Category Archives: Labour

University Workers in Toronto Fight Back!

Hundreds of members of CUPE 3902 meet in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, just before voting 98% to reject their Employer’s final offer.
Hundreds of members of CUPE 3902 meet in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, just before voting 98% to reject their Employer’s final offer.

Strikes for social justice have taken hold of Canada’s two largest universities. 6,000 members of Local 3902 (unit 1) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are on legal strike against their employer, the University of Toronto (U of T). “We are poor, precarious, and need improvement in our standard of living,” Union Chair Erin Black said after her members overwhelmingly rejected U of T management’s terms at the end of February. The 3,700 members of CUPE Local 3903 hit the bricks on March 3, taking on their bosses at York University. At a special membership meeting held a day earlier, members voted 71 per cent to reject the university’s last offer and to commence strike action. They want protection against tuition hikes and an end to precarious, one year at a time, teaching contracts.

Continue reading University Workers in Toronto Fight Back!

OPS workers prepare to strike

by Julius Arscott

Employees of the Ontario Public Service are getting ready to hit the bricks. Negotiations for a collective agreement for the 35,000 workers, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, are stalled. The old agreement expired on December 31, 2014. Management is pitching take-away demands the likes of which have not been seen since the days of Conservative Premier Mike Harris. Continue reading OPS workers prepare to strike

Big Biz comes out ahead in Toronto city election

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Chow snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
by Barry Weisleder
Big business scored a big win in the October 28 Toronto municipal election. While voters rejected the mayoral bid of ultra-conservative, bully-Councillor Doug Ford, they put Bay Street big wig and corporate fixer John Tory into the top job in Canada’s biggest city. Ex-New Democrat MP Olivia Chow marginalized herself with one of the least effective city campaigns in memory.
Doug Ford was a last-minute stand-in for his drug-addicted, cancer-afflicted, younger brother Rob Ford. For four years, Rob was Toronto’s right wing populist rogue mayor, and the butt of international late night TV comedy.
Tory won with 40 per cent of the city-wide votes cast. Ford attracted 34 per cent, and Chow trailed with 23 per cent. The turnout was 61 per cent — a significant rise from 51 per cent in 2010. In Mississauga to the west, only 36 per cent bothered to vote.
At his victory party, John Tory, who was briefly leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and for a longer stint was CEO at the Canadian Football League, crowed that the result put an “end to the division that has paralyzed City Hall.” The strongly pro-Liberal Party Toronto Star seemed to agree, hailing the “return to normalcy”. A look at Tory’s platform reveals that it has much in common with the Fords’ agenda — minus the soap-operatic drama.
Tory pledged to privatize garbage collection on the east side of the city, following the Ford union-busting initiative west of Yonge Street. Tory promised no new taxes on the rich. He offered no social housing construction plan, and no measures to alleviate poverty and hunger in the city. His answer to traffic congestion, now at epic proportions, is a pie-in-the-sky scheme that involves borrowing billions and hoping for higher property tax revenues at future rapid transit stops.
imagesOlivia Chow, widow of deceased federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, led in opinion polls from January to June, but faltered over the summer months. Chow’s vacuous message “New Mayor. Better City.”, and her weak style, led establishment and middle class forces, who were desperate to purge Toronto of the Ford embarrassment, to rally behind John Tory’s “sensible” option. It is no wonder that the two campaigns were so similar in their blandness. Chow’s was run by Liberal and NDP honchos. Tory’s was headed by Conservative and Liberal wags. It was a difference without a distinction.
Chow shifted slightly to the left after Labour Day. She advanced the idea of a higher property transfer tax on residences that sell for over $2 million. But it was too little, too late. For ten long months she said nothing about police racial profiling and deadly shootings by cops, nor about the imminent flow of environment-threatening bitumen through pipe Line 9 across the top of the city.
Chow followed in the footsteps of Andrea Horwath, the Ontario NDP Leader, whose Spring provincial election campaign failed in similar ways. Their common error: fiscal conservatism that alienates a left working class base, while proving unable to win support among the affluent or in business circles.
The composition of the new city council is not unlike the outgoing one. Thirty-six incumbents were re-elected to fill the 44 council seats – producing a snake pit of hard line conservatives, compromising liberals, and soft-on-austerity New Democrats.
In other words, the neo-liberal agenda of cutbacks and privatization is alive and well. Residents and workers face four more years of battles against austerity measures, while poverty, violence and congestion increase.
The election was also a magnet for racism, sexism and homophobia, which ‘Ford Nation’ steadily PJT-FordFest-25.jpgexcreted and excused. Among the targets were Chow, councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (an open lesbian, re-elected in Ward 27) and school trustee candidate Ausma Malik (elected in Ward 19). Most Torontonians rejected bigotry, but did so in a neo-liberal context that defined the political alternatives as ‘progressivism’ versus ‘conservatism’, rather than posing class against class, or socialism versus capitalism.
What should the workers’ movement do in such an untenable situation?
Demand a break from the disastrous political treadmill of vacuous ‘progressivism’, which is just a cunning mask for capitalist austerity. Launch the fight for a Labour City Hall, based on direct action and socialist policies.
The first step, as we argued two years ago, and earlier, is to demand that the NDP and Toronto and York Region Labour Council convene a mass municipal political action convention. Such a gathering should be held in 2016. It should shoulder the task of adopting a Workers’ Agenda and selecting a team of candidates for all city offices who will be accountable to working people through their mass organizations.
Now is the time to start moving forward on this course, while mobilizing in the streets and communities against the coming attacks sure to emanate from a city hall that operates more and more like a subsidiary of Corporate Canada.
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SA candidate got 9% in Mississauga
tlheadshotSocialist Action candidate for School Board Trustee in Mississauga Wards 3/4, Evan Engering, received 1,322 votes, 9 per cent of the total votes cast in that election race.
This is the first time Socialist Action, founded in 1994, presented a candidate in an election for public office. Evan Engering, a leading member of Youth for Socialist Action, a young worker and a member of UFCW, is now a student at Sheridan College. His campaign relied on social media, a web site, a cable TV appearance, and a modest leaflet — with no funds for lawn signs, a campaign office, or flashy advertizing.
But when over one thousand people in a working class section of Mississauga vote for an openly socialist candidate it is no fluke. It demonstrates a real interest in radical change. Socialist Action will soon explore the extent of this new attraction to socialist ideas by hosting a public meeting in the community 20 minutes west of Toronto.

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services
All Out September 20!
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by Barry Weisleder
Momentum is growing towards a monster mass picket and rally to defend Canada’s postal services. The protest, set for Saturday, September 20, is against Canada Post Corporation plans to terminate home mail delivery. It will be held outside the Toronto constituency office of Conservative Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver at 511 Lawrence Avenue West.
Organizations endorsing the September 20 mass picket now include the Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada-Ontario, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Brampton and Mississauga District Labour Council, CUPE Local 3903, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, NDP Socialist Caucus, Communist Party of Canada, International Socialists, and Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste.
Socialist Action/LAS initiated this effort, on the heels of a successful picket it convened on a very cold March 15 at the same site.
The September 20 speakers’ list now includes CUPW National President Denis Lemelin, CLC V.P. Marie Clarke Walker, OFL President Sid Ryan, OPSEU President Smokey Thomas, a leader of PSAC-Ontario (t.b.a.), and representatives of other endorsing organizations.
The aim of the protest is to compel the Conservative federal
government and Canada Post Corporation to reverse plans to end home mail delivery, to eliminate thousands of jobs in the postal service, and to
raise the price of postage.
postThe scheme to degrade postal services, to alienate the public towards them, serves the goal of gutting the federal public sector. Within that framework, the rulers strive to trash good jobs, slash postal workers’ pensions, and to break a progressive, democratic union. It is a road that leads to selling the most profitable parts of Canada Post to private sector vultures.
This brazenly broad assault must be stopped. It is a watershed moment for public services and for the workers’ movement across the Canadian state. The need for public resistance is urgent. Protest activity is developing across the country, with rallies, pickets and town hall meetings. Many municipal governments, including Toronto’s City Council, have voted to oppose the replacement of home mail delivery with collective mega-mail boxes.
September 20 is part of that resistance. The message to Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Oliver, the Tory Minister of Finance, is that his Conservative federal budget which aims to slash jobs and kill vital public services, while pampering the corporate elite, is unacceptable.
Joe Oliver voted in Parliament against the New Democratic Party motion to maintain door-to-door mail delivery. Seniors and people with mobility problems strongly oppose being forced to collect their mail at a so-called ‘community mail box’, blocks from home, under all kinds of weather conditions.
The resulting elimination of up to 8,000 letter carrier jobs would be a serious blow to young people and to many others seeking decent-paying employment in a time of great economic stress.
Canada Post is not in debt. And it could be even more profitable as a public asset if it provided banking services at postal outlets across the country. Canada Post and the Tory government suppressed a study that shows how providing banking and other services is the way forward. To the consternation of the vast majority of Canadians, the Tories are stealing workers’ pensions, while cutting jobs and services.
If this is the best that the Harper Conservatives have to offer, then they must go. If this is the best that capitalism has to offer, then it too must go. If Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot run a postal service to meet human needs, they should step aside. Let postal workers show you how to run the service – under workers’ control.
Take notice Deepak Chopra, Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper: This fight SArallypostlsrvc201424has just begun. Across the country you are facing a rising torrent of opposition to the placement of mega-mail boxes in every city and town. We will not stop fighting your cuts until we reverse them. We will not stop until we remove you.

The Ontario election and the future of the NDP

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by Barry Weisleder
Conservative leader Tim Hudak got exactly what he deserved. On June 12 Ontario voters rejected his plan to eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs and to gut the unions.
For the most part, labour’s campaign to stop Hudak worked. The Tories were trounced at the polls, reduced to 28 seats and 31 per cent of the ballots cast. Hudak announced he’d step down when his party picks a replacement leader. But members of his caucus forced him to quit sooner. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!
However, this anti-Hudak sentiment translated into a Liberal majority. It’s hard to celebrate four more years of Bay Street’s preferred party. It’s hard to celebrate an electoral system that rewards a party that got less than 39 per cent of the votes cast, only about 19 per cent of the eligible electorate, with a majority of seats (58 of 107) in the Ontario Legislature.
The union-based New Democratic Party, on the other hand, lost the little power it had – despite increasing its vote share by 1 per cent (to 24 per cent) and retaining a seat total of 21. It would have done better had it pulled the plug on Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne one year earlier. But the NDP did manage to pick up seats and consolidate its hold in the areas hardest hit by recession. In St. Catherines, in Hamilton (although NDP Leader Andrea Horwath did lose votes in her own riding), in London, Niagara, Oshawa and Windsor Essex regions the party had seat gains or vote increases. Still, the NDP lost three seats and major ground in Toronto.
The voter turnout was barely 51 per cent, a three per cent improvement from the 2011 provincial election, but a dismal result by any standard.
Key to the disappointment was the NDP’s feckless effort. Worse than losing ‘an electoral gamble’, Andrea Horwath waged the worst NDP campaign since Bob Rae attempted to defend his infamous Social Contract in 1995.
Horwath had no mandate to veer to the right of the Liberal Party in a vain attempt to appeal to 20120624-092713-gConservative supporters and the business class. She had no mandate to abandon the fight for social justice in favour of a crass appeal to consumerism.
The NDP platform emphasized “making life more affordable” by removing the HST from electricity bills, reducing car insurance rates by 15%, opening up a few more child care spaces, shortening hospital wait times, and offering a mere $1 increase in the hourly minimum wage. At the same time, Horwath campaigned to continue the practice of bribing big private corporations to create jobs – without demanding any public ownership or democratic control of state investment.
Horwath projected a small increase in corporate taxation, but no plan to conscript the hidden, un-taxed billions of dollars – what a former head of the Bank of Canada calls ‘dead Capital’. That means the NDP proposed no way to fund a serious assault on poverty, on homelessness, or to end the deeping crises in public transit, education and health care.
Horwath and her strategists said nothing about phasing out nuclear power plants, stopping Line 9, satisfying the just claims of indigenous peoples, curtailing state surveillance, and terminating police repression of the kind that was unleashed during the G-20 Summit in Toronto. There was not even a hint that the problems faced today by the vast majority of Ontarions are rooted in the decaying and increasingly destructive capitalist system — much less that the solution is socialist democracy.
The ONDP Leader campaigned on ‘integrity’. But she failed to reduce her own democratic deficit. She ignored a party convention decision to be tougher on the Ontario Liberal budget of 2012/13. In fact, on her watch, party conventions provide less time for policy debate. And Horwath’s Election Planning Committee undemocratically prevents leftists from being NDP candidates.
o-KATHLEEN-WYNNE-TIM-HUDAK-facebookWhile it is gratifying that the Progressive Conservatives lost big time, it is clear that the capitalist austerity agenda continues vigorously under Premier Wynne. Remember, Wynne bragged during the TV leaders’ debate that she had implemented “80 per cent of the Drummond Report” — a harsh austerity plan. Behind Wynne’s affable smile, the locomotive of the rulers’ public sector wage freeze, social cutbacks, 3Ps, and privatization remains firmly on track.
Corporate Ontario found a way to sanitize its brutal anti-working class agenda by hiding it behind the ‘progressive’ veneer of the province’s first female Premier, also Canada’s first lesbian Premier.
Now New Democrats, labour unionists, feminists, LGBTQ folks, environmentalists, socialists and social justice advocates must fight to take the NDP from the latter-day Blairites, and re-direct the party to lead the battle against capitalist austerity, and for socialist solutions to the mounting problems we face.
That starts with the demand that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath resign immediately. It’s time for a full review of the party’s leadership and political direction, leading up to its November 14-16 convention in Toronto.
The question of Horwath’s future as ONDP leader is posed daily in the mass media. The Socialist Caucus did not initiate this question, but it does have the opportunity to rally opinion behind a concrete proposal. Robin Sears and Brian Topp have written articles in defense of Horwath. Dave Cooke, former NDP Education Minister, Gerry Caplan, Paul Ferriera, Michael Prue, even Rosario Marchese have sharply criticized her. For socialists, the main issue is not personality; it is the need for a full review of the leadership and political direction of the party.
But how do we get it?
This is not an abstract matter. A full review is triggered by a vote of non-confidence in the leader. A confidence vote occurs at every party convention. If even 35% of the delegates vote for a leadership review (that is, if less than 65% vote to support the current leader), in all likelihood a leadership race will ensue.
It is clear that such a vote would open up a period of intense discussion about the future of the NDP.
So, what should socialists and labour activists do?
Should we just wait to see what happens, and in the meantime conduct ‘business as usual’ by submitting resolutions to the Convention, knowing full well that party officials will ensure that few of our resolutions ever make it to the floor?
This is where a bold initiative is needed – to galvanize the widespread discontent in the party and its voter base by posing a concrete course of action: Demand that Andrea resign, and insist that a full review of the political direction of the party take place now.
Is there a risk that such a demand may upset a section of the membership? Well, yes, but which section of members is likely to be offended? Will it be supporters of the openly critical letter of the 34 prominent present and former NDPers? Or that part of the labour section which openly broke with Andrea the day the election was called? Or the mass of party members who were so dissatisfied with Andrea’s campaign that they did not participate in it?
Of course, there is the segment, including party staff and paid canvassers, who heartily support making the NDP the New Liberal Party – but the left has few prospects among them.
Naturally, the removal of Andrea is no guarantee that another MPP in the top job will change direction.
But what are the chances if the party ranks, including the SC, do not demand this? It would only help Horwath and her team of handlers and fixers to weather the storm.
Our task is to ‘fan the flames of discontent.’ On what basis should we demand a full review of the r-BARRY-WEISLEDER-NDP-large570political direction of the party, starting with the demand that the Leader resign? It should be done on the basis that there was no mandate to turn right; indeed, that to survive the NDP must turn sharply to the left.
What should be said to those who argue that it’s time to launch a new electoral party of the left? Stand up and fight for your principles – but fight where it really matters. Don’t retreat into a fantasy world.
What is the record of new left-party initiatives in English Canada?
It ranges from tragedy to farce. The Waffle movement had 10,000 NDP supporters in the early 1970s. But within three years of its departure from the NDP, it had disappeared. The Campaign for an Activist Party, and later the New Politics Initiative, led by Svend Robinson and Judy Rebick in the 1990s, were top-down, undemocratic structures that gave up the fight and disappeared. Four years ago a small body of dissident NDPers launched the Ginger Group. After a brief polemic, it quit the NDP and launched the Socialist Party of Ontario. In 2011 it ran three candidates. On June 12, 2014 the SPO ran only two candidates. The Communist Party of Canada ran 11 candidates on a left-reformist platform. None of those ‘left’ candidates got more than 200 votes. The NDP got 1.1 million votes, with no support from big business. Most of its votes came from working people in heavily working class districts.
Then there is the left-populist or anarchist perspective. It says “Just ignore the NDP”. The problem with that is many-fold. It is economist. It leaves the struggle for bread and butter improvements at the front door of the Legislature. It is anti-political, or at best, a stunted form of politics. Worst of all, it gives the present leadership of the working class a free hand to continue the sell-out. That includes so-called strategic voting, which favours the Liberal Party. We saw what that means when Gerry Dias, the President of UNIFOR, was shown on TV at the Liberal victory party congratulating Kathleen Wynne.
The NDP is the only mass, labour-based political party in North America. To understand the significance of that, just look at politics in the United States. The NDP remains a workers’ party, which is obvious to anyone who has been to an NDP convention. But the NDP has a staunchly pro-capitalist leadership which is out of step with reality, that is, seemingly oblivious to the extremely destructive decline of late capitalism.
The struggle for a Workers’ Agenda will take place in the NDP, as it will take place in the unions. Not exclusively there, but there too.
The battle against capitalist austerity continues. Quickly the Toronto Star warned Wynne to renege on her ‘progressive’ promises and instead to reduce the deficit – “to avoid a credit-rating downgrade.” The Star asks, “Will Wynne play Hudak-lite and cut public service jobs or government spending?” It darkly predicts “confrontations with public sector unions.”
Let’s hope that there will be confrontations – arising from resistence to the coming cuts. Let’s hope that union leaders don’t declare victory over Hudak and then go to sleep, as they did when the Bob Rae-led Ontario NDP surprisingly won a majority of seats in 1990.
529399_10152715812245215_874041131_nOne thing should be clear: for anti-austerity resistence to succeed there must be rank and file organization against austerity and concessions inside the NDP and the unions.
A critical test of that idea will occur at the Ontario NDP Convention in November. To prepare for that, the Socialist Caucus will host an Ontario Conference on Saturday, September 6. It will petition for a change of leadership and political direction of the party. It will decide on priority resolutions. It will select SC candidates for the ONDP Executive. It will plan the next edition of Turn Left, the SC magazine, for which a fund appeal is presently underway.
Can the Socialist Caucus make a difference? It has proven that it can. The SC won the federal NDP in 2006 to the policy ‘Canada Out of Afghanistan’. The SC led the fight at the 2011 NDP convention in Vancouver to keep ‘socialism’ in the party constitution, and again at the 2013 convention where we won the debate on ‘free post-secondary education’. We forced the Ontario party leadership in 2010 to conduct a review of public funding of Catholic separate schools, and held the only large public hearing on the issue.
Clearly, socialist revolution requires more than socialist resolutions. But change starts with joining the fight inside the main working class organizations.
Capitalism has nothing to offer workers, women, youths, seniors and the poor. The Occupy movement showed there is a hunger for change, and re-defined the notion of ‘majority.’ The Quebec students’ movement showed what a mass ‘social strike’ against neo-liberalism looks like. The current continental campaign for a $15/hour minimum wage inspires millions.
Opposition to Line 9, to the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the fight to save Canada’s postal services have the same potential. The global popularity of Thomas Piketty’s book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ indicates the wide disdain for growing inequality, and the appetite for a radical new direction. The defeat of Ken Georgetti’s executive slate at the Canadian Labour Congress Convention in May is further evidence of stirrings below the surface.
In our tortured world, anger and suffering there is aplenty. What’s lacking is leadership. Leadership is born in struggle. Join the struggle for a new leadership in the workers’ movement. Join the NDP Socialist Caucus. Together we will win.
Sign the petition! Spread the word!!