, the Ontario Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students. The CFS is known for its Drop Tuition Fees campaign, which is particularly pertinent in these COVID-19 times.
The Socialist Caucus is the main body of the organized left inside the labour-based New Democratic Party. Euridice Baumgarten is a tenants’ rights activist living in Don Valley West. She is a member of the Ontario steering committee of the NDP Socialist Caucus.
Y.C. Lee, operatic tenor, will now sing the Italian workers’ movement anthem Bandiera Rossa.
ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. We are pleased to welcome members of ACORN to this rally, and particularly Alejandra Ruiz Vargas who is the Chair of East York ACORN.
John Wilson, is a pioneer of the gay rights movement in Ontario, and is a leading member of Socialist Action. John is a steering committee member of Queer Ontario, for whom he speaks today.
The next speaker is Loretta Fisher, representing Spring Socialist Magazine where she champions de-funding police to rebuild safer public services & safer TTC. She recently spoke on an SA webcast on the Mental Health Crisis. Today she will read a couple of her poems. Please welcome Loretta Fisher.
Angela Bischoff represents Greenspiration, networking for environmental and social justice. She works for the Ontario
Clean Air Alliance, and is a leading anti-nuclear activist.
Bill Heffernan, long time teacher and international solidarity activist, is here to share his poem about Palestine.
Y.C. Lee will now speak for the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Jahan Niroomand is a Fightback Organizer and a member of the Canadian Freelance Union, UNIFOR. Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, Jahan is unable to be here today, but we thank Fightback for endorsing this event.
Sebastian Mendoza Price helped to organize the recent rally to promote the Little Jamaica community at Eglinton and Oakwood where, during a minor incident, the police massively and brutally intervened. Today, Sebastian speaks for the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network.
Sam Cheadle is an OPSEU activist in the Ontario Liquor Board sector. He is on the steering committee of the Workers’ Action Movement. Please warmly welcome Sam.
Finally, one more special treat. Singing ‘The Internationale’, is Y.C. Lee. He is an operatic tenor, and a member of the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Special thanks to everyone who participated in this rally. Please consider buying a subscription to Socialist Action newspaper, only $25 for one year, delivered to your door. Just fill out the form at the display table, or visit our website at: http://www.socialistaction.ca
If you would like to talk to us about joining SA, write
to: firstname.lastname@example.org Or just call: 647-986-1917.
Once again, if you liked this event, please subscribe to the Socialist Action YouTube channel. The next series of SA webcasts starts on September 10. For the details, just visit: http://www.socialistaction.ca
In the meantime, please stay safe, healthy and active. Bye for now.
Speech by Kurt Y. for SA at Labour Day Rally 2020
Sisters and brothers, comrades and friends, Labour Day is not May First. But isn’t every day a good day to fight for a Workers’ Agenda? Isn’t this a good time to defend the right to strike for safe and healthy working conditions? Isn’t this the right time to smash racism, sexism, homophobia and police brutality? As Elizabeth said, I am a building trades worker. I am sick of seeing reports of a noose hanging at a construction site. I am angry that Black and brown students in Peel are disproportionately suspended, expelled or pushed into dead end courses of study. I am sick of reports that Black people are far more likely to be arrested, charged, shot and killed by Toronto police. I am sick of the reality that racialized workers, especially women delivering front line services, are prime victims of the pandemic. Working people demand an end to the conditions that foster sickness and inequality, an end to destruction of the environment, an end to big business rule.
Before COVID-19 the public sector was under relentless attack. Job security was disappearing. The rulers spent billions for wars in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but not for clean water in Indigenous communities. They have wads of cash for corporate buy-outs, but not to house the homeless.
Today, the world is reeling from economic depression. It is teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. The New Cold War is getting hotter. Its front line stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf, from Venezuela to Palestine, from Washington to Beijing.
1% of the population controls over 50% of the world’s wealth. In the face of growing inequality and poverty, Canadian bank and mining CEOs reward themselves with multi-million-dollar salaries.
We have a severe housing crisis. Robots are replacing workers. Cops get away with murdering Black, brown, Indigenous and mentally ill people. Where is the justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet? We are inundated by a steady stream of lies from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and not just about the WE charity scandal. On climate change, indigenous rights, electoral reform, taxation, civil liberties and military spending, Trudeau’s agenda is the Stephen Harper agenda — behind a cloud of cannabis smoke. On matters of imperialist war, pipelines and trade, Trudeau capitulates to Trump.
So, the working class is fighting back. We are inspired by the mass protests against killer cops, by the campaign to raise the minimum wage, and by the actions of young workers fighting for job security and a decent livelihood.
We draw inspiration from Idle No More, from Black Lives Matter, and from the Climate Justice movement. We say it’s time that working people reject labour concessions and remove those union officials who keep the capitalist system going. We say it’s time to rise up. It’s time to break the chains that bind us to a system rooted in repression, war, eco-disaster and untold suffering. In the words of Solidarity Forever, let’s “bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.”
Socialist Action is committed to grassroots democracy and the united front in action. You can see it in the NDP Socialist Caucus, in the Workers’ Action Movement, in
campaigns of solidarity with Venezuela and Cuba, and in the fight against Thug Ford. SA initiated the cross-country Day of Action for Palestinian rights in May 2019, plus the online Day of Action, to demand Break the Siege of Gaza and No Annexation of the West Bank in May 2020. Conservatives in the USA and Canada are trying to deprive women of the Right to Choose on Abortion. We say To hell with that, we’re never going back! A woman’s right to choose is here to stay! The ruling rich aim to reverse the concessions made to workers during the current pandemic. We say To hell with that, we refuse to go back! We demand permanent pay increases, safe working conditions, and public ownership of all Long-Term Care facilities. We say nationalize Big Oil, the giant Telecoms and the Big Banks.
We demand: Disarm, De-fund, Disband the Police, Free Public Transit, Tax the Rich, Free Post-Secondary Education, Fund human needs – not war production or the military, Hands Off Venezuela, Viva-Viva Palestina, Raise the minimum wage to $20/hour, for Good Jobs and a Living Income for All, for an Eco-socialist Green New Deal, Rent Freeze Now, No COVID Evictions, and Provide Quality Housing and Childcare for all who need it.
None of these demands can be won and secured without a Workers’ Government. An NDP government would be a small step forward. But to lead the fight for a real Workers’ Government we need a Revolutionary Workers’ Party. If you want to change the world, now is the time to get directly involved. We warmly invite you to join Socialist Action. Happy Labour Day! Workers to power!