Category Archives: Labour

Socialist challenges Ford-supporter in Ward 1

Dear Friends, Fellow Workers, and Residents of Ward 1,

I begin by acknowledging that the land on which we are standing is the traditional territory of many First Nations, including the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse Indigenous, Inuit and Metis peoples.

I have lived in Ward 1, in Rexdale, for 9 years.  I work as a paralegal with the suffering people of this area who are struggling to survive.  I have witnessed, over the years, a growing inequality in the ward, and increasingly the same nefarious trend across the City of Toronto.  More and more, the mega-city is becoming a place in which workers are pushed to the margins by economic policies designed to serve the interests of the rich and big corporations, such as banks, land developers and the real estate industry.

Toronto is a city where profit margins have climbed, but the tax rates the rich pay have declined.  This puts a greater onus on workers who have seen their real incomes fall while their taxes go through the roof.

Construction cranes crowd the landscape, erecting tall condos from which a global elite and Real Estate Income Trusts garner huge profits.  Meanwhile, life becomes more precarious for renters who face skyrocketing costs and are pushed to margins of society.  In 2017 the resulting social displacement led to the deaths of over 100 homeless people.

Service cuts, combined with tax giveaways to corporations, have fostered crises in affordable housing, health, transportation, energy, waste management and recreation.  Cuts contribute to growing inequality, low wages and precarious employment. Workers, like those doing three jobs and working for minimum wages have said enough is enough.  Workers have begun to organize against the onslaught of economic measures that deprive us of our rights and a decent income. I am running not to be another seat holder on city council, but to help build and mobilize a movement for a workers’ agenda and put socialism on the table at city hall.

That is why I am the candidate of Socialist Action in Ward 1.  In the absence of a slate of candidates openly representing the labour-based New Democratic Party across Toronto, I ask the voters of Ward 1 to vote Socialist Action, and to press the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and the NDP, to field a socialist team in the future that will fight boldly and clearly for a Labour City Hall and school board.

Imagine a world beyond the false priorities of the private profit system.  Imagine the liberating potential of a rent freeze, of a mansion tax on properties valued at over $5 million, of a truly progressive property tax system, of a worker and community-controlled affordable housing strategy centered on the use of City property and public land trusts.  Think of the benefit of properly supported health services that would heal the mentally and physically ill and reduce the growing incidence of murderous gun violence.

Imagine what we could accomplish by taxing the rich and giant corporations like banks, land developers and Real Estate Investment Trusts. Such enterprises have seen their share of taxes actually decline since 2005.  I will fight for an increase in big business property tax rates.  I will fight for Free and Accessible Public transit and for a Green Transition that would create jobs with a living wage by retrofitting schools and other properties such as the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

I invite you to join me and Socialist Action in this movement for a Workers’ Agenda and a Labour City Hall.  We are committed to advance an alternative agenda to that of the Doug Ford PC government, and the assortment of thinly-disguised Liberals and Tories, including Mayor John Tory, who run City Hall for the vested interests.

The policy that I advocate puts the needs of workers and our communities before private profit.   Please join this movement by volunteering your time, donating funds, endorsing the platform, and by pledging your support at: www.votepeterdgama.ca

For more information, please call me at: 437-333-7247.

Ford Begins

By Mitchell Shore

Socialist Action – Toronto members proudly joined the June 13 People’s Rally at Queen’s Park to protest some of the first actions of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party government.  On June 7, the Tories won 76 of the 124 seats in the Ontario Legislature — securing 61 per cent of the seats with only 40 per cent of the votes cast, equaling about a quarter of the electorate.

Despite the hard work of the organizers, the turnout was poor. Only about 200 people attended. While the extreme heat of the day served as an excuse, the primary reason was the absence of an organized union presence. Besides a handful of individual union and community activists, a solid presence by the $15 and Fairness coalition, and three or four socialist groups, there was no sign of coordinated union participation. There was no OPSEU, no AMAPCEO, no CUPE, no ETFO, OSSTF or OECTA, no UNIFOR, no UFCW, no ATU, no Steelworkers’ Union — the list goes on.

Likewise, there was no sign of the New Democratic Party. The NDP, Canada’s only labour-based political party, now holds official opposition status in Ontario.  Sadly, its leaders seem comfortable confining their meager resistance efforts to the chambers of the Legislature — an approach that is bound to fail. The Tories hold a majority of seats and the NDP can only slow the torrent of reactionary laws.  NDP MPPs are powerless to actually to stop any Conservative party legislation. They ought to join us on the streets to amplify their voices and educate for change. And where were the supposedly brave activists of the NDP who are calling for action immediately following the election? Ford is not taking the summer off. Before we know it, much more will be stripped away in the name of “saving taxpayers money”.

Premier Doug Ford has already put in place a hiring freeze and has frozen the pay of all Ontario public service mangers. He fired Ontario’s Chief Scientist, sacked the government’s investment czar, terminated its top business adviser, and decimated Hydro One’s leadership. The promise that “no one is getting laid off” under a Ford administration is quickly exposed as a lie. The Tories then awarded a plush patronage position to Rueben Devlin, a former hospital president, a former president of the Progressive Conservative party, and a close friend of Doug Ford. This is a three year contract that comes with $348,000 annual salary — on top of his existing, six-figure, public pension!  His role will be to think about new ways to end “hallway medicine”. Again, this cynical appointment exposes the falsehood behind the promise about putting “an end to the government’s party with your money”. Over three years that’s $1 million — money which could be better used to employ unionized nurses to try to help deal with treatment delays in our hospital hallway medicine crisis.

At a time of dramatic climate change and extreme global warming, the Tories have rolled back most of the mild green energy efforts of the previous Liberal Ontario government. The new Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, stated that government will come up with its own plan to fight climate change that does not put an “onerous burden on the economy”. What do these plans entail?  To start, they cut government subsidies and supports for green energy technologies and appliances.  They cancelled 758 renewable energy contracts in an effort to save $790 million.  Soon the government will table legislation to kill the White Pines wind turbine project on Lake Ontario, south of Belleville, which is anticipated to leave taxpayers on the hook for about $100 million.

In what came as a shock to many people working in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), immediately after the election and following the Speech from the Throne, congratulatory messages were sent to the Tories by two major public sector unions, OPSEU and AMAPECO. This is a betrayal of working class resistance and solidarity. Instead of ‘cutting Ford some slack’, these organizations should be gearing up to defend the jobs and rights of all union members and stand up to defend the services of the people of Ontario.

The first thing on his legislative agenda is busting the four months-long strike of teaching and graduate assistants at York University. CUPE Local 3903 members walked off the job on March 5 seeking improved job security as well as better funding for the university. It is now the longest academic strike in Canadian history. Not surprisingly, rather than using their authority to encourage York U to go back to the bargaining table, to come to a negotiated settlement, the Tories have chosen to make one of their first legislative initiatives an attack on workers, and ultimately an attack on the quality of education at Ontario universities. After four and a half months on the picket line, the courageous workers of CUPE 3903 now have to deal with the harsh reality that they will be unjustly, and unconstitutionally, legislated back to work. And at this critical time, the mis-leaders of two major public service unions should be ashamed of themselves for offering the government congratulations. CUPE 3903 deserves union solidarity, not offers of collaboration with the political thugs who aim to force them back to work.

The Tories also plan to repeal the 2015 sexual education curriculum. In its place, the Tory homophobes have promised to bring back the 1998 curriculum! This is a highly sanitized version of curriculum that preceded high-speed internet and Google, a time before cyber bullying and the dangers of sexting, a time before open and honest discussions about consent, sexuality, gender identity, and same-sex relationships. The Tories are doing this, it seems, largely to appease a tiny minority of social conservatives in their ranks, such as the religious-nut Charles McVety, right-wing newspaper columnist Barbara Kay, national president of the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition, Jim Hughes, and the newly appointed Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, the home-schooled 20 year old, Sam Oosterhoff, all of whom backed Doug Ford in his bid to become leader of the party.

The Tory thugs have also announced they will cut essential curriculum development, which was started on recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  They put a stop to the development of an American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum, and they have cut all funding for crucial school repairs.

Next, it is likely they will repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019. This will probably be followed by a tax cut of 20 per cent that will most benefit the rich. His tax credit for child care costs will not create more spaces, raise or enforce standards, or boost pay for low wage workers. No steps to build social housing, and no significant increase in health care funding are in store. The Ford government has also postponed implementation of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act aimed at improving police oversight. Ontario is headed towards a return to carding – a practice that disproportionately targets black and brown people. Carding is a racist practice that stigmatises minorities, but does nothing to stop crime. This decision was made just days before Michael Tibollo, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, the man tasked with heading up the Anti-Racism Directorate, said in the Ontario Legislature that he wore a bulletproof vest when visiting Toronto’s largely poor and racialized neighborhood of Jane and Finch. The Tories seem uninhibited when it comes to revealing their racist bigotry. This kind of frenzied, toxic atmosphere is what the Tories are rapidly fostering.

On June 17, Doug Ford’s office announced the creation of an Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry into Ontario’s past spending and accounting practices. This inquiry will be under the direction of former Liberal Premier of British Columbia Gordon Campbell. It’s another indication that Tories and Liberals are cut from the same cloth. The $6 billion that Ford promised to find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector. Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished. Ford is a job killer, and a servant to his corporate buddies whose taxes he will greatly reduce, putting the province deeper in the hole.

So what can we do? We need more than just talk about recreating the Days of Action which challenged Ontario Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s. In fact, a better action model is needed to avoid a repeat of what happened then. Leaders of the Ontario Federation of Labour and its major affiliates terminated the momentum-gathering Days of Action before they risked losing control of the movement. The result was massive demoralization of the labour movement and ultimately the re-election of Mike Harris in 1999. And if you think things were bad during the Mike Harris years, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Urgently needed is real, unlimited, militant action. But so far, we have seen very little coordinated resistance. Socialist Action is circulating widely a resolution to encourage all unions, every NDP electoral district association, social justice movements and working class organizations to discuss and adopt a plan in favour of coordinated mass action.

If working class organizations go on record now in favour of mass action opposition to the Ford/Conservative agenda in Ontario, and for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity, it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of struggle. It can also be a very useful item in our tool kit to connect with rank and file workers, fighters against oppression of every kind, and social justice movements.

The resolution, presented below, calls for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity and it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of what is going to be a very long struggle.

“Be it resolved that ……. (fill in your union, NDP association and/or community organization) request that the Ontario Federation of Labour hold an emergency convention to adopt an action plan to confront and defeat the Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative government agenda.

Be it further resolved that …….. (your union, etc.) commits to respond with mass protests, including rallies, demonstrations and job actions,up to and including sectoral and general strikes, against Doug Ford – PC government attacks on public services, civil liberties, equity seeking groups, unions and non-organized workers in this province. We believe that all unions and social justice partners, in anticipation of serious cuts to jobs and services, should go on immediate strike alert and build a broad, democratic united front of resistance.”

The only way to stop the Ford-nado that is about to ravage the province is to shut it down before the mix of hot air and cold hearts gains too much strength and power. We can do this only by building an impenetrable wall of resistance and opposition, which could be a vital step towards a Workers’ Agenda for Ontario.

The Winnipeg General strike in the Context of the Bolshevik Revolution

The Winnipeg General Strike began on the 15th of May 1919 and ended on the 25th of June. During that time, the strike  Committee, set up by the unions, ran the city. It was the first worker run city in Canada, brief though it was. For 42 days, 6 weeks, the workers ran the City of Winnipeg and the bosses and politicians could do nothing about it.

A year and a half earlier on Nov 7 1917, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks led primarily by Lenin And  Trotsky, the workers had seized power in Petrograd establishing the very first workers state in history These two events were closely related

Both of  these events rose out of the massive imperialist convulsion pf blood and gore and disease and destruction known as World War I. The 4 long years of mud and blood and artillery fire and machine guns and rain and cold had been a hell none of the soldiers could have imagined.

Repeated, uncaring orders from aristocratic officers on both sides for hundreds of thousands of soldiers to go over the top into the teeth of merciless machine gun fire had resulted in slaughter and mountains of corpses with the maggots and rats they inevitably draw.

When these workers in uniform recoiled and refused to continue such insane and suicidal behaviour they were summarily court marshalled and shot dead.

This was brutal imperialist competition in its most basic and bloody form.

Working class Canadians had signed up en mass in a wave of enthusiasm for the flag waving, the parades, the chance to go overseas and do something exciting and heroic. Their drab lives in the forests, mines, factories and grain fields did little to hold them back.

Their introduction to the reality of modern war came quickly and roughly. These young Canadians adapted to it, and became among the toughest soldiers on the allied side. German officers would watch where Canadian troops were sent and send in reinforcements. Partly this was because of the grit shown by these kids from the Canadian wilderness and partly it was the greater willingness of British officers to send in the colonials to try to reduce the long casualty lists of dead and wounded being sent home to Britain.

But at least this was the war to end all wars, the war to make the world safe for democracy. Or at least that was what the ruling class said it was.

At the end of it all, demobilization was slow. Canadian troops were left in camps in England in mud and rain, often without pay and even short of food. No longer the naïve patriotic kids who volunteered, Canadian soldiers rioted repeatedly. There was talk of using Canadian troops to fight to red army in the Soviet Union. The mood among the men was against this. They were sick of war and wanted to go home. Many of them felt a strong sympathy with the new workers government in Russia.

A contingent was sent from Canada to Vladivostok on the east coast of the Soviet Union. They were sent through Victoria. During a march through the city to the ships, they mutinied. The mutiny was quelled and they sailed with the mutineers in irons. They got to Vladivostok, but never fired at shot at the Red Army. The Red Army won against the Aristocratic Russian generals and their foreign allied imperialist troops.

How had such a thing happened? Why were the workers ruling Russia? Such a thing had never happened before.

The overthrow of the Tsarist regime and then the Kerensky government was precipitated by the horror of the war. Bolsheviks, who had opposed the war from the outset, entered the army to be with the worker and peasant soldiers, share their fate and agitate against the war.

As the death toll skyrocketed and arrogant aristocratic officers treated the soldiers as valueless pawns the soldiers began to rebel. The bolsheviks were informing them of the uprisings in Petrograd and elsewhere. The soldiers began simply to shoot their officers and head back home. At home they overwhelmingly supported the workers and the revolution.

This was the revolution the imperialists including Canada’s ruling class feared and loathed. They saw bolshevism in every workers action, every workers meeting and every whisper of unionism.

Canadian workers, after the profound and sobering experience of the war were far less naïve as the war ground to an end. Their leaders knew about the revolution and many supported it. There was no communist party in Canada in 1919. It would be formed in a barn in Guelph Ontario in 1921. But there were class conscious leaders, socialists, anarchists and syndicalists, many of whom would later become members of the early Communist party. Labour conferences in Canada in this period overwhelmingly expressed solidarity with the new Soviet Union and passed resolutions demanding that The Canadian soldiers in Vladivostok be brought home.

Immediate Causes of the Strike

Soldiers returned home desiring jobs and a normal lifestyle again only to find factories shutting down, soaring unemployment rates, increasing bankruptcies and immigrants taking over the veterans’ former job. The cost of living was raised due to the inflation caused by World War I, making it hard for families to live above poverty.

Another component which caused the strike was the working conditions of many factories that upset the employees, thus pushing them to make the changes that would benefit them.

After three months of unproductive negotiations between the employers of the Winnipeg builders exchange and the union, worker frustration grew. The city council’s new proposal to the workers was unsatisfactory to the four departments, electrical workers took action and a strike was established. Waterworks and fire department employees joined a few days later.

Strikers were labelled as Bolsheviks who were attempting to undermine Canada. The city council viewed the strike as utterly unacceptable and thus dismissed the striking workers. This did not discourage the workers; instead, other civic unions joined the strike out of sympathy, which was an important feature of twentieth century social history.

On May 13, City Council gathered again to review and look over the proposed agreement issued by the strikers and their leaders. Once again, City Council did not accept the proposal without their own amendments, specifically the Fowler Amendment, which read that “all persons employed by the City should express their willingness to execute an agreement, undertaking that they will not either collectively or individually at any time go on strike but will resort to arbitration as a means of settlement of all grievances and differences which may not be capable of amicable settlement.”

This amendment incensed the civic employees further, and by Friday, May 24, an estimated total of 6,800 strikers from thirteen trades had joined the strike.

Organization

In Winnipeg, workers within the building and metal industries attempted to strengthen their bargaining ability by creating umbrella unions, the Building Trade Council and Metal Trade Council respectively, to encompass all metal and building unions. Although employers were willing to negotiate with each union separately, they refused to bargain with the Building and Metal Trade Councils, because the solidarity of the unions greatly strengthened the workers bargaining position

Restrictive labour policy in the 1900s meant that a union could be recognized voluntarily by employers, or through strike action, but in no other way. Workers from both industrial groupings therefore struck to gain union recognition and to compel recognition of their collective bargaining rights.

The Building and Metal Trade Councils appealed to the Trades and Labour Union, the central union body representing the interests of many of Winnipeg’s workers, for support in their endeavours. The Trades and Labour Union, in a spirit of solidarity, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a sympathetic strike in support of the Building and Metal Trade Councils.

Ernest Robinson, secretary of the Winnipeg Trade and Labour Union, issued a statement that “every organization but one has voted in favour of the general strike” and that “all public utilities will be tied-up in order to enforce the principle of collective bargaining”.By suspending all public utilities, the strikers hoped to shut down the city, effectively forcing the strikers’ demands to be met. The complete suspension of public utilities, however, would prove impossible. The Winnipeg police, for example, had voted in favour of striking but remained on duty at the request of the strike committee to prevent the city from being placed under martial law. Other exceptions would follow.

At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday May 15, 1919, virtually the entire working population of Winnipeg had gone on strike. About half of these workers were not even union members. Somewhere around 30,000 workers in the public and private sectors walked off their jobs. Even essential public employees such as firefighters went on strike, but returned midway through the strike with the approval of the Strike Committee.

Although relations with the police and City Council were tense, the strike was non-violent in its beginning stages until the confrontation on Bloody Saturday.

Sympathetic Strikes

General strikes broke out in other cities, in solidarity with the Winnipeg strikers and in part as protest against local conditions. Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Amherst (Nova Scotia) and several other cities were locations of these sympathy strikes. Thirteen sympathy strikes in 13 cities have been recorded, some nearly as big as the Winnipeg strike

When Winnipeg strike leaders were arrested in June, Toronto streetcar drivers went on strike.

Victoria, BC held a general strike in protest at the police repression on Bloody Saturday and to show local labour strength.

Opposition

The local newspapers, the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune, had lost the majority of their employees due to the strike and took a decidedly anti-strike stance. The New York Times front page proclaimed “Bolshevism Invades Canada.” The Winnipeg Free Press called the strikers “bohunks,” “aliens,” and “anarchists” and ran cartoons depicting radicals throwing bombs.

These anti-strike views greatly influenced the opinions of Winnipeg residents. However, the majority of the strikers were not revolutionary. The winnipeg strike and the huge symparht strike could not have ended up in a workers Canada. There was no centralized leadership like the bolsheviks in Russia which could tackle the problem f state power.

When certain unions refused to comply with various boss and City Council demands their members were dismissed and replaced without any second chances. In regards to this, the Federal government opposed the dismissal of the Winnipeg police force and afterwards refused to step in when the police force was dismissed by the city thus creating the workforce called the “specials”.

Most opposed to the strike was the state including three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. The opposition could have been more efficient if they coordinated their policies and deals with each other rather than gradually working into the agreement and not being the total opposition that they were labelled in the first place.

At a local level, politicians showed sympathy for the strikers making them neither a monolith nor unalterably an enemy. The federal government’s only direct interest in the general strike other than calls from the local authorities was keeping the railroads and post office running.

A counter-strike committee, the “Citizens’ Committee of One Thousand”, was created by Winnipeg’s elite, among whom were A. J. Andrews, James Coyne, Isaac Pitblado, and Travers Sweatman, all four of whom would later co-prosecute the sedition cases

The Committee falsely declared the strike to be a violent, revolutionary conspiracy by a small group of foreigners also known as “alien scum”. On June 9, at the behest of the Committee, the City of Winnipeg Police Commission dismissed almost the entire city police force for refusing to sign a pledge promising to neither belong to a union nor participate in a sympathetic strike. The City replaced them with a large body of untrained but better paid special constables who sided with the employers.

Within hours, one of the special constables, a “hero”World War I veteran Frederick Coppins, charged his horse into a gathering of strikers and was dragged off his horse and severely pummelled.

As the situation spiralled out of control, the City of Winnipeg appealed for federal help and received extra reinforcements through the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. Despite these drastic measures, control of the streets was beyond the capacity of the city in the period between Tuesday June 9 and Bloody Saturday, June 21.

The Citizens’ Committee saw the strike as a breakdown of public authority and worried that the Strike Committee was attempting to overthrow the Canadian government.

The Citizens’ Committee met with federal Minister of Labour Gideon Decker Robertson and Minister of the Interior (and acting Minister of Justice) Arthur Meighen, warning them that the leaders of the general strike were revolutionists. Meighen issued a statement May 24 that he viewed the strike as “a cloak for something far deeper–an effort to ‘overturn’ the proper authority”. In response, he supplemented the army with local militia, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and special constables. Legislation quickly passed to allow for the instant deportation of any foreign-born radicals who advocated revolution or belonged to any organization opposed to organized government.

Robertson ordered federal government employees back to work, threatening them with dismissal if they refused. The two ministers refused to meet the Central Strike Committee to consider its grievances.

Bloody Saturday

On June 10 the federal government ordered the arrest of eight strike leaders (including J. S. Woodsworth and Abraham Albert Heaps). On June 21, about 30,000 strikers assembled for a demonstration at Market Square, where Winnipeg Mayor Charles Frederick Gray read the Riot Act. Troubled by the growing number of protestors and fearing violence, Mayor Gray called in the Royal Northwest Mounted police, who rode in on horseback charging into the crowd of strikers, beating them with clubs and firing weapons. This violent action resulted in the death of two strikers Mike Sokowolski (shot in the heart) and Mike Schezerbanowicz (shot in the legs, later dying of gangrene infection), 35 to 45 people injured (police, telephone operators, firemen, utility workers and laborers) and numerous arrests.

Four Eastern European immigrants were rounded up at this time (two of them were deported, one voluntarily to the United States and the other to Eastern Europe). This day, which came to be known as “Bloody Saturday”, ended with Winnipeg virtually under military occupation. Interacting with other prisoners that consisted of editors and strikers, police shut down the striker’s paper called the Western Labour News and arrested the editors for commentating on the event.

At 11:00 a.m. on June 25, 1919, the Central Strike Committee officially called off the strike and the strikers returned to work.

Aftermath

Eight of the strike leaders arrested on June 18 were eventually brought to trial in what were called “state trials” of political crimes. Five were found guilty of the charges laid against them. Their jail sentences ranged from six months to two years.

Sam Blumenberg and M. Charitonoff were scheduled for deportation. Only Blumenberg was deported, having left for the United States. Charitonoff appealed to Parliament in Ottawa and was eventually released without deportation. The lack of criminal proceedings taken against them was taken as evidence that their arrests were part of a government ruse so as to continue the fiction that foreigners, not British born, were the “agitators” of the strike.

A jury acquitted strike leader Fred Dixon.

The government dropped charges of seditious libel against J. S. Woodsworth, whose “crime” was quoting in the strike bulletin from the Bible. Woodsworth was elected MP in the next federal election as a Labour MP and went on to found and lead the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a forerunner of the New Democratic Party.

A Settlement

Fearing that the strike would spread to other cities, the Federal Government ordered Senator Gideon Decker Robertson to mediate the dispute. After hearing both sides, Robertson settled in favour of the strikers and encouraged Council to accept the civic employee’s proposal. Bolstered by their success, the labour unions would use the strike weapon again and again to gain other labour and union reforms.

After the strike many employees had mixed emotions about the solution the mayor provided agreed to. The metal workers received a reduction from their working week of five hours but did not receive a pay increase. Many of workers lost their pension rights and a deeper division between the working class and the capitalist class persisted.

Civic employees were obligated to sign an oath promising not to partake in any sympathetic strikes in their future. Among the Bloody Saturday participants, many lost their jobs and others resumed their previous jobs but were placed at the bottom of the seniority level. This was in spite of the fact that the violence was caused by the specials and the RCMP.

The Royal Commission which investigated the strike concluded that the strike was not a criminal conspiracy by foreigners and suggested that “if Capital does not provide enough to assure Labour a contented existence … then the Government might find it necessary to step in and let the state do these things at the expense of Capital.”

Organized labour thereafter was hostile towards the Conservatives, particularly Meighen and Robertson, for their forceful role in putting down the strike. Combined with high tariffs in the federal budget passed in the same year (which farmers disliked), the state security forces’ heavy-handed action against the strikers contributed to the Conservatives’ heavy defeat in the 1921 election – they lost every one of their seats on the Prairies.

The succeeding Liberal government, fearing the growing support for hard left elements, pledged to enact the labour reforms proposed by the Commission. The strike leaders who had at least faced charges if not served time in prison (such as Woodsworth mentioned above) were applauded as labor’s champion and many were elected to serve in provincial and federal governments.

Role of women

The role of women during that time period played an influential part when dealing with the strike. As active citizens, various women were among the crowds joining the bystanders, sightseers and victims at major rallies and demonstrations. The division of women in the province included the strikers and women called “scabs” that were against the strike and tried every way to end it. Striking women would unplug the telephone operators and the scabs would plug them back in. It was especially hard for the women at home due to the low income and absence of goods and services to survive weekly as well as fully depending on their own salary.

By 1919, women constituted roughly one-quarter of that labour force, mainly working in the service, clerical and retail parts of the economy. Around 500 women workers walked off after the first call of the strike, followed by hundreds more days later. The Young Women’s Christian Association provided emergency accommodations to women who lived far away from their job. They accepted women strikers and non-strikers to get through the strike with ease. A major figure rose named Helen Armstrong, who was head of the local branch of the women’s labour league, accompanying husband George Armstrong, who was one of the strike leaders. Helen was responsible for the women’s kitchen maintained by the women’s league to feed the striking women. Male strikers were allowed to come to the kitchen to eat but had to provide a good reason as well as sometimes even paying for their meal.

Being arrested and put in jail, Helen made the media with names like “the wild women of the west” and “business manager for the women’s union”.

Among many other women who were sent to jail, Helen was granted a substantial bail of $1,000. When newspapers and articles commented on the strike and the women involved, the Winnipeg Tribune referred to many of the militant women as having accents thus labelling them as foreigners whenever something was published.

After the strike concluded many women came out for “ladies day” at Victoria park on June 12 and occupied seats of honour near the front cheering along with J. S. Woodsworth promoting emancipation of women and the equality of the sexes. This event was a catalyst for the equality of women and soon after leading to women being able to vote.

Lasting Lessons

What for us are the lasting lessons of the Winnipeg General strike.

First, it was based on strong solidarity among the unions and the willingness of leaders of various unions to subordinate their differences in the interests of solidarity and the needs of the workers as a whole. We could use a lot more of that today, witness the destructive withdrawal of Unifor from the Canadian Labour Congress which has nothing to do with worker needs and everything to do with the interests and bloated egos of the trade union bureaucrats.

Secondly, it demonstrated that the workers could set up a leadership, allocate and carry out responsibilities and ensure peace, security, distribution of food, operation of basic services and even opening of cinemas under authority of the strike committee. It was possible over 6 full weeks to run the city without the bosses and their crooked politicians.

Thirdly, although brutally suppressed, this massive and impressive action brought the bosses to concede, greater union rights, better pay, shorter hours in many cases and women’s suffrage shortly after.

Fourthly, it showed the possibility of Canada wide action by workers as demonstrated by the size and number of sympathy strikes from Halifax to Victoria.

Finally, it was a strike not only for wages and working condition but for rights. It was not merely economic but political in scope and contributed to the subsequent establishment of worker based parties such as the early communist party formed in 1921 in Ontario and in Calgary in 1932 the CCF.

Port Automation is a Dystopia for Dockers

BY CHRIS GOSSE*

There is a train of thought that imagines new technology has the potential for great job creation. You can go to McDonald’s and to your local grocery store and use automated machines to do a self check- out. But what about the people who did those jobs before?

Now, the bosses can have an employee monitoring six self check- out lanes. That’s pretty good profit maximization, 6 for 1. I haven’t seen a full- service gas station in a while. The local gas stations used to have a minimum of two people. Now they are down to one. This is a trend in many industries, including mine, the stevedore and long-shore industry. There are longshoreman locals in Canada that once had 3,500 members loading/unloading conventional vessels by manual labour. In the 1960’s, as containerization/mechanization brought technological change, these locals declined in membership – to 150–200 members each today.

There are fully automated terminals in three places in the world right now. The employers’ group on the west coast (Pacific Maritime Association) is trying to push through a job killing contract extension with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU). While on the east coast, the employers’ group, the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), is pushing the automation envelope as well.

As recently as a few weeks before Christmas, International Longshoreman Association (I.L.A.) President Harold Daggett broke off talks with the employer group on a new collective agreement. The bosses want fully automated terminals which can run with two or three employees, while the union favours semi-automated terminals that have automated features but are operated by dock workers. President Daggett has viewed automation as the main issue in current contract talks.

Of the three fully automated ports, not one has the same productivity as those operated by workers. The bosses like automation because they don’t have to deal with workers, unions, and safety issues.

Labour is a source of value – the wealth produced by workers. Corporations want to produce profit as the number one goal. Some of those corporations pushing for automation want public subsidies and public investment. It is bad enough that members of the 1% control 51% of the world’s wealth, but they want your tax dollars to make themselves wealthier and to destroy good, decent-paying jobs in the process.

Also, 22% of working people are working poor. Social security belongs to the workers, not to the bosses. What is happening to the Panama and Paradise Papers bandits?

What are the regulators and Canada’s federal government going to do to protect good jobs on the docks? Where is the social contract with the employer to make sure that workers aren’t dumped and replaced by machines that don’t pay taxes like the people exposed by the Paradise and Panama Papers?

How do we secure core working class values like universal health care (including Pharmacare), public education, public transit, public mail service, and postal banking? Casualized, outsourced, contracted-out, precarious work in the transportation industry will not help our people, especially our country’s workers. The way to achieve a truly realistic prosperity is through uncompromising revolutionary change and by exerting workers’ power for creative and socially productive work in a world of ecological sustainability and genuine equality. Let’s take a page from the Transitional Program, a set of demands formulated by Leon Trotsky in 1938, which includes the call for shorter work time without loss of pay or benefits, to share the available jobs along with the boon of rising productivity that comes from tech change.

In the late 19th century, Friedrich Engels called the London Dockers’ Strike the greatest promise he had witnessed in the fight for the working class. Harold Daggett and the I.L.A. have shown the greatest promise in the current fight for the dignity of the working class against the dystopia of capitalist automation. When the dockers get organized and win, all other sections will follow.

* Chris Gosse is President of the International Longshoreman’s union Local in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and was the Socialist Caucus candidate for NDP Vice-President – Labour.

CLC: Disaffiliation, Dues Strike or Special Convention?

by Mike Palecek, President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

(Introduction: On January 17, 2018, UNIFOR, the largest mostly private sector union in Canada announced that it quit the Canadian Labour Congress. On its website, UNIFOR National President Jerry Dias and Quebec director Renaud Gagne claimed the Congress failed to deal with their concern that U.S.-based unions are “trampling on the rights” of workers to choose their union representation. Rather than lead a fight for more democratic procedures in the CLC and its affiliates, the UNIFOR leaders, wrapped in the Canadian flag, and without a vote of the union’s members, conducted a split that weakens the House of Labour, stepped up a wave of union raiding (instead of organizing the unorganized), and helped the Liberal government in Ottawa to continue to carry out its anti-worker policies.  The break also precipitated an internal crisis over whether UNIFOR members, like CLC President Hassan Yussuff, can continue to hold office in the CLC, provincial federations of labour and local labour councils.  Overall, the split shows the new depths to which the labour bureaucracy has sunk. It underscores the urgent need for a radical rank and file movement, from below, to change the present course of the workers’ movement.  – Editor.)


At the emergency meeting of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Canada Council in early February, it was clear that many large affiliates were opposed to CLC President Hassan Yussuff’s constitutional interpretation.  Despite this fact, the interpretation was upheld by a large margin.  This in itself raises other constitutional questions.  There are also disagreements on other questions that were left unsaid.  These deep divisions within the house of labour cannot be papered over.  We can be certain that many of the larger affiliates are now considering their options for how to move forward.  Below are a few of the possibilities.

Disaffiliation

Any union has the right to disaffiliate from the CLC at any time, as UNIFOR did recently.  For some, this question can be reduced to a simple cost-benefit analysis.  Do they get out of the CLC as much as they put in?  This is a difficult question to answer at the best of times.  For CUPW, this is also a principled question.  We are constitutionally-bound to be affiliated to the CLC, the federations of labour and the labour councils and for good reason.

We know that we are stronger with a united labour movement that can advance the struggle together.  A recent example can be found in the Save Canada Post campaign.  We never could have stopped that austerity-drive without the broad support we received from the entire labour movement.  Labour councils across the country were key to mobilizing communities and ultimately defeating this agenda.  It was a spectacular demonstration of what could be done when labour comes together at the grassroots level.

We have always remained in the CLC even when unhappy about the direction it is taking.  For us it is not only a question of what is, but also what could be.  This is why our conventions have committed time and again, through our action plans, to attempt to rejuvenate and revitalize bodies of the labour movement, to arm them with a militant, grassroots agenda of mobilization.  There is no force stronger than an organized and united working class movement.

Dues Strike

Another option that some affiliates are likely considering is withholding their dues payments from the CLC.  This is a means of putting financial pressure on the organization, without actually withdrawing entirely from the house of labour.  This is something that has been done many times in our movement, often with bad consequences.  These kind of pressure tactics could have unintended consequences on staff and severely inhibit the work of the labour movement.  This is a poor means of settling political questions.

Special Convention

It is clear that the most democratic means of solving important divisions within the labour movement is with a convention.  Conventions of the CLC happen every three years, with the next convention scheduled for 2020.  But when matters of extreme importance are raised, such as the current internal crisis facing the labour movement, there are provisions in the CLC constitution to call a special convention.  A special convention can be called by a majority vote of the Canada Council, or by request of affiliates representing 50% of the membership of the CLC.

This is a costly exercise, and this alone gives reason to be hesitant.  But when one considers the cost of any other course of action, it is obviously the right one.  A convention where thousands of delegates from across the country can meet, debate and decide the future of the labour movement is the only means of solving these questions